Cal Poly showed off its 2009 football squad under new head coach Tim Walsh during its Spring Game Saturday afternoon at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
The defense out-dueled the offense and won 29-28. The inter-squad game had some suspense to go along with it. The winner of the game, that matched up the Mustangs’ defense against their own offense, wasn’t decided until the clock had already run out.
Down by two, Cal Poly’s defense stopped the offense on the final play for three points and the victory. The clock read 00:00 before the play was called, but in the relaxed atmosphere of the Spring Game, the offense was able to finish their drive despite the clocks countdown.
It didn’t matter because the defense was able to come up with the stop regardless. On fourth down, junior quarterback Tony Smith threw an incomplete pass that was intended for senior running back Jaymes Thierry.
The defense was proud of their resilient performance to come back and win after falling behind their counterpart.
“They had a nice lead there, but we kept on pounding away and closing the gap,” senior strong safety David Fullerton said. “You can’t expect anything more from us than a game that comes down to the final play; that’s the competition you want.”
Cal Poly’s offense moved the ball 70 yards on the opening drive that ended in a five-yard touchdown pass from Smith to junior fullback Jordan Yocum. Junior kicker Jake West converted the extra-point kick, giving the offense a quick lead over the defense.
The offense scored a pair of touchdowns and a field goal, an improvement from last week’s one-touchdown and single-field-goal performance.
After last week’s scrimmage, Walsh was frustrated with the inconsistency of the offense, but was pleased to see some progress.
“I thought there was more (consistency), but I think we have to be more consistent then that to be honest,” Walsh said. “I think at times today we showed spurts and seconds that we can play.”
However, there seems to be no question that the heart and soul of this team is going to come from the defensive end.
“Our defense is really savvy,” Fullerton said. “But our offense is coming up there.”
The transition from last year’s offensive emphasis to this year’s defensive priority is to be expected as the offense lost seven starters in the off-season. Whereas the defense will be returning eight veteran starters.
According to Walsh, it doesn’t matter from which end the leadership will come because the character of the football team has what it takes to be successful.
“The most important thing is that these guys know how to win and they know how to play hard,” Walsh said. “Those are two things that you can’t teach.”
On the defensive end, the speed of defensive linebackers Eric Klemme and Kenny Jackson stood out as they got to the quarterback twice, recording a sack each.
“We’re based on speed,” freshman linebacker Jackson said. “We’re not always the biggest guys out there, but our speed kills.”
On the offensive end, Smith stood out and Yocum led the team in rushing with 39 yards on 12 carries. On a day when not many passes were completed, Joshua Swaney caught a 34-yard pass from senior quarterback Harlan Prather, leading the offense to the second touchdown of the game.