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Cal Poly brings triple option to Eastern

His name is Tim Walsh, and he’s definitely comfortable in his own offense.

For many reasons, the triple option “is who we are,” the Cal Poly head coach said this week as the Mustangs prepare their run-oriented offense for a high-stakes game at seventh-ranked Eastern Washington.

“We may be able to recruit athletes that other teams aren’t targeting. We might not be able to get the big offensive linemen, and at quarterback you don’t need to be a 6-foot-4 guy,” Walsh said.

“We don’t care how big you are,” said Walsh, who also employed the triple option as an offensive coordinator at Army. “You just need to be an athlete.”

Quarterback Andre Broadus has that one covered. A 6-foot, 200-pound senior from Portland. Broadus has amassed 1,145 yards while directing a complicated offense that demands precise reads and decision-making.

“The more he’s played, the more confident he’s become,” said Walsh. “The reads that were tough for him earlier are not so tough now, because he’s seen every look. And he makes the right decision 95 percent of the time.

“Every time the ball is snapped, all he cares about is winning the play.”

Another appeal of the triple option is its novelty. Teams prepare week in, week out for standard offenses.

“And all of a sudden we appear on the schedule,” Walsh said.

This week, that’s Eastern Washington’s problem. Last week, the Eagles faced pass-heavy Southern Utah, demanding a 180-degree turnaround in defensive preparation.

“Our guys have to be very disciplined, keeping their eyes right,” EWU head coach Beau Baldwin said Wednesday. “It’s assignment football all the way.”

Baldwin said he was impressed with the Mustangs’ effort level, which he says is “off the charts.”

“(The nature of the offense) allows different athletes to get the ball in different ways.”

“We have to play faster than they do,” EWU linebacker Ronnie Hamlin said.

It still counts

Apart from the playoffs, Saturday’s game may be the biggest nonconference game played in Cheney, with FCS playoff hopes on the line for both teams.

Eastern is 6-2 overall and Cal Poly is 7-1 entering the game, which will go far in determining playoff seeding. Both teams are 5-1 in the Big Sky.

That it’s a nonconference game is the result of a deal made several years ago, before Cal Poly joined the Big Sky Conference. The Eagles and Mustangs played the front end of a home-and-away series last year in San Luis Obispo, Calif. The Eagles won 53-51 in triple overtime.

In the meantime, Cal Poly joined the Big Sky, which grew to 13 football-playing members – too large for a true round-robin schedule.

“We knew it would be an unbalanced schedule,” EWU Athletic Director Bill Chaves said.

The league mandated eight conference games, meaning that each school would miss four other conference teams.

“To get a nonconference FCS game in Cheney is incredibly big for us,” Chaves said. “So I asked that one of those four be Cal Poly, so that we would still have five home games.”

That was especially important, since the Eagles hosted only four games in 2011. The Nov. 3 date was the only feasible date to guarantee five home games this year.

The Eagles will do this again in 2014 and 2015, when the rotating Big Sky schedule forces them to miss Montana State. The schools have agreed to play nonconference games those two seasons.


Sagarin ratings

The Big Sky jumped from fourth to second amongst FCS conference in this week’s Sagarin Ratings. The Big Sky is behind the Missouri Valley. Four Big Sky teams are in the top 12 of FCS teams. Montana State is fifth among FCS teams and 86th overall. Cal Poly is 88th overall and sixth among FCS teams. Eastern Washington is seventh, and Northern Arizona is 12th.

Extra points

Home teams won four of the six conference games last week. Home teams are 18-18 in conference games. … Portland State LB Ian Sluss has scored a defensive touchdown in three straight games. Sluss was named the Defensive Player of the Week by the Sports Network, the National Performer of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards, and a National All-Star by the College Sports News Sluss is tied for the national lead with four fumble recoveries. … Montana needs to win its final two games to avoid its first losing season since 1985. … North Dakota’s schedule is rated as the second toughest in FCS behind Missouri State.