Moments after a 29-28 loss to South Dakota State last Saturday, members of the Cal Poly football team were already pointing ahead to their next obstacle – a date at Division I-A San Diego State on Saturday.
The Mustangs don’t have time to mourn their stunning Great West Football Conference defeat last week. Cal Poly coughed up a 28-6 lead in the final 8 minutes on Homecoming night.
“I think this game is going to be important Saturday because we’ve got to rebound from this,” Cal Poly freshman defensive end Ryan Shotwell said. “Our goal is always to win and the bigger the stage the better for us.”
The stage has been big for Cal Poly (5-2, 2-1) already this season. The Mustangs lost 17-7 at I-A San Jose State on Sept. 23. They were playing in that game without Walter Payton Award candidate sophomore tailback James Noble, who was sidelined with a sprained left ankle.
In three games since then, Noble has rushed for 425 yards and three touchdowns on 76 attempts, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
Cal Poly scored four offensive touchdowns last week, its first time getting in the end zone at least three times since the season opener Sept. 2.
But the Mustangs’ defense was quite uncharacteristic in the fourth quarter last week, allowing 140 yards of total offense in the period and giving up more than 17 points in a game for the first time all year.
“We’re just going to take this and learn from it and build off it,” said Shotwell, who leads Cal Poly with 5.5 sacks. “This season’s life lesson is to never give up and I think we learned that tonight. We need to rebound from this. We need to concentrate on next week and get things rolling again.”
Added Cal Poly senior cornerback Courtney Brown, “we’re going to go in there like it’s our last game.”
Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson hoped his team would be able to put most of the fourth-quarter collapse behind it.
“This is one of those games where, if we can get some of this thing out,” he said, “.I don’t know if this thing will ever go away. You experience so many of these things in a lifetime and career and they stay with you. You can learn from that once you dissolve some of the pain.”
Although Ellerson said there would be no direct correlation between the South Dakota State and San Diego State games, he was looking forward to seeing his team take the field again.
“Every game is its own universe,” he said. “We can’t wait to play again because that’s the only way you can expunge what we’re feeling right now.”
It has been a rough season for San Diego State, which snapped a five-game losing streak to open the season with a 19-12 Mountain West Conference win over visiting Air Force last week.
The Aztecs (1-5, 1-2) have had three quarterbacks combine for a touchdown-interception ratio of 2-10. None of the three averages more than 108 yards per game through the air.
Instead, San Diego State is led by tailback Atiyyah Henderson. The 5-foot-9-inch, 185-pound redshirt freshman has carried 83 times for 431 yards without a score this season.