SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- For the second straight season, the Cal Poly football team will open at home against the University of San Diego.
The Mustangs, ranked No. 11 in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision preseason coaches poll and 14th in the The Sports Network preseason media poll, begin their fifth season under head coach Tim Walsh on Saturday afternoon against the Toreros in Alex G. Spanos Stadium (11,075).
Kickoff is set for 4:05 p.m. PDT and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio (1280 am) with Tom Barket providing the play-by-play and Kyle Shotwell doing color commentary. The game also will be video streamed by AmericaOne. Links for audio and video streams as well as live stats are available above.
A year ago, Cal Poly finished 9-3 overall, captured a share of the Big Sky title in its first year in the conference and earned a second-round NCAA FCS playoff berth, falling 18-16 to Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas. In earning their third FCS playoff berth, the Mustangs finished with a winning record for the 10th time in the last 12 seasons.
San Diego, after falling 41-14 to Cal Poly in the season opener for both schools a year ago, also in Spanos Stadium, rallied to post an 8-3 mark for the 2012 season, also capturing a share of its conference title. The Pioneer League did not have an automatic qualifying berth in the FCS playoffs at the time, but will do so this fall as the field expands to 24 teams.
Cal Poly opened Fall Camp with 58 returning lettermen, including 17 players who started at least four games in 2012. Topping the list of returnees are a pair of second-team All-Big Sky honorees -- linebacker Johnny Millard (pictured above) and defensive tackle Sullivan Grosz -- and eight others who earned All-Big Sky honorable mention praise.
Biggest holes to fill are right up the middle of the Mustang lineup -- quarterback (Andre Broadous), slotback (Deonte Williams), center (Geoff Hyde) and linebacker (Kennith Jackson) -- along with cornerback Nico Molino.
Junior Vince Moraga won a four-man battle at quarterback in Fall Camp and was tabbed by Walsh on August 19 to start the season opener. Junior Kristaan Ivory, who rushed for 728 yards and eight touchdowns as Williams' backup a year ago, headlines a solid group of slotbacks this fall while sophomore Stephen Sippel and redshirt freshman Billy Shipman are contesting for the starting nod at center.
On defense, all four starting defensive linemen of a year ago -- ends Andrew Alcaraz and Jake Irwin plus tackles Grosz and Chris Lawrence -- return. At linebacker, junior Nick Dzubnar moves from the outside to replace Jackson in the middle (Mike) while Millard shifts from Will to Sam. Junior Cameron Ontko takes over at Will. Eight of the nine defensive backs who played six or more games last fall return along with senior three-year letterman Bijon Samoodi, who sat out the 2012 season with a hip injury.
Bobby Zalud, who handled all kicking duties (55-for-55 PATs, 12-for-16 field goals, 40.6 punting average), and return specialist Chris Nicholls (24.0 average per kickoff return, 8.5 average per punt return) also return.
As a team, Cal Poly was No. 1 in the FCS in passing efficiency, No. 3 in rushing offense (324.2 yards a game), No. 7 in scoring offense (38.6 points per contest) and No. 8 in sacks allowed (.83 per game) in 2012. In addition, the Mustang defense showed considerable improvement last fall compared to the year before. In 2012, Cal Poly was No. 45 in scoring defense (86th two years ago) and No. 57 in total defense (90th in 2011).
San Diego welcomes back 68 players (including last year's redshirts), including 11 starters (six on offense and five on defense). The Toreros have a new head coach as Dale Lindsey takes over for Ron Caragher, now the head coach at San Jose State. Lindsey was defensive coordinator at San Diego in 2012 before assuming the top job Dec. 29. He also was linebackers coach at San Diego in 2008 before spending three seasons as assistant head coach at New Mexico State. Lindsey has coached in the NFL with the Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers and played nine seasons for the Cleveland Browns as a linebacker.
