Saturday, December 29, 2007

Liddell finishes '07 on winning note

Maybe Cal Poly's basketball fans should have stayed home and watched the fight tonight.
While the Mustangs men's basketball team lost at home to 2-10 Southern Utah, former Cal Poly wrestler and mixed martial arts star Chuck Liddell ended his year in style.
The “Iceman” looked like his old self in Ultimate Fighting Championship 79 as one of the sport’s most feared strikers came out swinging and came away with his first victory of the year against former PRIDE star Wanderlei Silva.
The light heavyweight slugfest went the allotted three rounds, but an aggressive Liddell clearly controlled the bout and won by unanimous decision, 29-28, 30-27, 30-27, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
The win snapped a two-fight losing streak by the former Mustang, who still lives and trains in San Luis Obispo.
Liddell’s last win came exactly a year ago, beating Tito Ortiz with his seventh consecutive knockout victory, solidifying his place atop the decision. But losses to Quinton Jackson (May 26) and Keith Jardine (Sept. 22) had many speculating about his future in mixed martial arts.
Some of those naysayers were silenced Saturday after Liddell came out with a flurry of blows that staggered Silva in the first round.
Silva recovered and came out strong in the second before a cut above his right eye slowed his attack. Both fighters went down briefly in the second round but avoided a stoppage.
Liddell took Silva down again in the third round just before final bell.
The "Iceman" improved to 21-5 with the victory, while Silva fell to 31-8-1 after his third consecutive loss.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

One final serving of Mayo

For those who missed O.J. Mayo’s no-look dish to set up a Davon Jefferson slam in USC’s 78-55 win over Cal Poly on Saturday, the highlight has made its way to YouTube.
While USC was scoring from all over the floor, the Mustangs struggled offensively and went just 6 of 30 from beyond the arc.
Cal Poly forward Matt Hanson hit a couple of those 3s early in the game but scored only one point after scoring the Mustangs’ first eight out the gate.
After the game, Hanson said the Mustangs might need to rethink their 3-ball mentality.
“We haven’t been shooting the ball well recently,” Hanson told The Associated Press. “We just need to get some better shots or do something different with our offense. What our team needs is to go inside a little more.”

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Big West not at its best

Saturday was not a good day for Big West Conference.
The Big West looked like it’ll be a one-bid conference again this year, losing what I believe was all five of its men’s basketball games on Saturday.
While three of those teams – UCSB, Cal Poly and UC Irvine – played top 25 teams, there were some cover-your-eyes-type losses by Pacific, Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside.
Pacific lost to Fresno State 75-58 in a game that saw the Tigers struggle defensively, forcing only nine turnovers and finishing with one steal and one blocked shot.
That’s the same Fresno State team that lost to Cal State Bakersfield earlier in the year. A Bakersfield team that could be joining the Big West in the future if the Roadrunners have their way. Speaking of having their way, the ’Runners, who are in the middle of a four-year transition from DII to DI, had their way with the Big West’s UC Riverside in a 71-53 victory in the Inland Empire on Saturday. It was only their second win of the season.
Then there was Cal State Fullerton’s 84-80 loss at home to Wright State. The other game between nonranked opponents was Washington’s 80-66 victory over Cal State Northridge in Seattle.
As far as the Big West against the top 25, No. 1 North Carolina rolled over UCSB 105-70, No. 25 USC beat Cal Poly 78-55 as O.J. Mayo had more assists the Mustangs team, and UC Irvine lost at No. 14 Texas A&M 88-66.
The good thing about this preseason is the top half teams in the league are scheduling games against some of the best teams in the country, and not just the Pac-10 squads as they have in the past.
Problem is, heading into the last week of 2007, five of the nine teams in the Big West have losing records.

