Published October 21, 2012
| Sports Network
It may seem Cal Poly football operates in the witness protection program.
The Mustangs often have some of the latest kickoff times on a typical FCS Saturday.
They are playing their first season in the Big Sky Conference with likely the conference's easiest schedule.
They run the often unfamiliar triple option.
Even the exotic-named San Luis Obispo, where their campus is located just inside the Pacific Coast about midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, offers an arduous trip for visiting opponents.
Yet while you were sleeping, Cal Poly has been one of the bigger surprises this season - one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the FCS.
Head coach Tim Walsh and his Cal Poly staff are accustomed to the relative anonymity, so this year has not been different as the Mustangs have snuck up on opponents with a 7-0 record that is their best to start a season since 2004.
Their latest win came on Homecoming Saturday night, 37-25 over Portland State - the program Walsh coached for 14 seasons - at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
Ranked 14th this past week, the Mustangs might be ready to move into the Top 10.
With 13 teams in the Big Sky, there's little margin for error in the title race. But no team has benefited more from the conference's unbalanced scheduling than Cal Poly, which doesn't play traditional powers Montana and Montana State (also last year's co-champions) and won't have its Nov. 3 game at No. 1-ranked Eastern Washington count toward either team's conference record because both have eight other assigned conference games.
Still, Cal Poly is not to be taken lightly, as evidenced by its win over an FBS school, 24-22 at Wyoming on Sept. 15.
The Mustangs' triple option, which utilizes two slotbacks and a fullback, is something opponents usually see once each season and often struggle against it. The Mustangs rank third nationally with 314.3 rushing yards per game, but veteran quarterback Andre Broadous is operating a bit more out of the shot gun this season and poses more of a passing threat than those in some of the FCS' other triple option offenses at Georgia Southern, The Citadel and Wofford.
Senior slotback Deonte Williams has been the real difference-maker for the former Great West Conference member this season, breaking out as one of the nation's top rushers after he put on 15-20 pounds this past offseason. He has rushed for 926 yards on 6.9 yards per carry with 10 total touchdowns.
Plus the defense has been much-improved even after it lost All-America cornerback Asa Jackson and some of its key linemen to graduation.
Kennith Jackson and Johnny Millard have carried on the Mustangs' rich tradition at linebacker, while junior tackle Sullivan Grosz has been a beast up front and undersized safety Alex Hubbard and cornerback Nico Molino have helped stabilize the secondary. Some FBS transfers, including defensive end Jake Irwin from Wisconsin, also have come aboard to provide depth in the rotation.
Three of Cal Poly's final four regular-season games are on the road against winning teams. In addition to the game against Eastern Washington, the Mustangs go to Sacramento State next Saturday and Northern Arizona on Nov. 17. The lone cupcake is Idaho State at home on Nov. 10.
AND THEN THERE WERE TWO
Cal Poly and Lehigh (8-0) are the only unbeaten teams after Harvard and Tennessee State fell for the first time on Saturday.
The defense had carried Princeton throughout the season, but the surprising Tigers scored all of their points in the second half of a 39-34 rally past Harvard. Quinn Epperly's 36-yard touchdown pass to Roman Wilson with 13 seconds left helped cap the Tigers' 29-point fourth quarter.
The win ended Harvard's 14-game winning streak, which had been the longest in the FCS, and left Princeton (4-2, 3-0) all alone in first place in the Ivy League.
Tennessee State also fell in a thriller as Jacksonville State worked overtime for a 31-28 win in the Ohio Valley Conference. Thomas Griffin's 44-yard field goal was the difference for the Gamecocks after the Tigers' Jamin Godfrey missed field goals to end regulation and the first overtime possession.
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
A recap of games in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 can be found at http://tinyurl.com/9ln9h33.
STOCK RISING, STOCK FALLING
Rising: Colgate (4-3) has won four of its last five games, losing only to Stony Brook by one point, and perhaps turning its Nov. 10 visit to unbeaten Lehigh into a Patriot League title game. In a 57-36 win over Georgetown, quarterback Gavin McCarney threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns. The Raiders' 707 total yards were a school record.
Falling: Missouri Valley Football Conference teams are beating up on each other too much. South Dakota State, which was the leader before Saturday's action, was roughed up at Northern Iowa. Youngstown State, which was third- ranked just a few weeks ago, has lost three straight games. Illinois State suffered a home loss to Missouri State and now faces a difficult remaining schedule while it tries to avoid being left out of the FCS playoffs again.
