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November 21, 2012

Cal Poly Sets One Big Sky Record, Close to Breaking Two More

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly needed just one year in the Big Sky Conference to set a conference record -- for most yards rushing in a single season -- and is close to breaking two more long-standing marks.

Through the 11-game regular season, the Mustangs rushed for 3,666 yards, eclipsing the previous record of 3,477 set by Montana in 1971. The 3,666 total also breaks Cal Poly's all-time single-season mark of 3,371 yards set by the 2008 team.

Cal Poly has rushed the ball 697 times for an average of 5.3 yards per carry. The Mustangs are just 31 rush attempts away from tying Montana's single-season record of 728 attempts set in 1970.

Cal Poly has 36 rushing touchdowns, which is three shy of Montana State's record of 39 set in 1966.

The Mustangs, who defeated Northern Arizona 42-34 last week, drew a first-round bye in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs and will play Sam Houston State in the second round Saturday, Dec. 1, in Huntsville, Texas. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. PST.

In other football notes:

• The Mustangs are the first "expansion" team to win a Big Sky football championship in its first season in the conference. Cal Poly finished the regular season 9-2 overall and shared the conference title with Eastern Washington and Montana State, all 7-1.

In 1979, Nevada joined the Big Sky Conference and finished 5-2 for second place and 8-4 overall, earning an at-large bid to the playoffs. Montana State, which won the Big Sky title that year at 6-1, was 6-4 overall and did not make the playoffs.

Cal Poly posted the best conference record of any team competing in the conference for the first time. The other marks:

1970 -- Boise State 2-2, Northern Arizona 0-4.

1979 -- Nevada 5-2.

1987 -- Eastern Washington 2-6.

1997 -- Cal State Northridge 5-1, Portland State 1-7, Sacramento State 0-8.

2006 -- Northern Colorado 0-8.

2012 -- Southern Utah 4-4, North Dakota 3-5, UC Davis 3-5.

• Cal Poly enters the FCS playoffs ranked No. 12 in both The Sports Network media and FCS Coaches polls. The Mustangs jumped five spots in the media poll and six spots in the coaches poll following their win at Northern Arizona, clinching a share of the Big Sky Conference title.

North Dakota State is No. 1 in both polls, followed by Montana State, Old Dominion, Eastern Washington and Sam Houston State.

Cal Poly also finished No. 6 in the Gridiron Power Index, which takes into account the two major polls along with seven computer rankings.

The Big Sky Conference is ranked No. 2 among the 13 FCS conferences, trailing only the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

The Mustangs also are ranked No. 7 by Jeff Sagarin of USA Today (92nd among all 246 Division I schools) and No. 9 by Any Given Saturday.

• College Sports Madness selected All-Big Sky Conference teams, with Cal Poly senior cornerback Nico Molino (left) earning defensive player of the year honors.

Molino was joined on the first team by senior running back Deonte Williams.

Mustangs landing on the second unit include senior linebacker Kennith Jackson and sophomore kick return specialist Chris Nicholls. Third-team selections include junior defensive lineman Sullivan Grosz, and sophomore linebacker Nick Dzubnar.

• Cal Poly lost 10 of its first 11 games against Big Sky schools after moving up to Division I in 1994.

Over the last nine seasons, however, the Mustangs have won 23 of their last 34 games against the Big Sky, including a 7-1 mark en route to a share of the conference title this fall, their first year in the Big Sky.

Cal Poly is 34-38 against teams from the Big Sky during its 19 years in the FCS, defeating Sacramento State eight times, Montana State seven times, Idaho State five times, Weber State four times, Eastern Washington, Montana and Northern Colorado twice each and Northern Arizona, UC Davis, North Dakota and Portland State once.

Cal Poly football is presented by French Hospital Medical Center.

Photos courtesy of Stan Grosz