Friday, December 21, 2007

GWFC foe hires football coach

With former Cal Poly offensive coordinator Joe DuPaix removing his name from consideration to take an assistant coaching job at Navy, Great West Football Conference foe Southern Utah went with Ed Lamb as its next head coach.
Southern Utah, which went 0-11 last year, announced the hiring on Thursday.
Lamb was previously the special teams coordinator, recruiting coordinator and defensive backs coach at the University of San Diego.
“We’re very happy and excited to name Ed Lamb as the new head football coach at Southern Utah University,” Southern Utah athletic director Ken Beazer said in a statement. “We had tremendous interest in the job and looked at a lot of candidates before focusing in on Ed as our man. I have confidence he will step in and get our program going in the right direction.”
Southern Utah is expected to travel to Cal Poly in 2008 for a Great West Football Conference meeting.

Shields returns to Cal Poly

For those who missed today's paper, or didn't see KSBY swipe the story from our Web site late Thursday night, the Cal Poly football team will have a familiar face directing the offense next season.
Former co-offensive coordinator Ian Shields is returning to Cal Poly after a two-year stint as the head coach at NAIA Eastern Oregon. He replaces offensive coordinator Joe DuPaix, who told The Tribune last week he has accepted an assistant coaching position at Navy. Neither Cal Poly nor Navy have announced DuPaix's departure, although at least other two media outlets in the area have without crediting the original source, which is a Journalism 101 no-no, but I digress.
Shields' return -- he split coordinator duties with DuPaix in 2004 and 2005, when the Mustangs made the playoffs for the first time -- could mean Cal Poly's offense won't skip a beat after all this spring. If anyone knows the Mustangs' offensive philosophy and the playmakers Cal Poly returns, it's Shields. And it sounds like the coach will join the program at the end of the year, which means he'll be with the team during spring drills early in 2008.
In fact, it would be tough to find a more knowledgeable replacement at the Division I-AA level, considering so few teams run the triple option any more.
Keep in mind, Shields coached seniors-to-be Ramses Barden, James Noble and Stephen Field in 2005. Cal Poly averaged 27.2 points and 352.8 yards per game that season, going 9-4 and upsetting perennial power Montana in the first round of the playoffs.
In 2006, with the core of their playmakers returning on offense, Cal Poly struggled to match the offensive success it had when Shields was calling plays.
Cal Poly moved from a spread option to a triple-option based offense in 2007 and broke numerous school records in the process, averaging 39.3 points and a Championship Subdivision-best 487.1 yards per game. With 10 of 11 starters returing on offense, and Shields' creative playcalling back in the mix, the Mustangs could actually improve on those numbers next season.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Return of the Tribune curse?

The day after our feature on Chad Mendes ran, the Cal Poly senior wrestler injured his knee in practice on Sunday.
The unbeaten wrestler, who has been the story of the winter sports season at Cal Poly, didn’t wrestle at Tuesday’s Reno Tournament of Champions – an event that Mendes said he was looking forward to when I spoke with him Friday night because it was drawing several top-25 teams such as No. 5 Oklahoma State and No. 6 Central Michigan.
Mendes’ injury got me thinking about curses, whether it be a Tribune Jinx or a Cal Poly Curse. The idea of a curse surfaced a few years ago when we were blowing out features on the likes of Jordan Beck and Chris Gocong prior to their season-ending injuries as rookies in the NFL. Similar fluke injuries occurred after features ran on former Cal Poly quarterbacks Anthony Garnett and Chris Peterson, when they went down with injuries.
Or was that the Madden Curse, since they were football related and John Madden is a former Mustang?
Mendes’ injury, however, doesn’t sound like a long-term deal. I’ll have update on his knee injury in Thursday’s print edition.

