A mere nightmare became a reality for the Cal Poly football team this weekend. Cal Poly was left out of the Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs for the second-straight year Sunday morning.
Some say it wasn’t a surprise the Mustangs didn’t make it once the bracket was revealed. Cal Poly (7-4) was one win shy of the recommended seven Division I wins in order to punch a ticket to the playoff bracket. The Mustangs defeated Division II Humboldt State 23-17 to start the season, giving the team just six against Division I foes.
It isn’t required that a team rack up seven wins, but according to the NCAA Division I handbook, “less than seven Division I wins may place a team in jeopardy of not being selected.”
For Cal Poly, that means watching the playoffs from home.
“I think we all have to look back at all the positive things that happened during the course of the year considering the schedule,” Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said at last week’s press conference. “I’m sure right now that the players aren’t real excited about having the opportunity to end their season on that particular game.”
That game, is in reference to Cal Poly’s second-half collapse against UC Davis in its last game of the season. It was the one where the Mustangs had a shot at the playoffs on the line and coughed up a 21-0 lead, to ultimately lose 22-21.
That loss stung a little more than usual, Walsh said.
“At least I can put a smile on my face right now,” Walsh said. “In a positive way that gives us the opportunity to celebrate seven wins and I think seven wins is a good season.”
The Mustangs improved by three wins compared to last season’s win total, remained competitive in the Great West and accomplished one feat the Mustangs of 2009 hadn’t all year — win a game on the road.
Also, the Mustangs added a couple new wrinkles to the offensive playbook and, in turn, some success through the air. The majority of the snaps, however, went to the rushing offense — and they took advantage.
The team finished fourth in the nation in rushing offense, which averaged 253 yards per game. Running back Mark Rodgers was one of its most prolific weapons. He finished the season with 882 rushing yards and averaged nearly seven yards per carry. He averaged a conference-high 80 yards per game on the ground.
Defensively, the Mustangs were stout as well. Battling through mass injuries to the secondary and some on the defensive line, the Mustangs commanded a rushing defense which ranked 14th in the nation in allowing 107 yards per game.
“There were a lot of good things that happened this year on our football team,” Walsh said. “We have to look at those positives and use those as the foundations that have been laid under my time as head coach and try to continue to build upon those things.”
“Any time you’ve got to replace Scotty Cordier … and Marty Mohamed, those are going to be two guys that will be hard to replace,” Walsh said. “So I think the development of our team this spring is going to be extremely important and adding the right flavor to it, so to speak, with who we do recruit, if we are able to bring in a couple transfers, they got to be the right mix.”
The losses aren’t just affecting one side of the ball — the offense is losing names like quarterback Tony Smith, fullback Jordan Yocum and wide receiver Dominique Johnson as well. Some have the potential to continue playing, Walsh said.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Walsh said. “Somebody is going to look at Dominique and think he’s a legitimate guy and think that’s what we want. And somebody is going to find some beauty in Marty and hopefully Marty will get that opportunity too.”
But with some of the talent coming back, the Mustangs hope they can improve next season. Rodgers will be returning and guys like quarterback Andre Broadous, fullback Jake Romanelli, cornerback Asa Jackson and safety Greg Francis will also aim to help the Mustangs reach the playoffs for the first time under Walsh.
“We’ve been ranked 10 out of the 11 weeks, were in the top 25 in the United States, I don’t think you can call that a failure,” Walsh said. “We’re going to build on that and hopefully that seven (wins) will turn into nine.”