After 16 months since their last game, Cal Poly Football will finally take the field on Saturday, March 13 against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds to kick off the official spring 2021 season.
Since beating Northern Colorado back in Nov. 2019, the team experienced a plethora of changes. The Mustangs saw a change in coaching staff, which brought in new Head Coach Beau Baldwin. They left behind the triple option offense in exchange for a more passing-heavy spread scheme. On top of everything, the team endured the constant changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic which caused the cancelation of their 2020 fall season.
Despite the changes and long delay, Coach Beau Baldwin said he feels the team is as hungry as ever to get their first action of the new spring season and the team has shown it.
“Obviously we’re all chomping at the bit,” Baldwin said. “To watch them go through adverse stuff that no other football player in the past could ever go through, how they responded, being a part of that with them has been impressive and it’s going to carry over.”
With so much adversity to face during an offseason, even one that was over a year long, it could be a struggle for the team to get accustomed to a new coaching staff and change of scheme. However, Baldwin said he has seen the positives and feels the team is ready as ever to take the field in Alex G. Spanos stadium.
“By the time we hit our fall camp that was in the winter, we had more position meetings and Zoom meetings than I could ever imagine,” Baldwin said. “Our guys in practice one of fall camp, which was three weeks ago, were so far ahead than where you would be with a new staff in a practice type one deal.”
Through the extended offseason, the Mustangs experienced multiple shutdowns and outbreaks of the virus amongst the players that forced them to miss time through offseason workouts and extended time in the middle of their fall camp.
Through such a challenging time for his new team, Baldwin’s message for his players can be summarized through the team’s mantra: “The climb creates the culture.” Baldwin stated how the team and staff used this message to get through the tribulations of offseason.
“We talked about it early on when we first met, that was going to be our mindset. We were going to compete in everything we do, communicate in everything we do, and we are going to be consistent with it,” Baldwin said. “Our whole mindset is that climb, it’s all that preparation, that’s going to create the culture that explodes over time.”
The message seemed to set in for the players as many of the team leaders credited Baldwin’s message as a source of motivation on the way to the start of the season. Senior wide receiver Quentin Harrison explained what the new mantra has meant to him and his teammates.
“It’s consistency everyday and not just saying the word culture, because we have to go about the process and do all the little things right to create a culture,” Harrison said.
Since arriving at Cal Poly in 2016, Harrison has been a staple for the team’s passing game and is expected to have a big season as the team’s starting left wide receiver. When asked about his expectations for the new passing scheme, Harrison said he’s excited about the new system.
“I’m really excited about this new offense, because teams don’t have too much film on us,” Harrison said. “We’re coming at them with something brand new. I think this new offense is a great advantage for us as a team and a program and I think it’ll lead to some wins.”
Along with the changes on offense, the defensive side of the ball has also been updated from a 3-4 defense to a more aggressive 4-3 scheme. Senior linebacker Matt Shotwell emphasized his excitement for the team’s new scheme and the opportunities that come along with it.
“I love it, it’s a lot more freedom for us to make plays, giving us the freedom to be able to run and play fast,” Shotwell said. “When you are able to go out there and play fast and play as aggressive as you can, that’s the best way to play defense.”
As the Mustangs take the field on Saturday, expectations for the team are all locked in on what’s in front of them. Baldwin stated the team’s passion and comradery can be expected to stand out against Southern Utah, and Harrison summed up the team’s expectations for the season by offering the team’s mindset through the week leading up to the first game.
“1-0, that’s what we’re thinking,” Harrison said. “Everyday, everything we do we’re thinking 1-0, win the day, win that play, and approach everything that we do that way, and it will lead to 1-0.”
Cal Poly Football begins their season against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds at Alex G. Spanos Stadium at 12 p.m. on Saturday, March 13.