Mendes photo by David Middlecamp

Monday, December 17, 2007

USC hits books, Poly hits court

While the USC men's basketball team is stressing through finals this week, Cal Poly plans on dedicating most of the week to preparing for the Trojans and the many matchup problems they present.
Cal Poly wrapped up finals earlier this month and its students are on Christmas Break. Does this help their Mustangs' chances come Saturday at USC? Maybe. Does it mean they're going to pull off another upset of the Trojans? If the Sagarin ratings are any indicator, the "outlook isn't good," as my lucky eight ball would say. USC is No. 41 in the ratings index. Cal Poly is waaaay down at No. 185.
But Mustangs forward Titus Shelton likes their chances. And you already know senior guard Dawin Whiten thinks they can win.
"They have good players at good positions," Shelton said over the weekend. "They have O.J. Mayo, they have good bigs, so my initial thought is they're a good team. We're a good team too, overall, so we're just going to go out there and give them all we got."
While Cal Poly head coach Kevin Bromley wasn't exactly happy about the coverage of his team when he spoke to reporters after Saturday's game, he was happy his players had the week off from classes so they could focus on the Trojans.
"We got some work cut out for ourselves," he said. "I'm glad we have a whole week to prepare for them, without school and with finals week over. We can condition, practice and have a chance to get better. We just haven't been able to do that," playing seven of the first nine games away from Mott Gym.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Go ahead and hold the Mayo

I was going to write about Cal Poly’s upcoming opponent and how the Mustangs plan on defending USC star guard O.J. Mayo, but I really have no idea how they’re going to defend this guy. And I’m not sure if the Mustangs have a clue either.
I asked Cal Poly coach Kevin Bromley about the matchup problems the 6-foot-5 Mayo would present for the Mustangs’ undersized backcourt toward the tail end of an interview after the CS Bakersfield win, but instead of answering the question Bromley wanted to talk journalism.
“I’d like to talk about how there was nothing in today’s paper about today’s game,” he said. “That’s what I’d like to talk about. There wasn’t even one thing in today’s paper, not an ad or nothing.”
I was going to explain why there wasn’t a preview for Saturday’s game, but the coach turned his back to me after his “response,” so apparently we won’t know how the team’s going to defend Mayo until they play next weekend.

• • •
As far as our previews go, those who read the paper regularly know we don’t typically preview games against nonconference opponents unless it’s at least a decent DI opponent, like the Trojans, who I was trying to write a preview for, oddly enough. A game against a 1-8 Division II program that drew 1,600 fans didn’t fit that requirement with everything going on for Saturday’s paper. ... As far as footing the bill for advertisements, AD Alison Cone is probably the best contact for that one, not a beat writer who doesn't make a third of the coach's $160,000 salary.
• • •
Luckily Cal Poly forward Titus Shelton was willing to talk about the matchup with USC, although he was uncertain exactly how the Mustangs would be defending Mayo, too. All he knows is Cal Poly’s big men are going to have to play physical and might have to offer some help up top.
“I have a lot of confidence in our guards, defensively,” said Shelton, who at only 6-7 (two inches taller than Mayo) is the Mustangs’ starting center. “If they need help, we’ll help them. I have a lot of confidence in our guys, and they usually take the challenge when there’s leading scorers on other teams.”

Poly men beat Bakersfield

Trae Clark had 15 points and Matt Hanson had 14 as the Cal Poly men's basketball team beat Cal State Bakersfield 66-56 Saturday night.
The Roadrunners (1-9) nearly erased a 10-point halftime deficit and cut it to 49-47 with less than 5 minutes remaining before the Mustangs (5-5) finished with a 17-9 run.
Cal State Bakersfield's leading scorer Terrence Johns went 0-for-13 from the floor and finished with two points.
Dawin Whiten, one of the Mustangs' top scorers, was held to 1-of-10 shooting. Whiten missed his first nine shots but made a 3-pointer with 4:38 remaining to push the lead to 52-47.
Hanson and Titus Shelton had eight rebounds apiece for the Mustangs, and Clark had four assists.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mendes dominating the competition

