Brian De Los Santos
Head coach Tim Walsh and company set a lofty goal to start the season. In their first season playing in what is considered one the best conferences in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), the Mustangs aimed to finish as one of the top 10 rushing offenses in the nation.
Four games into the 2012 season, it’s a realistic goal.
Rolling off a 35-17 win over North Dakota last week, the No. 19 Cal Poly football team (4-0, 2-0 Big Sky) now sports the third-best rushing offense in the FCS and hopes that offense can propel the team to its fifth straight win tomorrow against Weber State.
“If you look at how many different guys are carrying, there are a lot of different guys in the skill positions that are making us go on offense,” Walsh said. “It’s not just Deonte. I mean he’s having a spectacular year, but (Akaninyene) Umoh is having a great year, Cole Stanford is having a great year, Kristaan Ivory has done a lot of things and we haven’t even got to Chris Nicholls yet.”
The Mustangs are averaging 326 yards per game this year, up more than 70 yards from last season’s 255 average, to make up the Big Sky’s best rushing offense. They’re averaging about 80 more yards than the conference’s next best rushing team, Montana, and close to 120 more than the conference’s third best team, Sacramento State.
At the national level, only Wofford (485 yards per game) and Georgia Southern (393) have better rushing offenses, both of which come in at No. 5 and No. 8 in this week’s FCS coaches poll respectively.
Deonte Williams is a big part of that success. The former junior college transfer and Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year at Northern Arizona is leading the conference with 152 yards per game rushing and ranks No. 5 in the FCS.
“My success is coming from my offensive line,” Williams said. “Those guys are some beasts. (Assistant coach Saga Tuitele) does a good job coaching them up and they play their butts off. I definitely owe it to them.”
That, in combination with confidence, is the key to Williams’ success, Walsh said.
“He expects to be successful,” Walsh said. “He believes strongly that he is that good and he can carry a team if you give him the opportunity to.”
He’s not the only one succeeding, though. Stanford ripped off a 65-yard carry in the fourth quarter of the Mustangs’ matchup against North Dakota that later helped the Mustangs get into the end zone. Against UC Davis, Umoh scored on a 51-yard touchdown run and eventually finished with 87 yards on 12 carries.
That’s left no need for big passing contributions from quarterback Andre Broadous. He came into this season as the expected focal point of the Mustangs revamped, no-huddle offense, but the Mustangs haven’t needed him to air it out as much as they did in their season opener against San Diego.
“If we’re going to average (326) yards a game rushing, we probably aren’t going to throw it 40 times a game,” Walsh said. “That’s just the nature of who we are. That’s what we do.”
For Broadous, he’s content exactly how the offense is.
“Whatever the defense gives us, that’s what we’re going to take,” Broadous said. “If the defense wants to give us the pass, then we’ll pass. I mean we showed we can pass; it’s not like we can’t pass. But if we can run the ball well, we’re not going to stop running the ball.”
He and the rest of the Mustangs will square off against a team that sits last in the Big Sky with an 0-5 (0-2) record. Of the 13 teams in the Big Sky, Weber State ranks No. 11 in the Big Sky in total defense and No. 12 in total offense.
It’s actually the trend for the next few weeks. During the Mustangs’ next three games, they’ll play a group of teams — Weber State, Northern Colorado and Portland State — that have two wins between them.
“We’ve got to think of them as faceless opponents,” Broadous said. “I don’t care who we play. If we’re playing the No. 1 team in the nation, the No. 20 team in the nation, we’ve got to come into it just like it’s our last game. Those are the types of teams that can mess up your whole season.”