The main attraction for this year’s Homecoming weekend features a stingy Cal Poly Mustangs defense and the high-powered offense of the Eastern Washington Eagles in Saturday afternoon’s 4 p.m. football game in Mustang Stadium.
The No. 18 Mustangs (5-3, 3-1 Great West) and No. 10 Eagles (5-3, 4-2 Big Sky) have previously met each other three times and the Eagles hold the series edge 2-1. Last year, Cal Poly lost a 21-38 game when it played in Cheney, Wash.
Only two weeks ago, the Mustangs (5-3, 3-1 Great West) were riding a five-game winning streak but that came to a halt with a 27-36 loss against Montana that hurt the Mustangs on multiple levels. The team lost not only the game and their No. 3 national ranking but also their offensive leader as senior quarterback Anthony Garnett had his season cut short due to a knee injury.
Now, the Mustangs are looking to rebound after dropping last week’s Great West conference game to UC Davis when redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Brennan stands under center for his second consecutive start this season.
In his first start, Brennan went 9-20 for 63 yards and threw one interception. His main target was senior wide receiver Jonah Russell (4-29).
Coming into the game, the Mustangs have only given up an average of 18 points per game while the Eagles lead NCAA Division I-AA in total offense with 506.9 yards per game.
Riding the backs of defensive standouts, junior linebacker Kyle Shotwell and senior defensive end Chris Gocong, who have both put up career numbers against the Eagles, the Mustangs hope to limit an Eagles offense averaging 36 points per game.
Last season, Gocong finished second in the Buck Buchanan voting behind teammate Jordan Beck. This year he is again making his presence felt on the field by ranking No. 2 in the nation with 1.44 sacks per game – 11.5 on the season – and No. 6 in the Great West with 55 tackles (26 solo, 29 ast). He also recorded his career high 11 tackles in a game last year when he played Eastern Washington.
Shotwell, No. 2 in the Great West and No. 12 nationally, has 90 tackles (46 solo, 48 assists) 3 sacks. Against Eastern Washington last season, Shotwell recorded 10 solo tackles – a career high – and 13 overall.
For the Eagles, their offense starts with senior All-America quarterback Erik Meyer who routinely hooks up with All-America senior wide receiver Eric Kimble.
Meyer is coming off last week’s career-high 470 yards passing but on the season he ranks second in the nation in total offense with 2,848 yards and 19 touchdowns. He averages 365.5 yards per game and is a candidate for the Payton Award which is awarded to the top offensive player in Division I-AA football.
Meyer led the Eagles against the Mustangs last year, he passed for 417 yards and four touchdowns while Kimble caught nine passes for 151 yards and three touchdowns.
If the Mustangs are to keep any hope of a playoff berth alive they will need to send the Eagles offense home grounded rather than soaring because the Great West does not receive at-large playoff berths.