AROUND THE NATION
Big Sky: Montana (3-5, 1-4) is out of the playoff picture and one loss away from having its first losing season in 26 years. In North Dakota's 40-34 win over the Grizzlies, Greg Hardin completed a Big Sky-record 333-yard receiving performance with a 32-yard touchdown reception with 12 seconds left. UND quarterback Braden Hanson completed 42-of-61 passes for 660 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions ... It's looking more like Mike Kramer will be out as Idaho State head coach after this season. This has been an especially ugly season for the Bengals (1-6), who lost to Northern Colorado, 52-14, on Saturday and haven't won on the road since 2006 ... Seth Lobato threw five touchdowns in Northern Colorado's win. Also, junior Tromaine Dennis set the school's Division I rushing record with 178 yards and two touchdowns ... New No. 1 Eastern Washington survived a game Sacramento State, 31-28. Eagles coach Beau Baldwin seems content to rotate Vernon Adams and Kyle Padron at quarterback again.
Big South: Teddy Allen rushed for 153 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries and Charleston Southern beat Presbyterian, 31-21, for its first two-game winning streak since 2009. The Buccaneers (3-4) next host NAIA Edward Waters with a chance to reach the .500 mark ... Coastal Carolina quarterback Aramis Hillary has thrown a school-record 159 passes without an interception.
CAA Football: Towson's playoff hope is on life support at 3-4. The defending conference champion must sweep Villanova, Delaware and New Hampshire on the road as well as beat Rhode Island at home. This is what often happens to a team from an FCS power conference that plays two FBS opponents ... First place belongs to New Hampshire and Villanova, both 6-2 overall and 4-1 in conference, after No. 2 James Madison fell to Richmond ... Kudos to Richmond quarterback Michael Strauss for passing for 271 yards and four touchdowns in his first career start while replacing the injured John Laub in Richmond's 35-29 surprise of JMU .... UNH held on to beat Maine, 28-21, in the 100th meeting between the programs. Sean Goldrich, making his first start since Sept. 8, threw for four touchdowns, including two to Harold Spears. Six of the last seven games in the series have been decided by seven points or less.
Ivy: What's that about patience? Just two weeks ago, junior tailback Jordan Reisner was fifth on Brown's depth chart. Injuries to players ahead of him opened up more playing time, and he ran for 193 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-14 win over Cornell. The Bears picked off Cornell senior quarterback Jeff Mathews three times ... Great signs for surging Princeton: The last time the Tigers beat Harvard and were on a four-game winning streak was 2006, when they won league title (sharing it with Yale).
MEAC: Savannah State ended an FCS-worst 13-game losing streak by tripping Edward Waters, 42-35. Antonio Bostick threw three of his four touchdown passes to Simon Heyward and rushed for two touchdowns ... Delaware State has a three- game MEAC winning streak for the first time since 2007 after a 27-0 blanking of North Carolina A&T - also its first shutout since '07. Travis Tarpley caught nine passes for 128 yards and a touchdown ... In its five wins, surprising conference co-leader North Carolina Central is averaging 40 points ... Highly touted redshirt freshman Quentin Williams has played quite well since taking over the starting quarterback job for Bethune-Cookman, the other conference co-leader.
Missouri Valley: Defending national champion North Dakota State's defense has allowed only six touchdowns in seven games ... Despite a season-low 112 rushing yards against Northern Iowa, FCS rushing leader Zach Zenner of South Dakota State is still on pace for a 2,000-yard season (2,137) ... Indiana State (6-2, 4-1) and Southern Illinois (5-3, 4-1) own a share of the conference lead after posting road wins.
Northeast: Duquesne linebacker Dorian Bell was dominant in Duquesne's 35-3 win over Sacred Heart. The 2011 Ohio State transfer collected 14 tackles, including four sacks and five tackles for loss, with an interception and a forced fumble ... The Jordans were at it again for Bryant, with running back Jordan Brown rushing for 152 yards and two touchdowns and wide receiver Jordan Harris hauling in 107 receiving yards and two touchdowns in a first-ever win over Monmouth, 27-24 ... Central Connecticut State's Rob Holloman totaled 370 all-purpose yards (208 rushing, 56 receiving, 112 kickoff, 1 punt) in a 37-31 loss to Robert Morris.
Ohio Valley: What a title race with UT Martin and Eastern Kentucky both 4-1 and Eastern Illinois and Tennessee State 3-1 in conference games ... UT Martin junior defensive back Fred Flenorl was discharged from a rehabilitation hospital on Friday. He suffered a season-ending neck injury Oct. 6 against Eastern Kentucky ... What a difference with Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garappolo and Murray State's Casey Brockman off this weekend. The pass-happy conference watched as five of its six teams in action featured 100-yard rushers, led by Trabis Ware's 168 yards for Tennessee State.
