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November 15, 2013

Cal Poly to Host First-Place Eastern Washington Saturday for Homecoming

WEEKLY NOTES: CAL POLY | EASTERN WASHINGTON | BIG SKY
AUDIO STREAM | LIVE STATS | LIVE STATS
1953 CAL POLY FOOTBALL TEAM TO REUNITE SATURDAY
REMEMBERING THE PAST: 1933 TEAM | 1953 TEAM
AUDIO: THIS WEEK IN BIG SKY FOOTBALL | TELECONFERENCE

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (5-5, 4-2 Big Sky), which beat Sacramento State last week for its first two-game winning streak of the season and completed a sweep of California's Football Championship Subdivision teams, hosts Big Sky Conference leader and No. 3 Eastern Washington (8-2, 6-0 Big Sky) on Saturday for Homecoming and Senior Day in Alex G. Spanos Stadium (11,075).

Kickoff is set for 12:40 p.m.

The game will be broadcast live on ROOT SPORTS (DirecTV 683, 687, Audience Network 101 (239); Dish Network 414, 426) with Tom Glasgow (play-by-play), Jason Stiles (analyst) and Jen Mueller (sideline) at the microphones. ESPN Radio (1280 am) will broadcast the game live with Tom Barket providing the play-by-play and Craig Johnston serving as an analyst. Links for an audio stream as well as live stats are available at www.GoPoly.com.

The Mustangs, who fell out of the top 25 in both the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision coaches poll and The Sports Network media poll after losing to Yale 24-10 six weeks ago, defeated Sacramento State 42-7 last week at home as sophomore quarterback Chris Brown threw four touchdown passes and senior fullback Akaninyene Umoh (129 yards) and junior slotback Kristaan Ivory (118) both cracked the 100-yard mark on the ground. Cal Poly has had three games with a pair of 100-yard rushers this season and has surpassed the 400-yard mark in rushing three times.

Eastern Washington, the 2010 FCS champion, produced 591 yards in total offense and earned its 500th victory all-time with a 54-29 victory over Montana State, also at home, taking over sole possession of first place in the Big Sky. The Eagles scored on each of their eight possessions (except for kneel-down snaps at the end of the game), never punted and rode the passing arm of Vernon Adams, who completed 16 of 18 passes for 300 yards and four touchdowns, giving him a school-record 38 scoring passes this season. Quincy Forte rushed for 123 yards and two scores and Cooper Kupp had eight catches for 110 yards.

Eastern Washington's two losses this season were back-to-back at Toledo and Sam Houston State in the third and fourth weeks of the season. The Eagles opened their 2013 campaign with a 49-46 triumph at Oregon State, have won six straight and have scored 40 or more points six times.

Cal Poly's defense under third-year defensive coordinator Josh Brown has played well of late. After surrendering 428 yards and 30 points per game in the first five weeks of the season, the Mustangs have allowed just 12 points and 272 yards per game in their last five contests. Cal Poly has recorded seven of its 11 interceptions in the last four weeks and the Mustangs have held three recent opponents (Weber State, Montana, Sacramento State) to fewer than 100 rushing yards.

Cal Poly football, presented by French Hospital Medical Center, finished 9-3 overall a year ago, falling 18-16 in the second round of the FCS playoffs 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.

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 were a pair of second-team All-Big Sky honorees -- linebacker Johnny Millard and defensive tackle Sullivan Grosz -- and eight others who earned All-Big Sky honorable mention praise.

Junior Willie Tucker returned at wide receiver after leading the team with 28 catches a year ago while three of the five starters on the offensive front -- Giovanni Sani, Mike Freeman and Lefi Letuligasenoa -- returned as well. Tucker is lost for the season due to a knee injury. Also returning were junior Kristaan Ivory, the No. 2 rusher a year ago with 728 yards and eight touchdowns, and fellow slotback Cole Stanford with 241 rushing yards and 17 catches for 486 yards and four scores.

On defense, all four starting defensive linemen of a year ago -- ends Andrew Alcaraz and Jake Irwin plus tackles Grosz and Chris Lawrence -- returned. At linebacker, junior Nick Dzubnar moved from the outside to replace Kenneth Jackson in the middle (Mike) while Millard shifted from Will to Sam. Junior Cameron Ontko took over at Will. Eight of the nine defensive backs who played six or more games last fall returned 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) returned as well.

