SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (1-3, 0-0 Great West), which has won its only home game of the season but is 0-3 on the road, will play three of its next four games at Alex G. Spanos Stadium (11,075), beginning Saturday afternoon with Central Oklahoma (1-4, NCAA Division II Independent).
Kickoff is set for 4:05 p.m. PDT and the contest will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio (1280 am) with Tom Barket providing the play-by-play and Kyle Shotwell doing color commentary.
Links for audio and video streams as well as GameTracker will be available on www.GoPoly.com.
Cal Poly football, presented by French Hospital Medical Center, faces another ambitious schedule under third-year head coach Tim Walsh, taking on a pair of FBS teams, two FCS squads in the national polls and another team that is undefeated the past two-plus seasons. Both San Diego State and Northern Illinois won bowl games in 2010, Montana has a pair of FCS national titles to its credit and Eastern Washington claimed the FCS crown last fall. South Alabama did not lose a football game in the program's first two seasons of existence. Cal Poly's 11 foes in 2011 posted a combined 76-53 win-loss record in 2010.
"We have as tough a schedule as you could want at this level," said Walsh. "Our goal is to win the Great West Conference championship and, as far as the playoffs go, we have to win some tough road games to get there. Every game, we will have to play our best."
The Mustangs opened the 2011 campaign armed with nearly 50 returning lettermen, including 14 starters, off a team which finished two points shy of a postseason berth, letting a 21-3 halftime lead slip away in a 22-21 loss to rival UC Davis in the final game of the 2010 season.
Cal Poly, coming off a bye week, dropped a 47-30 decision to FBS member Northern Illinois on Sept. 24. Senior quarterback Chandler Harnish passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, completing 18 of 21 passes for 187 yards, for the Huskies. The Mustangs, held to just five first downs in the first half in falling behind 34-7, outscored Northern Illinois 10-0 in the third quarter and 23-13 in the second half in the first meeting between the two clubs. Junior quarterback Andre Broadous scored twice on short runs and David Mahr tossed a 26-yard slotback pass to Mark Rodgers to fuel Cal Poly's comeback from a 27-0 second-quarter deficit.
Sophomore kicker James Langford added a 33-yard field goal and the Mustangs pulled to within 16 points at 40-24 on the pass from Mahr to Rodgers with 10:10 to play in the game. Northern Illinois, however, clinched the victory with an 80-yard scoring drive. Senior fullback Jake Romanelli earned his third career 100-yard game, netting 101 yards on 16 carries. He scored Cal Poly's final touchdown of the game on an eight-yard run with 37 seconds remaining and the Templeton High School graduate also caught three passes for 18 yards. In his last three games, Romanelli has rushed for 98, 100 and 101 yards.
Central Oklahoma, coached by Tracy Holland (fourth season, 14-24, Northern Colorado '78), opened its 2011 campaign with four consecutive losses on the road against North Alabama, Southeastern Oklahoma, Angelo State and Southwestern Oklahoma before snapping the streak with a 41-21 victory over East Central in their home opener last week.
Against East Central, Joshua Birmingham rushed for 233 yards and one score (74 yards) while Ethan Sharp completed 26 of 36 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns. Birmingham caught five passes for 43 yards. Creadell Pennon intercepted three passes, returning one 100 yards for a touchdown. Central Oklahoma won despite disadvantages of 24-21 in first downs and 442-425 in total offensive yards.
For the season, Birmingham has rushed for 457 yards and three scores, averaging 6.6 yards per carry, and also leads the Bronchos in receiving with 28 catches for 196 yards. Sharp has completed 154 of 257 passes (60 percent) for 1,401 yards and four scores. Pennon, Brandon Williams and Devoris Dozier each has intercepted three passes this season while strong safety Kino Meadows (56) and linebacker Tucker Cason (55) are Central Oklahoma's leaders in tackles.
Central Oklahoma has qualified for the national playoffs 10 times (six in NAIA and four in NCAA Division II), winning NAIA titles in 1962 and 1982. The quartet of NCAA Division II playoff appearances were in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2003.
The Mustangs and Bronchos are meeting for the first time Saturday. Cal Poly has won its last eight games against Division II schools and is 22-7 against such schools since moving to Division I in 1994.
One year shy of their first venture to the Big Sky Conference, the Mustangs welcomed back six starters on offense and eight on defense, plus several other players who started a few games or accumulated a lot of playing time as backups. Among those are Broadous, who started four games at quarterback last fall, all on the road, and numerous defensive players who rotated in and out of the lineup with the starters.
Broadous backed up Tony Smith for two seasons and entered fall camp as the No. 1 signal caller. A year ago, the junior from Portland, Oregon, completed 41 of 64 passes (64.1 percent) for 510 yards and four touchdowns while also rushing 87 times for 305 yards and three more scores.
The Mustangs also will be led by Rodgers (882 yards and eight TDs rushing; 20 catches and three more TDs in 2010), Romanelli (459 yards, eight TDs in 2010) and a veteran offensive line which includes seniors Scott Winnewisser, Art Munoz and Maurice McClure.
Top returnees on defense are Buck Buchanan Award candidate Asa Jackson (55 tackles, two interceptions in 2010) at cornerback, linebackers Johnny Millard (38 tackles, two forced fumbles) and Kennith Jackson (67 tackles) and linemen Erich Klemme (28 tackles, 2.5 sacks), Kyle Murphy 23 tackles, six hurries) and Gavin Cooper (39 tackles, six sacks, six hurries).
Cal Poly has captured three Great West Conference titles in the seven-year history of the league (2004, 2005, 2008) and earned NCAA Division I FCS playoff berths in both 2005 and 2008, reaching the quarterfinals in 2005. The Mustangs have won 59 of their last 94 games dating back to the 2002 season finale and have won 21 of their last 45 games on the road and 38 of their last 46 home contests.
Saturday is Cal Poly's Hall of Fame Game with wrestler Ken Bos, football wide receiver Mike Amos, men's soccer standout Clay Harty, boxer Pete Godinez, Sr. and women's volleyball coach Mike Wilton to be honored at halftime.
Next week Cal Poly hosts defending Great West Conference champion Southern Utah for its Homecoming Game on Oct. 15 at 6:05 p.m.