Lauren Rabaino

Although a search for a desired 12th game continues, the Cal Poly football program released Thursday an 11-game schedule for the upcoming season currently including two byes and six home games.

Opening and concluding the Mustangs’ regular season will be contests against Football Bowl Subdivision teams, Aug. 30 at San Diego State and Nov. 22 at Wisconsin.

Since announcing Feb. 22 the latter trip, Cal Poly was unable to come to terms with fellow Great West Football Conference member North Dakota, although if an “appropriate” scenario surfaces, a 12th game will be added, according to Mustangs athletic director Alison Cone.

“We’re always crying about the challenges we face putting together a schedule,” Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson said in a statement. “Alison did a great job putting this thing together. Sometimes it’s just a matter of whoever answers the phone. There’s not a whole lot of design beyond that.”

Cal Poly, which finished last season 7-4 and ranked No. 24 in the Sports Network poll, returns 10 offensive starters from an offense that compiled 487.1 yards per game to finish second in the Football Championship Subdivision in total offense, fewer than two yards behind national champion Appalachian State’s 488.3.

So many returning contributors to such a prolific output made striking deals with would-be opponents even more difficult, resulting in a calendar pitting the Mustangs against five adversaries they’ve never faced, and one Ellerson deemed the “most challenging” in program history.

Following back-to-back games in Louisiana Sept. 13 and Sept. 20, Cal Poly is presently scheduled to play just once in the ensuing three weeks, with a bye planned Sept. 27 and Oct. 11 left open.

“A lot of us have never had two byes, but I don’t think it’ll slow us down,” said Mustangs senior quarterback Jonathan Dally. “We’re a strong-minded team – with our experience, a bye week shouldn’t slow us down mentally. As far as getting us prepared, it should boost us into the latter part of our season, and be a benefit in terms of staying healthy.”

While the most-hyped match-up figures to be the regular-season finale at Wisconsin, which closed last season slotted 24th in the Associated Press poll, Dally emphasized that the Mustangs have to stay grounded.

“I think a lot of players know it’s an honor to play a team like Wisconsin,” he explained. “But getting ahead of ourselves would only make it more difficult as the year goes on. This year we have one of the strongest schedules out there and a lot of us are looking at it as a challenge.”

Even Dally, though, who passed for 29 touchdowns and rushed for 12 more on the way to finishing No. 2 in the nation in passing efficiency, acknowledged the veteran-laden Mustangs’ capabilities.

“We know there’ll be highs and lows, but our potential can be at an all-time high,” he said.

Only five starters, however, return to the Mustangs defense, which finished 62nd in the country a year ago, allowing 370.4 yards per outing.

Rounding out that group was a focus of February and March spring drills, along with gelling a shuffled offensive line, as senior, former center Stephen Field, a three-time all-conference first team member, was moved to left guard to take the place of the graduated Daniel Bradley. Sophomore Jason Cox has been penciled in as Field’s replacement.

“We’ve just got to pick up where we left off and make sure everybody’s been staying up to speed,” Dally said.

Fans will have an opportunity to get their first glance at the new-look lineups at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Mustangs’ annual spring game in Alex G. Spanos Stadium.

Two groups, broken up into green and gold and coached by offensive coordinator Ian Shields and defensive coordinator Payam Saadat, will take the field, as one full half of play is planned utilizing the scoreboard and play clock, without live kicking.

“It should be a glimpse of the future and how our depth looks,” Dally said. “The best-case scenario would be to get all our starters out of there and play some of the walk-ons and younger kids. It should be fun.”

2008 Cal Poly Football Schedule
Home games are bolded, and all times are Pacific.

Date Opponent (W-L in 2007)LocationTime
Aug. 30at San Diego State* (4-8)San Diego5 p.m.
Sept. 6Montana (11-1)San Luis Obispo6:05 p.m.
Sept. 13at McNeese State (11-1) Lake Charles, La.5 p.m.
Sept. 20at Northwestern State (4-7)Natchitoches, La.TBA
Sept. 27Bye
Oct. 4South Dakota** (6-5)San Luis Obispo 6:05 p.m.
Oct. 11Open
Oct. 18at South Dakota State (7-4)Brookings, S.D.4 p.m.
Oct. 25 Southern Utah (0-11)San Luis Obispo6:05 p.m.
Nov. 1Idaho State (3-8)San Luis Obispo6:05 p.m.
Nov. 8North Carolina Central (6-4)San Luis Obispo 4:05 p.m.
Nov. 15UC Davis (5-6)San Luis Obispo4:05 p.m.
Nov. 22at Wisconsin* (9-4)Madison, Wis.TBA
* Football Bowl Subdivision
** In transition from Division II

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