Senior defensive tackle Sullivan Grosz leads the Cal Poly football team with two sacks on the year through four games. The Mustangs face Yale in the first ever meeting between the Big Sky Conference and the Ivy League this Saturday. Kickoff is set for 2:05 p.m. in Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
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In anticipation of this weekend’s Cal Poly football game against Yale, Mustang News and Yale University’s student newspaper, Yale Daily News, exchanged questions about the opposing schools’ football team and the upcoming game. Mustang News sports editor Stephan Teodosescu spoke with Yale football beat writer Ashton Wackym.
The Mustangs are coming off a 38-34 come-from-behind win against Portland State on Sept. 26 to face an Ivy League school for the first time in history. Yale is 2-0 after opening the season with wins against Colgate and Cornell. It will be the third time in their 137-year existence that the Bulldogs make the trip out to California — they split two previous meetings with San Diego, the most recent of which came in 2006. Kickoff in Alex G. Spanos Stadium is set for 2:05 p.m.
This interview was conducted through email and edited for length and style.
Stephan Teodosescu (ST): Who are some Yale players to watch for on Saturday?
Ashton Wackym (AW): Running back Tyler Varga. Quarterback Hank Furman. Wide reciever Deon Randall. Defensive end Beau Palin. Defensive tackle Jeff Schmittgens. And our kicker Kyle Cazzetta knocked down a 46-yarder two weeks ago, but it’s not a situation that you see every game.
ST: Despite being 2-0, it’s difficult to gauge how good Yale football is considering it plays in the non-scholarship Ivy League. What are the team’s expectations headed into a game against an FCS top-25 program like Cal Poly?
AW: Speaking with a few players, they want to prove that Ivy football isn’t as slow as people think. I know a lot of the Californians on the roster are really looking forward to playing in their home state. The team obviously wants to win, but without playing an FCS top-25 team, you’re right, it’s hard to judge how the game will turn out. I think in general, the team is looking to gauge where they are at based on this game.
ST: After two games, the Yale offense looks pretty balanced when it comes to the run and pass game. What are some of the Bulldogs’ strengths on that side of the ball?
AW: It’s definitely a balanced run and pass game. They run a no-huddle offense that allows them to control the pace of the game and eventually wear teams down.
ST: What are some observations to take away from Yale’s first two games this season?
AW: They can both run and pass the ball effectively and really use the backfield/blocking to their advantage. Furman can run the ball and makes stellar passes in the backfield, but his long passing game hasn’t really been tested.
ST: What’s your prediction on how this one will turn out?
AW: I’m not in the best position to say considering we don’t have any overlapping opponents and haven’t watched any film on Cal Poly. I will say that it’s going to be a good game for Yale to get some exposure to West Coast recruits and Yale does have more ranked recruits, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a better team. I think you guys have the edge, but as with any sport, anything can happen.
AW: I’ll ask the same, who are some players to watch?
ST: Running back Kristaan Ivory is definitely one to watch on offense, so is sophomore quarterback Chris Brown. On defense, look out for senior defensive tackle Sullivan Grosz.
AW: What are some of those players’ strengths and weaknesses?
ST: Ivory is ranked ninth in the FCS and No. 1 in the Big Sky Conference averaging 130 yards rushing per game through four contests this season. Against Portland State last week he rushed for 184 yards on a career-high 32 carries. The downside to that sort of workload is that he’s prone to injuries and cramping, the latter of which kept him out of the lineup for several plays in the second half against the Vikings.
It will be interesting to see how quarterback Chris Brown does in his third career start. So far, he’s been inconsistent throwing the ball, but he’s shown that he’s got wheels, which makes him a potent dual-threat QB.
Last week against Portland State, Grosz dominated the Vikings’ offensive line getting penetration on what felt like every play. He leads the team with two sacks on the year and many people think he’s good enough to play on Sundays. As for weaknesses, I honestly can’t think of any — he’s flat out good.
AW: What do you think is essential for Cal Poly to do in order to pull out the win?
ST: To pull out the win, Cal Poly will have to play four quarters of football for a change. The Mustangs have been outscored 82-17 in the first half of their last three games and were only able to put up 375 total yards before halftime in those three contests combined. While they’ve outplayed every team they’ve faced in the second half, the Mustangs need to start playing a complete game if they want to win.
AW: What are some of the team’s weaknesses?
ST: Like I mentioned, the Mustangs need to play two halves of football — I’d say that’s their main weakness. Experience at quarterback might be another, but with every snap, Brown seems to be getting more and more comfortable with head coach Tim Walsh’s triple-option offense.
AW: I’ll also ask the same, what’s your prediction?
ST: My prediction is that Yale gives Cal Poly a run for its money — literally and figuratively — but the Mustangs’ run game will eventually out-power the Bulldogs’ defense. More than anything, it should be a fun ballgame to watch and I expect a sellout of Alex G. Spanos Stadium, something we don’t see too often.