Mustang Notes: Cal Poly-Montana on TV; Protheroe, Mohamed Honored

Mustang Notes: Cal Poly-Montana on TV; Protheroe, Mohamed Honored
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – The Big Sky Conference and its national television partner ELEVEN SPORTS® have announced the 2018 television slate for the upcoming football season, including Cal Poly's home game against Montana on Sept. 29. 
 
All 13 league football teams will appear on ELEVEN SPORTS this fall. ELEVEN SPORTS will broadcast one game a week over a 10-week span. First ELEVEN SPORTS Game of the Week will be on Sept. 15, when Northern Colorado hosts Sacramento State in Greeley.
 
"We're very pleased to continue our partnership with ELEVEN SPORTS," said Big Sky Conference Commissioner Andrea Williams. "Collaborating with ELEVEN SPORTS gives our conference, institutions and fans a platform to watch Big Sky events throughout the year. Our partnership helps increase the Big Sky's national coverage for football."
 
ELEVEN SPORTS is available on DirecTV channel 623, Verizon Fios channel 597 and AT&T U-verse channel 1665. All ELEVEN SPORTS productions of the Big Sky Conference will also be available on WatchBigSky.com and Pluto TV. Select Big Sky Conference games can also be found streaming on ELEVEN's digital channel ELEVEN SPORTS NEXT on Twitch.tv. In addition, ELEVEN SPORTS can be found on various other cable and OTT providers. 
 
Kickoff for the Montana at Cal Poly game is set for 4:05 p.m. inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
 
In other Mustang football news:
 
• It might be more important than ever in FCS college football to have a standout running back.
 
Injuries played havoc with a number of All-America running backs last season. Only 20 running backs (plus three quarterbacks) from 124 FCS programs surpassed the 1,000-yard barrier a year ago, including Cal Poly's Jared Mohamed. That was well less than half the number just four years earlier.
 
Better health in the running back class in 2018 will go a long way toward making it much improved.
 
Cal Poly senior Joe Protheroe (pictured above at left), who was injured in the second game of the 2017 season after a 1,000-yard campaign as a junior in 2016, has been granted a medical redshirt and returns for one more season in 2018.
 
Protheroe lands at No. 5 on a countdown of the 10 best running backs in the FCS, compiled by Craig Haley, part of the Athlon Contributor Network.
 
Writes Haley: "Protheroe seeks to rebound as a fullback in Cal Poly's triple-option offense. A workhorse with both speed and power, he racked up 1,334 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground in 2016. Cal Poly was a playoff qualifier that year, but won only once without him last season."
 
Haley's complete list of top 10 returnees:
 
1. Bruce Anderson, North Dakota State
2. Dom Bragalone, Lehigh
3. Tevin McCaster, Youngstown State
4. Zane Dudek, Yale
5. Joe Protheroe, Cal Poly
6. John Santiago, North Dakota
7. Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, Albany
8. Lance Dunn, North Dakota State
9. A.J. Hines, Duquesne
10. Ryan Fulse, Wagner
 
Click here to read Haley's story.
 
Athlon Sports also has released its preseason FCS poll, led by North Dakota State, James Madison and New Hampshire. Cal Poly visits North Dakota State, which has won six of the last seven FCS national titles, for its 2018 season opener Sept. 1.
 
Rounding out the top five are South Dakota State and Kennesaw State.
 
Eastern Washington of the Big Sky is ranked No. 6, with Weber State No. 9 and Montana No. 18. Cal Poly plays all three schools later in September, making for one of the toughest starts to a schedule in Cal Poly's football program history. 
 
Sacramento State drew a No. 23 preseason ranking. Cal Poly visits the Hornets on Oct. 6, giving the Mustangs five top-25 teams in the first six weeks of the season.
 
Jared Mohamed, a senior fullback with the Mustangs football team last fall, has been named Cal Poly's Big Sky Conference Scholar-Athlete for the 2017-18 school year.
  
To qualify for the award, a student-athlete must have a minimum grade-point-average of 3.2 (on a 4.0 scale), be a member of the graduating class and/or have completed their last year of intercollegiate athletic eligibility, have completed at least two years of intercollegiate competition and be a letterwinner in their respective sport.
 
A business administration major who graduated last month, Mohamed (pictured above at right) was one of seven Mustang football players who earned spots on the Big Sky Conference All-Academic Football Team.
 
Replacing the injured Joe Protheroe, Mohamed recorded seven 100-yard games last season, tied for No. 4 on the single-season chart, and eight for his career, tied for No. 7. He scored four touchdowns -- two each against UC Davis and Portland State -- finished No. 1 in the Big Sky in rushing, established a career high with 194 yards in the win over Portland State and was named to the All-Big Sky Conference first team.
 
Mohamed is No. 10 on Cal Poly's all-time list for rushing yards in a season and accumulated 933 of his yards in eight Big Sky games, averaging 116.6 yards per conference contest. Cal Poly has produced at least one 1,000-yard rusher in each of the last seven seasons.
 
A third-team All-American by STATS FCS, Mohamed became Cal Poly's 21st 1,000-yard rusher with 1,172 yards during the 2017 season. He was named the team's most valuable player and offensive most valuable player as well and was named to Phil Steele's 2017 Postseason All-Big Sky Conference First Team.
 
• According to research by Craig Haley of STATS, Brown's trip to Cal Poly for a non-conference game Friday, Sept. 14, will be the longest by any FCS school this season.
 
The Bears, located in Providence, Rhode Island, will travel 3,120 miles to San Luis Obispo for the game, which will be Cal Poly's first Friday night home game since 1961.
 
Second-longest trip will be by San Diego when the Toreros travel 3,041 miles to face Harvard on Sept. 15.
 
Other intriguing matchups noted by Haley:
  
Closest Matchups: Towson will travel to Morgan State – just over four miles away – for the Battle for Greater Baltimore. Staying within the city limits of Charleston, Charleston Southern will make the 16-mile drive south to The Citadel to renew their intense rivalry.
 
First Matchup: North Carolina A&T versus Jacksonville State (Aug. 25). N.C. A&T's longest winning streak in the FCS (12 games) is on the line against a JSU squad trying to win the FCS Kickoff for the second straight year.
 
Best Series: The Big Sky/MVFC Challenge Series has eight matchups, featuring Northern Iowa at Montana, Montana at Western Illinois, Western Illinois at Montana State, Montana State at South Dakota State and South Dakota at Weber State. Cal Poly, which played at Northern Iowa a year ago, visits North Dakota State on Sept. 1.
 
Best Matchups: Take your pick because Northern Iowa at Montana, Jacksonville State versus Kennesaw State (in Atlanta) and Delaware at North Dakota State all whet the appetite.
 
Worst Matchups: Well, North Dakota State also is hosting FCS newcomer North Alabama and Jacksonville State will host Mississippi Valley State. Arkansas-Pine Bluff at South Dakota State isn't on the must-see list, either.