Today is the day the Cal Poly football team returns to practice.
As such, Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson does not want his team to get too caught up in its stunning 16-14 comeback win at Division I-A San Diego State on Saturday night.
“Tuesday morning, it’s over,” Ellerson said after the game at Qualcomm Stadium.
The pollsters certainly took notice of the Mustangs’ win. Cal Poly rose from No. 9 to 6 in Monday’s Sports Network Division I-AA poll. The Sports Network poll, which incorporates 103 voters, is the most widely recognized I-AA media poll.
More importantly, it factors into I-AA.org’s Gridiron Power Index rankings, which simulate the formula used by the NCAA playoff selection committee to determine which 16 teams will reach the postseason.
Cal Poly (6-2, 2-1 Great West Football Conference) was No. 13 in last week’s GPI and is sure to rise when the new list is released Wednesday.
Having clinched their fourth straight winning season, the Mustangs will likely need to win two of their final three games to reach the playoffs. Cal Poly visits No. 2 Montana (7-1) in a game that will be televised locally on KSBY at 11:05 a.m. Saturday before heading to No. 5 North Dakota State (7-1) on Nov. 11 in a game that will likely determine the Great West title.
“As long as we play hard enough, we’re pretty sure that anything can happen,” Cal Poly senior free safety Kenny Chicoine said.
Coromelas comes up big
After opening the season making just 3 of 7 field goals, Cal Poly kicker Nick Coromelas is 6 for 8 in the Mustangs’ last four games. He was 3 for 4 Saturday, making kicks from 23, 25 and 37 yards out, missing only a 42-yarder in the second quarter.
The senior hit a game-winning 37-yarder with 1:50 remaining.
“We watch Nick in practice every day,” Kenny Chicoine said. “We understand what he can do. It’s nothing out of the ordinary for us to rely on Nick toward the end. Especially with him being a senior, he understands what we expect from him. We expect that’s going to happen two or three (more) times this season if it comes down to that.”
Coromelas has perhaps been even more impressive filling in for injured punter Tim Chicoine.
Including a long of 70 yards, Coromelas has boomed 30 punts for an average of 42.5 yards and landed 14 inside the opposing team’s 20-yard line. He has had one blocked.
Coromelas was named Great West Special Teams Player of the Week on Sunday, the same day senior middle linebacker Kyle Shotwell was named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week for his 12-tackle, four-sack performance.
Cal Poly forced four San Diego State fumbles Saturday and recovered one.
Kenny Chicoine recovered an Atiyyah Henderson fumble forced by freshman defensive end Ryan Shotwell at the Aztecs’ 23-yard line with 3 minutes, 2 seconds remaining.
The fumble recovery set up Coromelas’ game-winning field goal.
Cal Poly has forced 16 turnovers this season.
“Our defense is a takeaway circuit,” said Kenny Chicoine, who is tied for the school’s all-time lead in interceptions (17).
Points allowed in first quarter
For the first time this season, the Mustangs allowed someone to score on them in the first quarter.
San Diego State quarterback Kevin Craft hit receiver Ramal Porter for touchdown passes of 25 and 34 yards in the final 4 minutes of the first period, beating both of Cal Poly’s starting cornerbacks.
The Mustangs hold a 50-14 advantage in first quarters this season.
Cal Poly snapped a seven-game losing streak to San Diego State, although the two schools had not played each other since 1967 before Saturday.
The Mustangs’ last win prior to Saturday over the Aztecs was a 34-6 victory in 1960 in San Luis Obispo.
When the legendary Don Coryell was head coach at San Diego State, the Aztecs pummeled the Mustangs by scores like 69-0 (1963), 59-7 (1964) and 41-0 (1965). San Diego State holds a 13-10 advantage in the all-time series.
“This was one of the toughest days of my career,” said first-year San Diego State head coach Chuck Long, a former Heisman runner-up and NFL quarterback who was offensive coordinator at Oklahoma last season. “I know I speak for our coaching staff and team as well, just a tough night for us. It is a great lesson – you can’t let anybody hang around in a football game.”
Balance on ground
Cal Poly grounded up San Diego State for 204 rushing yards on 51 carries. The Mustangs ran for 12 first downs, possessed the ball for 31:14 and had to punt only five times.
Most impressive about Cal Poly’s ground game was its balance.
While sophomore tailback James Noble scampered for 100 yards on 25 attempts, sophomore quarterback Matt Brennan ran the option to near perfection.
Brennan carried 20 times for 51 yards, the most since he ran for 53 yards against Division II Fort Lewis in the season opener Sept. 2. He has now carried 96 times for 241 yards and two scores this season.
Two wideouts also got into the act.
Possession receiver Justin Belcher carried twice for 30 yards – 15 on each attempt – and slot back Ernie Cooper carried three times for 22 yards.
Third down concerns continue against Aztecs
Cal Poly was 2 for 13 on third-down conversion attempts Saturday and is just 31 for 106 (29 percent) on the season.
It did not hurt the Mustangs on Saturday largely because the Aztecs were 3 for 12 in the same department.
Cal Poly has held opponents to a 28-for-108 (26 percent) clip on third-down conversion attempts this season.