Patriot: Needing three tackles to break Nick Parrish's school record for career tackles, Georgetown linebacker Robert McCabe blew past it with 17 in the Hoyas' loss to Colgate. The FCS' leading tackler has 364 in his career ... Freshman Laquan Lambert blocked a pair of punts and Lehigh blocked four kicks overall in a 42-19 win over Bucknell ... Lehigh and Colgate are getting the most attention, but Lafayette also is 2-0 in the league race, having beaten disappointing Holy Cross, 30-13, on Saturday. Mark Ross caught 12 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown.
Pioneer: Co-leader Drake sidestepped a home loss to Marist by scoring the final 31 points of a 34-27 overtime win. Gary Scott's 2-yard touchdown in OT was the game-winner ... Similarly, Butler kept a share of first place by scoring the final 22 points of the fourth quarter - on three Matt Lancaster touchdown passes - for a 39-35 victory. Incredibly, Morehead State's Kameron Scott had seven pass breakups, with seven tackles and a fumble recovery ... San Diego stayed alive in the title race by handing Jacksonville its first league loss, 24-7. USD quarterback Mason Mills threw three touchdowns, while Jacksonville starter Kade Bell left early with a knee injury ... Dayton rolled up 473 rushing yards and tied its program record with 631 overall yards in a 45-0 rout of Valparaiso. Dan Jacob rushed for 155 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
SoCon: Wofford's triple option battered Appalachian State's defense for 393 rushing yards on 63 carries in a 38-28 triumph. Fullback Eric Breitenstein gobbled up 123 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. With 4,813 career rushing yards, he is 315 yards behind Shawn Graves' school-record 5,128 yards ... Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette posted the 18th 100-yard game of his career, hauling in 154 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-31 win over Western Carolina. He's now second in conference history with 39 career TD receptions.
Southland: Stephen F. Austin quarterback Brady Attaway stayed on a roll in the Lumberjacks' 44-10 rout of Nicholls. He was 41-of-65 for 474 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions ... Over the last two games, Sam Houston's Richard Sincere has played like the dynamic offensive player of a year ago, combining with Bearkats running back Timothy Flanders. The Bearkats (5-2, 3-1) have only one more home game this season ... Everybody knows Central Arkansas quarterback Wynrick Smothers has enjoyed a big season, but give credit to the wide receiver combination of Dominique Croom and Jesse Grandy, who have combined to catch 83 passes and 10 touchdowns.
SWAC: Arkansas-Pine Bluff (5-2, 4-1) took a huge step toward winning the West Division title by drilling Southern, 50-21, on the road. The Golden Lions, who got 371 yards of total offense and two totals from quarterbacn Benjamin Anderson, are up two games on Southern and Prairie View A&M ... De'Auntre Smiley completed 16-of-20 attempts for 251 yards and four touchdowns in Prairie View's 52-37 win over Alcorn State ... Jackson State's 14-7 double- overtime win over Mississippi Valley State was its 18th straight in the series. JSU quarterback Clayton Moore scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard TD sneak.
Extra Point: Four of the seven winless teams entering Week 8 won Saturday: Davidson (Pioneer), Grambling State (SWAC), Savannah State (MEAC) and Weber State (Big Sky). Austin Peay (OVC), Rhode Island (CAA) and Valparaiso (Pioneer) remain in search of a win heading into the final four weekends of action.
A LOOK AHEAD
The season's biggest crowd is expected at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., next Saturday for the SWAC showdown between Alabama A&M (6-1) and Alabama State (4-3). First place in the East Division is at stake.
There are plenty of other important conference games, including: Big Sky, Eastern Washington at Southern Utah and Cal Poly at Sacramento State; Big South, Liberty at Coastal Carolina; CAA, Delaware at Old Dominion and Towson at Villanova; Ivy, Princeton at Cornell and Harvard at Dartmouth; MEAC, Howard at South Carolina State and North Carolina Central at Bethune-Cookman; Missouri Valley, Youngstown State at South Dakota State, Southern Illinois at North Dakota State and Illinois State at Northern Iowa.
Also: NEC, Monmouth at Duquesne; OVC, Eastern Illinois at Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee Tech at Tennessee State; Patriot, Georgetown at Lafayette; SoCon, The Citadel at Wofford and Georgia Southern at Chattanooga; and Southland, Stephen F. Austin at McNeese State and Central Arkansas at surprising conference leader Southeastern Louisiana.