SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Cal Poly football team conducted its usual Friday afternoon walk-through in unusual conditions – the temperature at CEFCU Stadium on the campus of San Jose State hovered around the 100-degree mark under very hazy skies.
It is forecast to be about 103 degrees at Saturday's kickoff between the Mustangs and Spartans at 4:35 p.m. There is no television and no video stream for the first meeting between the two former California Collegiate Athletic Association rivals since 2009. ESPN Radio 1280 (play-by-play from Chris Sylvester, analysis by Alex Clupper) will broadcast the game live beginning with a 4 p.m. pregame show.
After the walk-through and position meetings, the team was greeted during dinner by former Cal Poly and current San Francisco 49er cornerback Asa Jackson (pictured below at left), who gave the players a pep talk at a team meeting later Friday night. Jackson intercepted two passes and notched four tackles during the 49ers' final preseason game Thursday night against the Los Angeles Chargers at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.
Last two meetings resulted in 10-point victories for San Jose State – 17-7 in 2006 and 19-9 in 2009 – and both teams are coming off season-opening Week Zero losses – No. 23 Cal Poly 20-14 to Colgate inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium and the Spartans letting a 16-0 first-quarter lead slip away in a 42-22 setback against Nos. 19/21 USF (South Florida).
San Jose State has a 7-2 advantage in the series against the Mustangs since Cal Poly became a four-year school in 1941. The Mustangs posted their two victories in 1957 and 1958 under head coach Roy Hughes. The 1958 squad included such players as offensive lineman John Madden and quarterback Bobby Beathard.
Skies are smoky in the Bay Area due to numerous wildfires in Northern California. Several sports events scheduled for the weekend, including a women's soccer match at Cal and a large number of high school football games, have been postponed or canceled due to the heat wave and hazy skies.
San Jose State has a few familiar faces on its roster.
Two of the Spartans' top three receivers last week – Bailey Gaither (six catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns) and Josh Oliver (five for 51) -- are Paso Robles High School graduates. Cal Poly cornerback Dominic Frasch's father, Phil, was a cornerback for San Jose State in 1986 and 1987.
The Spartans' coaching staff also looks familiar. That's because first-year head coach Brent Brennan was the wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator under Rich Ellerson at Cal Poly from 2001-04. Also on the Spartans' coaching staff is former Mustang defensive line coach Joe Seumalo.
Cal Poly's coaching staff includes Dan Ferrigno, who spent the last two seasons as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach at San Jose State. Defensive coordinator Josh Brown is a San Jose State graduate.
Cal Poly strength and conditioning coach Chris Holder worked in a similar capacity at San Jose State for seven seasons before returning to the Mustangs in 2013.
San Jose State and South Florida, which played for four hours and three minutes last week under more pleasant weather conditions, racked up some impressive and unusual numbers.
For instance, the two teams combined for more punt yardage than total offense. San Jose State punted 11 times for 489 yards while USF contributed 12 punts for 452 yards. Yes, that is 23 punts by the two teams combined.
The 941 punting yards exceeded the 935 yards of total offense by the two teams – 387 by the Spartans and 548 by the Bulls. And the two squads combined for 39 possessions.
For its next two games, Cal Poly will be playing on brand new artificial surfaces. San Jose State replaced its FieldTurf with AstroTurf over the summer while the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa, sports a new AstroTurf surface as well.
The Cal Poly vs. San Jose State contest is one of 38 Saturday matchups featuring a Football Championship Subdivision team against one from the Football Bowl Subdivision. Ten others have already been played. On Thursday night, Tennessee State upset Georgia State 17-10 for the first FCS win against an FBS school this season. There are 98 such matchups this season.
FCS teams won 10 games against FBS members last year and nine in 2015.
Cal Poly's last win against an FBS school was a 24-22 decision at Wyoming in 2012. The Mustangs also have beaten San Diego State twice (2006 and 2008), UTEP in 2003 and New Mexico State in overtime in 1997.
Cal Poly has played at least one FBS school each of the last 13 seasons, including Saturday's contest at San Jose State. The Mustangs extended Nevada into overtime in the 2016 season opener before falling 30-27.
For Cal Poly to earn its sixth win against an FBS school, it will have to find a way to score in the first three quarters. Colgate kept the Mustangs off the scoreboard for 45 minutes last Saturday, the first team to do that since Southern Utah in 2010.
Cal Poly rallied with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns – a seven-yard run by Walter Payton Award candidate Joe Protheroe and a 16-yard pass from Khaleel Jenkins to Kyle Lewis. The Mustangs got the ball back for one final potential game-winning drive, marching 46 yards before an incomplete pass on fourth down from the Colgate 22-yard line with 37 seconds to play halted the surge.
Protheroe finished with 139 yards on a career-high 39 carries en route to Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week honors. It was Protheroe's 14th career 100-yard game, four shy of the school record set by Craig Young in the late 1990s.
Cal Poly jumped to a 9-0 lead against San Jose State in the last meeting between the two schools on Sept. 26, 2009, at then-Spartan Stadium. Jono Grayson broke free on a 53-yard run in the first quarter and Chris Pinto added a 30-yard field goal in the second period.
The Spartans, however, scored the final 19 points of the game on three touchdowns. Grayson finished with 138 yards on 15 carries for the Mustangs, who couldn't overcome poor field position in the second half. Cal Poly started two drives at its own one-yard line and also began drives at its own 22, 23 and 18.
Dominique Johnson caught six passes for 93 yards, quarterback Tony Smith completed 10 of 25 passes for 135 yards and Marty Mohamed, older brother of backup senior fullback Jared Mohamed, led the Mustang defense with nine tackles. Scottie Cordier intercepted a San Jose State pass.