Ten games into the current season, Ivory is ranked No. 5 in the Big Sky and No. 35 in the FCS with his average of 94 rushing yards per contest. The junior is averaging 6.5 yards per carry, scored three touchdowns against San Diego on runs of 81, 2 and 61 yards en route to a 185-yard performance, accumulated 184 yards and one score against Portland State, made a career-high eight catches against Yale and scored three times, two via rushing and one on a pass, against Weber State, rushing for 100 yards. He added 121 yards in the loss at Montana three weeks ago and rushed for 118 yards, his fifth 100-yard game of the season and sixth of the year, against Sacramento State. Ivory also leads the Mustangs in receiving with 24 catches for 128 yards and a score.

Cal Poly's three linebackers top the chart in tackles. Middle linebacker Nick Dzubnar (pictured above) has a team-leading 99 tackles, 13 against UC Davis and 12 against Montana, while outside linebacker/rush end Johnny Millard has 84 stops, including a career-high 13 in the loss to Yale. Outside linebacker Cameron Ontko has made 82 tackles, 14 against the Grizzlies.

Brown, the third Mustang quarterback to start this season (Vince Moraga started the first two contests and is lost for the season with a knee injury while Dano Graves has made three starts), has rebounded from a hip injury to lead Cal Poly to wins over UC Davis and Sacramento State the last two weeks. Brown rushed for 195 yards -- the most ever by a Mustang quarterback -- and three touchdowns against the Aggies, following up with last week's four touchdown passes and 57 rushing yards against the Hornets.

After averaging 29 points and 457 yards in its first six games, Cal Poly struggled offensively, scoring just 27 points and accumulating 755 total yards in narrow losses to Montana (21-14 in overtime) and Northern Arizona (17-13 on a 96-yard kickoff return early in the fourth quarter). The Mustangs rebounded with 414 rushing yards at UC Davis and 424 against Sacramento State, averaging 38 points in the two victories.

Special teams play has resulted in three Cal Poly field goals and a pair of Mustang punts blocked by the opposition, two Mustang punts and one kickoff returned for touchdowns and two punts hitting Cal Poly players and recovered by their foes.

Coached by Beau Baldwin (sixth season, 52-21, Central Washington '96), Eastern Washington returned 48 lettermen, including 12.5 offensive and defensive starters, off last year's team which went 11-3 overall and finished tied for first in the Big Sky at 7-1. The Eagles, members of the Big Sky Conference since 1987, have earned nine FCS playoff berths -- winning the 2010 national title and reaching the semifinals last year as well as in 1997 -- and have won or shared six Big Sky titles.

For the season, Adams has completed 67 percent of his passes (213 of 316) for 3,378 yards and 38 touchdowns in 10 games. He has been intercepted nine times and is No. 1 in the FCS in passing efficiency and points responsible for (260), No. 2 in passing touchdowns (38), No. 3 in passing yards (3,378) and passing yard per game (337.8) and No. 5 in passing yards per completion (15.86). Forte is the top Eagle rusher with 643 yards in nine games (6.7 yards per carry) and Adams has rushed for 470 yards in 10 games (5.2 yards per trip). Kupp has 60 catches, 14 for touchdowns, while Ashton Clark has made 52 receptions, eight for scores. Jake Miller averages 41.9 yards per punt. Defensive leaders include inside linebacker Ronnie Hamlin with 77 tackles and two interceptions, middle linebacker Cody McCarthy with 73 stops and cornerback T.J. Lee with 72. End Evan Day has 5.0 sacks.

Eastern Washington is averaging 536 yards in total offense per game (No. 3 in FCS) -- 186 on the ground and 350 through the air -- and scoring 41 points a contest while giving up 441 yards (165 rushing, 276 passing) and 28.5 points per game.

Baldwin was 10-3 as head coach at Central Washington in 2007. He is in his 20th season as a coach, including 10 at Central Washington (one as head coach in 2007) and 10 at Eastern Washington (six as head coach from 2008-present). Baldwin played quarterback for four seasons at Central Washington.

Cal Poly and Eastern Washington will be playing each other in football for the seventh time Saturday. Eastern Washington has a 4-2 series advantage after last year's 34-17 victory over the Mustangs in Cheney, Wash. Adams passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns and the Eagles averaged nearly eight yards per play and amassed 542 yards in total offense. Eastern Washington edged Cal Poly 53-51 in triple overtime in 2011, the last meeting between the two schools in San Luis Obispo.

The two teams played back-to-back in 1994-95 and 2004-05, with the home team winning each time. Tim Walsh is 7-10 against Eastern Washington -- 0-1 while coaching at Sonoma State, 7-7 while at Portland State and 0-2 at Cal Poly -- while Beau Baldwin is 2-0 against Cal Poly.

Members of Cal Poly's perfect (9-0) 1953 football team will be honored at halftime.

Next week Cal Poly wraps up its 2013 regular season at Northern Colorado, with kickoff in Greeley set for 11:05 a.m. PST.