Credit: Maddie Harrell | Mustang News, 2021

After going 1-2 in their non-conference play, Cal Poly football will kick off their Big Sky season on Saturday against Sacramento State. 

Last season, the Mustangs finished the year with a conference record of 1-7 and an overall record of 2-9, with their only conference win coming against Idaho State. The team as a whole struggled for the majority of the season, as eight of their nine losses were by three touchdowns or more.

However, this year’s team will look to improve against some tough competition. In fact, five teams in the Big Sky are ranked within the FCS Top 25 right now. These teams include No. 3 Montana, No. 4 Montana State, No. 5 Sacramento State, No. 8 Weber State and No. 20 Eastern Washington. 

With all of those teams being on the schedule this season, the Mustangs will take on the task of attempting to pull off an upset, and it starts off in the home opener against Sacramento State.

“I’m definitely hoping to get out of this week with a win,” graduate wide receiver Chris Coleman said. “They’re ranked fourth in the FCS so [they’re] a really good opponent.” 

An upset could be a possibility if the Mustangs heat up at some point in the season, and they’ll need impact plays from breakout stars on both sides of the ball.

On the offensive side, redshirt freshman quarterback Jaden Jones beat out redshirt junior and UC Berkeley transfer quarterback Spencer Brasch for the starting job out of camp and performed fantastic through two games, throwing five touchdowns for 655 yards while adding 95 rushing yards and zero interceptions.

However, a torn ACL and MCL ended his season in the third week against the University of South Dakota.

Brasch took over that same game and threw for 362 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. While the offense was a bit more dynamic with Jones’ mobility, Brasch has proven that he can be a productive option with experience starting in this offense.

Although the quarterback situation has shifted, the No. 1 receiving option on the offense hasn’t, as Chris Coleman has enjoyed a breakout season so far in his second year with the Mustangs.

Coleman was at Fresno State for four years before transferring to Cal Poly in 2021. He didn’t get much playing time with the Bulldogs, but he showed potential as a full-time starter for the Mustangs last season. 

As the leading receiver for Cal Poly, Coleman has big dreams for his final collegiate season. 

“I don’t know anyone whose goal is not to play in the postseason and play for a championship,” Coleman said. “We’re trying to get to the championship.” 

The 5-foot-11 wideout is also attracting the attention of NFL scouts thanks to his three-game statline of 19 receptions for 290 yards and two touchdowns. 

The defense, meanwhile, is led by a linebacker tandem that includes redshirt sophomore David Meyer and redshirt freshman Je’kob Jones

Meyer leads the team in tackles with 17 and is tied for the team lead with two sacks. Jones played the last four games of last season and has taken a leap already, as he has 11 tackles and two tackles for loss so far this season. 

The defensive line is anchored by redshirt senior edge rusher Dustin Grein and redshirt sophomore Ethan Rodriguez. Grein is second on the team in tackles with 15, is tied for the team lead in sacks with two, has one forced fumble and leads the team in tackles for loss with four. Rodriguez also has two sacks and has three tackles for loss. 

In the secondary, true freshman defensive back Jay’vion Cole leads the team in interceptions with two, both coming in Cal Poly’s lone win against the University of San Diego. Also in the secondary, senior Dylan Wyatt leads the team in pass breakups with three.

The Mustangs look for these key players to step up for the Big Sky opener against Sacramento State on Saturday at 5:02 p.m. inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium.