The hotel rooms and grueling travel schedules end here — at least for two more weeks.

For the first time in more than a month, the No. 21 Cal Poly Mustangs (4-3, 0-1 Great West) will return to Alex G. Spanos Stadium to take on the North Dakota Fighting Sioux (2-4, 0-2) this weekend.

“It will be nice to get back and sleep in your own bed the night before the game and get into your normal routine,” fullback Jake Romanelli said. “It will be nice to play in front of the students; some that have never seen us play before. We will be amped up and ready to go.”

With the Mustangs 20-7 loss against Southern Utah last weekend, they closed the door on their longest road trip since moving to the FCS in 1994. During the trip, they went 2-3 — two wins better than the Mustangs’ record on the road all season last year.

“We battled,” head coach Tim Walsh said at Monday’s press conference. “We haven’t won as many games as we wanted to on the road, but the last five weeks have been a battle … we came home 2-3 instead of 3-2 and that’s unfortunate, but I still believe we are a good football team.”

Playing at home might even make them a better team, quarterback Andre Broadous said. The fans, the atmosphere and comfort of playing on a familiar field are some things that work in the Mustangs favor.

“Home field advantage is big,” Broadous said. “You can control the game a little bit better at home, just because (of) the crowd noise and stuff like that … it’s easier to get the momentum at home.”

The Mustangs may need all they can get to rebound from a loss in their conference-opening game last weekend. Against the Thunderbirds, the Mustangs were shutout in the first half for the first time in four years and, up until Mark Rodgers snatched a 29-yard touchdown reception, were on the verge of being shutout for the first time since 1998.

“We weren’t executing the offense well,” Romanelli said. “We weren’t being our normal selves. We were turning the ball over, we were dropping passes, we fumbled snaps, we would move the ball well and then we would shoot ourselves in the foot. You are not going to win a lot of games doing that.”

If the Mustangs waste opportunities this weekend, they might face the same fate they did a season ago against the Fighting Sioux. Last year, North Dakota sent Cal Poly on a losing tailspin toward the end of its season. North Dakota defeated Cal Poly 31-17, marking its first loss in a season-ending four-game losing streak.

In the game, North Dakota held Cal Poly to a season-low 63 rushing yards off 27 carries, the first time any opponent held the Mustangs to 100 yards rushing all season. Running back Jono Grayson led the team with 27 yards rushing and Romanelli was the closest with 14 yards.

It’s a memory Broadous said the Mustangs hope to erase this year.

“We just don’t want it to happen again,” Broadous said. “It’s at home this time, so there are no excuses. We just have to go out and get the win.”

North Dakota is coming into this week’s game against Cal Poly off its bye week. They are averaging 27 and 350 yards per game so far this season. At quarterback, Jake Landry has passed for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns with six interceptions on the year. Josh Murray leads the team in rushing with 479 yards.

“They played extremely well against us last year,” Walsh said. “I think they are going to have a lot of confidence in themselves, they have had an extra week to prepare for us … it’s going to be another good football team.”

The Mustangs are a team that may need to win for the rest of the season in order to make the playoffs. If the Mustangs lose this week, it’s safe to say their postseason hopes fly out the window, Walsh said.

On the year, Cal Poly leads the Great West in rushing offense and ranks second in the conference in total offense, defense and rushing defense.

Broadous has led the offense under center since finding his first playing time of the season against Texas State. Under Broadous, the Mustangs seemed to pick up speed, scoring 102 points against three FCS opponents before heading into last week’s game against Southern Utah. Against Old Dominion, Broadous passed for 212 yards with two touchdowns, and went 19-31 for 201 yards and a score in the team’s loss to the Thunderbirds.

“I am getting more and more comfortable with every game,” Broadous said. “Things are starting to slow down for me as a quarterback and I think the more reps I get, the easier it’s going to be.”

However, he will come across something very unfamiliar this weekend. The once-heralded recruit has never started at Alex G. Spanos Stadium but said he is relieved to be in front of a home crowd this week instead of on the road — which is something he doesn’t want to think about for a while.

“It’s good to know that once we score, we will have the crowd on our side, finally,” Broadous said. “I am not really thinking about the road again, I’m trying to stay as far away from that as possible.”

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