San Diego, picked to win the 2013 Pioneer League title by its 12 head coaches, will be led offensively by senior quarterback Mason Mills (252 of 360, 3,106 yards, 20 TDs in 2012) and wide receivers Sam Hoekstra (54 catches, 677 yards, four TDs), Reggie Bell (47-736-6) and Brandon White (43-514-5). Fullback Lawrence Larivee and offensive linemen Tobin Gramyk and Pono Keni also return.
Defensively, the Toreros are led by senior end Blake Oliaro, the Pioneer League's defender of the year with 39 tackles (seven sacks), six quarterback hurries and five pass breakups in 2012. Also back on defense are linemen Clint Johnson and Steve Gargiulo, linebacker Zach Devaney (62 tackles) and senior defensive back Robbie Beathard (44 tackles).
Last year, San Diego averaged 29.4 points and 432 yards in total offense per game while giving up 19.3 points and 343.5 yards a contest.
Cal Poly and San Diego have met only twice on the football field.
First meeting in 1959, also a season opener for both teams, was won by the Mustangs 36-14 in then-Mustang Stadium. In that game, Tom Klosterman hit Curtis Hill with a 13-yard pass and Hill pitched a lateral to Carl Bowser who ran 35 yards for a touchdown. John Panagakis passed 18 yards to Willis Hill for the second score, Klosterman ran 22 yards for the third Mustang TD, Ted Tollner passed 22 yards to Curtis Hill and he lateraled to Bowser for the final 10 yards and a score, and Cal Poly's final touchdown came on an 11-yard pass from Klosterman to Claude Turner. Willis Hill was two of three on extra-point kicks and Curtis Hill caught a pair of two-point conversion passes. Gary Van Horn was Cal Poly's top rusher with 28 yards on just four carries. Klosterman completed all of his six passes for 157 yards and the top Mustang receiver was Curtis Hill with five catches for 94 yards. Roy Hughes coached the Mustangs to the victory en route to a 6-3 record.
Last year, Broadous and Williams both surpassed the 100-yard mark in rushing for the second time in their Cal Poly careers as the Mustangs won 41-14, giving Walsh a 3-1 record in Cal Poly season openers. Broadous rushed for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns while also passing for 135 yards and two more scores. Broadous completed 12 of 19 passes, including a seven-yard scoring pass to Akaninyene Umoh and a 12-yarder to Williams, both in the fourth quarter. He ran a career-long 56 yards for a touchdown in the third period and added a five-yard run in the final quarter. Williams netted 109 yards on 21 carries as Cal Poly accumulated 323 yards on 62 rushing plays, compiled a 458-240 advantage in total offense and produced 29 first downs. Cal Poly never trailed, building a 13-7 lead at the break.
Out of the polls in 2011, Cal Poly regained its spot in the top 25 in 2012, climbing to as high as No. 11 in both the coaches and media polls before falling to Sacramento State and Eastern Washington. The Mustangs, 4-1 at home three straight seasons, went unbeaten (5-0) at home last fall for the first time since the 2005 squad went 6-0 at home. Cal Poly has won 47 of its last 56 home games (84 percent) and has claimed nine of its last 18 games on the road since going winless away from Alex G. Spanos Stadium in 2009 as part of an eight-game road losing streak.
Cal Poly football, presented by French Hospital Medical Center, captured four Great West Conference titles in the eight-year history of the league (2004, 2005, 2008, 2011) before moving to the Big Sky last fall and has earned NCAA Division I FCS playoff berths in 2005, 2008 and 2012, reaching the quarterfinals in 2005 with a win at Montana before falling at Texas State. The Mustangs have won 74 of their last 114 games (65 percent) dating back to the 2002 season finale and have won 28 of their last 55 games on the road (51 percent).
Next week, Cal Poly begins a three-game road trip with the first of its two matchups against Football Bowl Subdivision and Mountain West Conference foes, visiting Central California rival Fresno State. Kickoff in Bulldog Stadium is set for 7 p.m. The Mustangs don't play a home game in September, returning to Spanos Stadium on Oct. 5 with a 2:05 p.m. contest against Yale, the first-ever matchup between a Big Sky team against one from the Ivy League.