Photo by Nick Camacho
Photo by Nick Camacho

With two games left in the regular season, the Mustangs have lost their chance at playoff contention and a Great West Conference title, plus their shot at the Golden Horseshoe. But to head coach Tim Walsh, that’s irrelevant.

“We’re playing for a football game … and if you don’t (play for the sake of football), you’re disrespecting what the whole game is meant to be played about,” he said at Monday’s press conference.

But Walsh and his players are not ready to throw in the towel on the 2009 season.

“These guys chose to play the game of football a long time ago, I chose to coach the game of football a long time ago and we’re going to be passionate about the game we play — period, end of statement,” Walsh said. “I don’t care what we’re playing for.”

In the preseason coaches’ poll, Cal Poly was selected by the five Great West Conference coaches to repeat as conference champion. With the mounting expectations and a newly revamped coaching staff, the Mustangs couldn’t live up to the hype.

Cal Poly, sitting at fourth place in the Great West, will host conference opponent South Dakota Saturday night.

The Mustangs try to rebound from consecutive Great West losses, including last week’s disappointing loss to UC Davis — Cal Poly’s first loss of the Golden Horseshoe since 2005.

The upset featured Tony Smith showcasing a season-high 67 percent completion percentage, paired with 120 yards, spread across six different receivers. Dominique Johnson led the team with four receptions.

Smith has led a sluggish passing offense this season that ranks 110th in the FCS. Behind a triple option rushing attack that ranks 14th in the nation, Cal Poly has proven to be a one-dimensional offense. That offense failed to deliver in the second half in four games this season, falling victim to four second-half rallies.

“The bottom line is we’re not playing as well in the second half as we did in the first half,” Walsh said.

In those four second-half blemishes, the Mustangs have been outscored 67-6.

“When you get to the fourth time it has happened, don’t think it’s not the back of the players mind and sometimes it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Walsh said. “You try to force the action and that’s not a good way to play any game.”

Late-game rallies or not, Cal Poly’s defense has not played as well as it had at the start of the season.

In the first four games the Mustang defense scored 21 points; excluding a home game against Division II opponent Dixie State, the Mustang’s haven’t scored since.

“The amount of plays we’re playing is taking its toll on the effectiveness of us,” Walsh said. “Being on the field for 75-80 plays is too many plays for us to play week in and week out.”

That defense is lining up against a South Dakota offense that has scored 275 points this season with a 31-point-per-game average.

Quarterback Noah Shepard has aired out 2,071 yards this season with 16 scores. Wide receivers Tom Flanagan and Ben Oberle combine for 873 yards receiving and seven touchdowns.

The Coyotes threaten with a three-pronged rushing attack featuring Chris Ganious, Isaac Newton and Shepard, who have accumulated 1,751 yards and 18 scores.

Last year the Mustangs put away the Coyotes 49-22, but this year Walsh thinks it’ll be an even contest.

“I think South Dakota is a much-improved team,” Walsh said. “We beat Sacramento State and Dixie State pretty good; every other game has been a great game and that’s what we expect this week.”

Kickoff is set for 6:05 p.m. Saturday.

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1 Comment

  1. “We’re playing for a football game … and if you don’t (play for the sake of football), you’re disrespecting what the whole game is meant to be played about.” That’s a beautiful quote, but it’s disappointing that’s not what the football team lives by this year. After losing the Golden Horseshoe to UC Davis, the football team did not even come over to thank the hundreds of students, alums, band members, and Cal Poly fans who made their way up north to support the team, people who never had to be there but attended the game to support a team and school we love.

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