Sheila Sobchik

After sitting out last week’s game at San Jose State with a sprained left ankle, Cal Poly sophomore tailback James Noble expects to play Saturday against visiting Southern Utah.

Noble has rushed for 250 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 6.1 yards per carry, in three games. Cal Poly (3-1), which fell from No. 3 to 5 in The Sports Network’s Division I-AA poll after a 17-7 loss Sept. 23 at Division I-A San Jose State, is 3-0 this season when Noble plays.

“I’m going to play through the pain if I have to,” Noble said Thursday after practice. “I’ve got two (more) days to heal so I should be fine.”

It is possible that backup tailback Fred Hives II will also return to Cal Poly’s lineup. He was sidelined with a toe injury against San Jose State. The three ball carriers who filled in for Noble and Hives II against the Spartans combined for just 25 yards on 15 attempts.

“With any luck we’ll be able to play both Fred and James,” Cal Poly coach Rich Ellerson said. “We’re just going to try to make sure we have as many people ready to go as possible.”

Though Cal Poly’s defense was stellar at San Jose State, its offense struggled. The Mustangs rotated quarterbacks Cordel Webb and Matt Brennan last week.

Brennan, a sophomore who guided the team to its first playoff appearance ever in 2005, had been the starter in the season’s first three games. He was 9 of 21 for 107 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions against San Jose State.

After the San Jose State game, Ellerson said that Webb started because he was slightly better at running the option. Webb was 0 for 2 and carried eight times for 26 yards.

Ellerson did not name a starter Thursday but said both signal callers would see time Saturday.

“They’re both playing,” Ellerson said. “It depends a little bit on which package we want to start the game in. We like them both.”

Brennan looked sharp at the end of Thursday’s practice. Working with the first-team offense, he completed 4 of 5 passes during a simulated 40-second drill that culminated with a 3-yard touchdown strike set up by a perfectly placed fade pattern to receiver Ramses Barden.

Noble said it does not matter to him who starts under center.

“There is not much difference,” he said. “We’ve got two hard-working, skilled guys in there, so what more could you ask for?”

Senior Nick Coromelas won the placekicking job at Thursday’s practice by making more chip-shot field goals than redshirt freshman Andrew Gardner, who made his lone extra-point attempt last week against the Spartans.

Coromelas is 3 for 7 on the season but has a 49-yard field goal to his credit. He is 9 for 10 on extra points.

Because standout punter Tim Chicoine was injured on the opening kickoff last week, Coromelas will also handle punting duties Saturday. He boomed a 70-yarder and averaged 47.3 yards per punt last week.

Southern Utah is 3-1, having rebounded nicely from a 1-9 campaign a year ago. The Thunderbirds, however, have wins this season over Division II?Western State College of Colorado and NAIA Montana Tech.

“They move their linebackers around a lot so we have to make sure we see everything’s right and we’re running the right plays,”?Noble said.

Cal Poly’s three-game road trip is finally over. The Mustangs have three home games – including the Horseshoe Classic rivalry game against UC Davis on Oct. 7 – and a bye week from now until Oct. 21.

That’s good news to Noble.

“Being able to come in and play a couple home games is really big for us,” Noble said. “We’ve been on the road, traveling, so it’s good to get in a full week of practice.”

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