In order to make a run at the post season, the Mustangs probably have to run the table to finish 8-3. Mustang Daily File Photo
In order to make a run at the post season, the Mustangs probably have to run the table to finish 8-3. Mustang Daily File Photo

The Cal Poly football team (3-3) will look to record consecutive wins for the first time this season when it hosts Dixie State (4-4) in a non-conference game at 6:05 p.m. on Saturday in Alex G. Spanos Stadium.

With the first half of the season in the books, the No. 19 Mustangs are looking to raise their record above .500 for the first time since a 38-19 win over Sacramento State on opening day moved them to 1-0.

In order to make a run at the post season, the Mustangs probably have to run the table to finish 8-3, including a season-ending victory on the road at Weber State, the team that knocked Cal Poly out of the playoffs a year ago.

Head coach Tim Walsh was named Cal Poly’s 16th head football coach in January. Prior to coaching the Mustangs, Walsh held head coaching jobs at Sonoma State and Portland State, where he combined for a 117-82 record over 18 years.

With a tough early season schedule Cal Poly has not gotten off to the best start, but its opponents should ease up as the schedule progresses. Of the Mustangs’ three losses, two have come to Football Bowl Subdivision teams while the third came against the fourth-ranked Montana Grizzlies of the Football Championship Subdivision.

Finishing the regular season last year at 8-2 under Rich Ellerson, Cal Poly was a topic among FCS championship contenders. Last year, the Mustangs clinched a playoff berth and averaged 44.4 points and 487.5 yards per game.

In the first round playoff loss to Weber State, the Mustangs put together 548 yards of total offense, but fell 49-35.

This season, Cal Poly is struggling to find love in the polls with a .500 record, despite the level of competition.

“If we win this week then people will start talking about us again, if not then we don’t deserve to be talked about,” Walsh said. “It’s not in our hands … what you can control is making sure when (the playoff selection committee) has to select the teams, we’re one of teams that they talk about.”

If Cal Poly is to remain in the playoff discussion it will almost assuredly have to get past a Dixie State program that plays at the Division II level. The Red Storm were elevated to Division II just three years ago after playing at the community college level.

The Red Storm offense is led by senior quarterback Judd Thompson. He has completed 57 percent of his passes for 2,093 yards with 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Running back Tauni Vakapuna rushed for more than 100 yards last week against Azusa Pacific and has rushed for 395 yards and five touchdowns, in eight games.

Overall, the Red Storm averages 322.3 total yards per game with 21.8 points per game; however, their attack could be considered one dimensional, Dixie State averages 58 yards on the ground.

If the Red Storm are to take any positive into this game, it could be that they are going against a tired Cal Poly defense. The Mustang defense was on display for 90 plays in last Saturday’s 24-23 win over Southern Utah.

“The 90 plays we played, was because how we played on defense.” Tim Walsh said.

After playing considerably well through the first half of the season, the Mustang defense gave up 385 total yards and couldn’t find ways to get off the field.

Southern Utah was able to convert 8-of-15 third downs and 2-of-4 fourth downs, including a 4th and 10 in the fourth quarter.

“They’re going to run the exact offense we just saw and that was an issue this past weekend.” Walsh said. “We have to find ways to get off the field… when its third and [long], or fourth and [long] we have to get off the field.”

The Mustangs and Dixie State have Southern Utah as a common opponent. While Cal Poly escaped with a narrow win, the Red Storm dropped a 36-7 decision against their in-state rivals on Sept. 3.

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