October 31, 2012 in Sports

Cal Poly presents triple threat to Eastern

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Associated Press photo

Senior Deonte Williams leads Cal Poly with 137 rushing yards per game.
(Full-size photo)

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.

NAU alone at the top: Three teams entered Saturday with perfect conference records. Only Northern Arizona survived, winning on a late field goal. No. 1 Eastern Washington suffered a 30-27 upset at Southern Utah. No. 11 Cal Poly lost its first game of the season, falling at Sacramento State 35-29. Northern Arizona edged Northern Colorado 12-10. The Lumberjacks’ only touchdown came on a Mike Dosen 59-yard interception return. Andy Wilder kicked the winning field goal from 18 yards out with 15 seconds to play. Northern Arizona is 5-0 in conference for the first time since 1996. The Lumberjacks have won seven in a row for the first time since 1958. This is the fifth time in school history NAU has been 7-1 after eight games.

Tiebreakers clarified: When the Big Sky Conference expanded to 13 football members, a need for a new tiebreaker arose and was developed by the league’s athletic administrators. As the season winds down, questions have arisen for different scenarios, calling for a clarification of the new procedure. First and foremost, the tiebreaker is in place solely to determine which team will receive the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Championship. If teams tie for the conference title, they will be co-champions. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head. This includes matchups of conference teams playing each other in nonconference games. So far, there have been two matchups of conference teams playing in nonconference games. A third will take place on Nov. 3, when Cal Poly travels to Eastern Washington.

Bobcats roll after bye: Montana State, which had a bye last week, returned to the field with an impressive 55-10 home win over North Dakota. Running back Cody Kirk returned after missing two games with an injury to rush for 160 yards and three touchdowns. Montana State set school records with 695 yards of total offense and 49 first downs. MSU rushed for 436 yards, the third most in single-game school history. Quarterback DeNarius McGhee threw three TD passes, raising his school-record career total to 64. McGhee has thrown a TD pass in 33 straight games. MSU’s defense held North Dakota to nine first downs and 180 yards of total offense, nine first downs, and tallied eight sacks. It was the 46th victory for Rob Ash at MSU. He can tie Sonny Holland’s school record of 47 with a win Saturday

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.


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