SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (2-3, 0-0 Great West), which has won both of its home games this season but is 0-3 on the road, celebrates Homecoming and opens Great West Conference play Saturday night at Alex G. Spanos Stadium (11,075), hosting defending Great West champion Southern Utah (3-3, 0-2 Great West).
Kickoff is set for 6:05 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. KSBY (Channel 6) will televise the game as well, with Andrew Masuda and Bill Halter at the microphones and Kathy Kuretich adding sideline coverage.
Links for audio and video streams as well as GameCast 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.
Coming off a bye week, Cal Poly rallied from a 19-10 halftime deficit to beat Central Oklahoma 44-25 last Saturday at home. Junior quarterback Andre Broadous rushed for three touchdowns, senior fullback Jake Romanelli and senior slotback Mark Rodgers each cracked the 100-yard mark and senior cornerback Asa Jackson returned an interception for a touchdown for the second time this season. Broadous, who rushed for 69 yards on 17 carries, scored on runs of 1, 2 and 1 yards. He also completed 11 of 16 passes for 133 yards and one score, a 34-yarder to senior wide receiver Jarred Houston with six minutes to play. Linebacker Johnny Millard led the defense with 12 tackles.
Southern Utah, coached by Ed Lamb (fourth season, 18-21, Brigham Young '96) returned 47 lettermen, including 15 starters, off last year's team which went 6-5 and captured the Great West Conference title with a 4-0 mark.
The Thunderbirds opened the 2011 campaign with a 29-28 setback at South Dakota State, then reeled off three straight wins, including a 35-14 triumph over Sacramento State one week after the Hornets had upset Oregon State and a 41-16 victory at FBS member UNLV, but Southern Utah opened defense of its Great West championship with losses to North Dakota and South Dakota the last two weeks.
Against South Dakota, the Thunderbirds never led, giving up 10 points in the fourth quarter after pulling to within 14-13. Brad Sorensen completed 32 of 44 passes for 303 yards and two scores while Brady Measom caught 11 passes for 93 yards and a TD, but Southern Utah was held to 11 net yards rushing.
For the season, Sorensen has connected on 69 percent of his passes (167 of 243) for 1,732 yards and 11 scores with six interceptions. Four T-birds have caught over 20 passes in six games, led by Jared Ursua with 34 and Measom with 33. Deckar Alexander has rushed for 270 yards and two scores. Southern Utah has intercepted seven passes, with five returned for touchdowns.
The Mustangs and Thunderbirds are meeting for the 25th time and Cal Poly's nine-game winning streak in the series was snapped last year in Cedar City, 20-7. The Mustangs own a 17-7 advantage since the series began in 1986. Cal Poly is 12-1 against Southern Utah at home.
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.
Next week Cal Poly continues Great West Conference play, visiting North Dakota for an 11 a.m. PDT contest in Grand Forks, N.D.
GREAT WEST RELEASE (pdf)