Just because the Cal Poly football team has a long-awaited bye Saturday, don’t expect the Mustangs to be wasting time this week.
Following a 23-17 win over Great West Football Conference rival UC Davis on Oct. 7, players for Cal Poly (5-1, 2-0) listed plenty of goals for the down time.
“We can’t take it for granted,” Cal Poly sophomore quarterback Matt Brennan said. “We have to stay active. We can’t get complacent. As long as we keep working hard, I think we’ll be all right. Just keep working hard and don’t get complacent.”
Brennan has engineered two straight second-half comeback wins for the Mustangs, who are ranked No. 4 in The Sports Network’s Division I-AA poll.
Cal Poly concludes its three-game home stand with homecoming against Great West foe South Dakota State (3-3, 0-0) on Oct. 21 at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
Senior middle linebacker Kyle Shotwell said the Mustangs can use the bye week to get ahead in preparation for South Dakota State, which Cal Poly edged 24-16 in Brookings, S.D., last year.
“We barely beat them last year,” said Shotwell, whose 63 total tackles are 19 more than any other player in the Great West. “They challenged us big-time last year. We expect it to be no different this time. We’re going to need the extra week. Luckily, we’ve got it.”
Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson agreed.
“Certainly we’ll get ahead a little bit on South Dakota State,” said Ellerson, whose team is a combined 23-7 the last three years.
Both Shotwell and Ellerson, though, said the main goal of the bye week is to get healthy. Cal Poly tailbacks James Noble (left ankle sprain) and Fred Hives II (broken left toe) have each come back from respective injuries in the past two weeks.
“We’re going to use it to get healthy, first and foremost,” Shotwell said. “(Also) kind of brush up on some of our fundamental stuff that’s kind of hard to do during the season.”
Ellerson also emphasized a renewed focus on fundamentals.
“This is a chance for us to get well, to revisit our fundamentals, to become a fundamental football team again,” he said.
In the latest Jeff Sagarin NCAA football ratings published by USA Today, which combine Division I-A and I-AA teams, Cal Poly finds itself ahead of some prestigious programs.
The Mustangs, who are ranked 69th among the 241 Division I-A and I-AA teams, are ahead of Baylor, Ohio, Akron, Cincinnati, Kansas, UAB, Bowling Green, Indiana, Illinois, UTEP, Rice, Mississippi, Fresno State, Stanford and other I-A schools.
South Dakota State has a multi-faceted offense featuring two players who have rushed for 232 or more yards and four with 12 or more receptions. The Jackrabbits have won three straight following an 0-3 start which included a disappointing 17-3 loss at Division III Wisconsin-La Crosse to open the season.
Despite the team chemistry demonstrated in the first six games of the season, Ellerson said it could be a good thing for the Mustangs to get some distance from each other for a week.
“We get to get away from each other for a few days,” Ellerson said. “It’s going to be a long haul.”