Students, faculty and alumni of Cal Poly might be spoiled with another exciting slate of games this weekend, if the come-from-behind victories in football and soccer two weeks ago weren’t enough.
Cal Poly football (4-3, 2-0 Great West) will face No. 15/17 South Dakota (5-3, 2-0 Great West) on Saturday night at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
Head coach Tim Walsh said the team’s current three-game winning streak has put the possibility of a fourth Great West championship in eight years within reach.
“In a five team league, you’re in pretty good shape if you’re 3-0,” Walsh said. “Last week’s win got us to the position we are at, but in reality what we do this week is what’s going to count.”
With only two conference games left, and both Cal Poly and South Dakota’s conference records at 2-0, whoever wins Saturday’s matchup will clinch at least a tie for the Great West championship.
Walsh said last season’s loss to UC Davis in the final game of the season not only ended their hopes of reaching the postseason, but also left a bitter taste in the team’s mouth.
“For us and for where we’ve been, that was a pretty devastating loss,” Walsh said. “It was a pretty good wake-up call that to be the team we want to be, we have to play hard every minute of every game. We can’t just take a half off and think we’re good enough to beat people.”
South Dakota, who already beat then-No. 1 Eastern Washington earlier this year, is coming off of a 27-24 victory against UC Davis last weekend.
As the norm for Cal Poly this season, Walsh said his team has been studying tape and practicing for what they know will be another physical matchup.
“They probably are the most athletic team in the league, and they’re gigantic,” Walsh said. “We’re not big compared to the schools that we play physically. Their offensive line is going to be 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5 and 315 to 320 pounds all the way across.”
Senior wide receiver Jarred Houston said this is nothing new to him and his teammates. In fact, they feed off of it, he said.
“We have that pitbull mentality,” Houston said. “Go into the fight no matter how big our opponent is, just give everything we have. Thankfully, the coaches are really good at their job, obviously, and they put us into position to make good plays.”
The Mustangs will attempt to use the speed of their offense to beat South Dakota for the third time in the last four years. Although their only loss to the Coyotes came at home in 2009, Cal Poly has won 41 of their last 49 home games and Houston said the team has a different mindset at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
“Being on our territory is even more motivation to go out and get the job done,” Houston said. “This is our house, and as everyone says, ‘You have to protect where you’re from.’”
Where Cal Poly football is from will change next season as the team will move from the Great West to the Big Sky conference.
Houston said the program is thrilled to be moving to an automatic qualifying conference but that their minds are set on the immediate future.
“Going into this conference is going to be great for our team, great for our school, great for everyone as a whole, so basically we’re just trying to send a message with this season by putting the hammer onto the nail and letting everyone know that we’re going to be a team to reckoned with next year,” Houston said.
Junior quarterback Andre Broadous echoed Houston’s sentiments.
“We want to be the last person to hold the actual Great West trophy,” Broadous said. “That’s very big for our program. I think that says a lot.”
Broadous, who leads the team in both passing and rushing touchdowns, said a Great West championship and the playoffs thereafter are the Mustangs’ to lose.
“Everybody wants to be in the playoffs, but it’s up to us to get there,” Broadous said. “Right now we’re in a good position to make it. It’s in our hands, and it’s very exciting.”