Just before another minute piles onto linebacker Kenny Jackson‘s three-hour library session, he finally gets a chance to leave. His team has been on the road for four weeks now and due to rigorous travel schedules, he and his teammates are forced to scrap together whatever time for classes they can.
Traveling for the Cal Poly football team has taken its toll, and as Jackson said, the team is relieved it’s coming to an end as the No. 13 Cal Poly Mustangs (4-2, 0-0 Great West) will conclude their current month-long road trip with a Great West conference matchup against Southern Utah (2-4, 1-0) this Saturday.
On top of workouts and practice, Jackson and some of his teammates spend many nights like these crammed into some corner of the Robert E. Kennedy Library — studying for midterms.
This has been the recent routine and, quite frankly, he is tired of it, he said.
“The road definitely wears on you no matter what,” Jackson said. “It’s definitely nice to know this is the last road game we’re having for a while.”
Along with the rigors of traveling as students, Cal Poly’s five-game road trip in the beginning of the season looked like it would haunt the Mustangs on the field as well. In 2009, the Mustangs were outscored 183-83 and held winless outside of Alex G. Spanos Stadium for the first time since 1998.
Not to mention the scheduled competition, teams like FBS-level Fresno State and conference foe Southern Utah, didn’t weigh in favor of the Mustangs.
“We knew coming into the season the five-game road schedule was going to be tough,” quarterback Andre Broadous said. “Just trying to balance school with all this travel and stuff was very tough on us.”
Now, looking back, it wasn’t too bad.
To date, Cal Poly has gone 2-2 on its longest road trip in history. The fact the Mustangs are threatening to come out of this five-game stretch a game above .500 is a positive, Broadous said.
“We’re doing pretty well,” Broadous said. “If we come out with a 3-2 record, and a 5-2 record overall, it would be great. I don’t think the trip has affected our play as some people thought it would. We overcame all the traveling issues and now we have just one more.”
During the road trip, Broadous has seen his role on the team somewhat shift. The Mustangs boasted their rushing attack in the first couple of games, but against Old Dominion the Mustangs raided the air. Broadous led the Mustangs passing attack to 212 yards. He finished 11-for-14 with two touchdowns.
“In Andre’s situation, he is playing well enough and improving each time that he touches the football,” head coach Tim Walsh said at Monday’s press conference. “He is solidifying himself as the guy that can be the quarterback here.”
Broadous said he was pleased how the passing game propelled the team past Old Dominion as well. While Cal Poly’s triple-option offense doesn’t require him to throw often, he is more than capable of doing so. And as more and more teams cue in on the Mustangs run offense, he said he is confident he can carry the offense with his arm.
“I never really thought that was one of my flaws,” Broadous said. “It’s not like I just want to run the ball, or I am strictly a runner. I think I am a good thrower as well. I think it’s only going to get better.”
As Broadous emerges as Cal Poly’s next superstar, the Thunderbirds have one of their own — wide receiver Tysson Poots.
Defending Poots has been quite the challenge for the Mustangs. Last year, he torched Cal Poly for 12 receptions and 170 yards in a 24-23 loss and he is averaging just over seven receptions and 105 yards per game this season.
“We definitely respect his game for sure,” Jackson said. “But we definitely don’t discredit any of their receivers. We know they are a very athletic team and anyone can make a play.”
Southern Utah is a pass happy team. With playmakers like Poots on the roster, the team is averaging 24.2 points per game. Quarterback Brad Sorensen leads the offense, completing 61.3 percent of his passes for 1,604 yards and nine scores this season.
“This is a good football team,” Walsh said. “They play within themselves schematically, they play extremely hard and I really felt going into this season they were the most underrated team in the league.”
No matter who they line up against after this week, the hotel rooms and late night cram sessions for players like Jackson will end. The Mustangs will remain home for two games before they embark for their final road game of the season. Before they get there, they still have their first conference matchup of the season this Saturday.
It’s hard not to look past it.
“We’ve got one game left,” Walsh said.