Chad Mendes turned in another dominant performance for the Cal Poly wrestling team tonight.
Mendes, a senior who wrestles at 141 pounds, tallied six takedowns in the final period and beat Heinrich Barnes of Oregon State 20-6. It was one of the few highlights for the Mustangs, however, in a 23-16 loss to the Beavers.
Mendes is unbeaten in 14 matches this season and last weekend pinned second-ranked Manuel Rivera of defending national champion Minnesota in just 94 seconds.
Mendes, who is now ranked sixth nationally in his weight class, took the previously unbeaten Rivera down 1:30 into the match and turned him for the fall four seconds later.
Of his 14 matches this season, Mendes has won four by pins, five by major decision and one by technical fall.
Here's a YouTube video of Mendes' spectacular win over Rivera:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

DuPaix jumps ship

The big scoop of the day, which you'll read out about in Friday's paper, is that offensive coordinator Joe DuPaix is leaving the Cal Poly football team less than a month after guiding the Mustangs to one of the most impressive offensive seasons in program history.
Only DuPaix, one of two remaining assistants from head coach Rich Ellerson's initial coaching staff in 2001, isn't taking the Southern Utah job as some folks had hoped.
DuPaix told The Tribune today he has accepted an assistant coaching position with the Navy Midshipmen, which came as a surprise to his players and the T-Bird supporters back in Cedar City, Utah, where the Salt Lake City native interviewed for the Thunderbirds head coaching vacancy on Tuesday.
But after hearing all that Southern Utah had -- and didn't have -- to offer, he accepted the Navy assistant coaching position later that same night. DuPaix will be coaching the running backs at I-A Navy, which apparently is a better gig than the head coaching job at I-AA Southern Utah.
Neither Cal Poly nor Navy have announced the hiring as of late Thursday night, but you can read all about it in Friday's paper (and if you hear about it elsewhere, you know where they got it). A look at the Cal Poly assistants who have jumped to the I-A level since Ellerson took over prior to the 2001 season:

  • David Fipp, Nevada/San Jose St.
  • Joe Seumalo, San Jose St./Oregon St.
  • Jeff Hammerschmidt, Stanford
  • David Brown, Ohio
  • Brent Brennan, San Jose St.
  • Joe DuPaix, Navy

Piecing together Poly's '08 schedule

The Cal Poly football team’s 2008 schedule is starting to take shape.
Nothing has been announced by the school, because the schedule makers are still trying to fill at least two open dates, but two opponents — San Diego State and Montana — have announced their season openers are against Cal Poly.
Keep in mind, teams can play 12 regular-season games next season. Here’s what I can piece together on Cal Poly’s schedule, which is very unofficial at this point:

  • Mustangs open at I-A San Diego State, Aug. 30
  • Cal Poly’s home opener is vs. Montana, Sept. 6
  • Mustangs also host GWFC games vs. Southern Utah, UC Davis
  • Idaho State and South Dakota St. should return nonconference games
  • and at least one of the newcomers, South Dakota/North Dakota, will be on the 2008 schedule.
That’s seven down, four and maybe five to go. The good news for Cal Poly fans is that at least six of those games look like they’re in the state.
Sacramento State is another opponent Cal Poly might be looking at. The Mustangs didn’t play the Hornets last season for the first time since 1983.
North Dakota State, which like So. Dakota State is leaving the GWFC, is not on the schedule at this point.
The game against I-A San Jose State is scheduled for the 2009 season.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Barden, Field All-Americans, too

Cal Poly's football team also had a pair of underclassmen named to All-America teams Wednesday.
Wide receiver Ramses Barden and center Stephen Field, both juniors, were recognized on Associated Press Football Championship Subdivision All-America teams.
Barden was named to the first team, and Field, an Arroyo Grande High graduate, was on the third team.
The 6-foot-6 Barden shared the Great West Football Conference's offensive player of the year award with North Dakota State senior quarterback Steve Walker after catching 57 passes for 1,467 yards and 18 touchdowns. He broke Cal Poly records for receiving yards (1,467), points (108) and 100-yard receiving games (seven) in a season.
Field was an All-Great West first team selection for the third straight year, anchoring a Cal Poly offensive line that helped the Mustangs rank first nationally in total offense, fifth in rushing offense, and 27th in sacks allowed.
See Thursday's Tribune for more on this story along with the inside scoop on how the football team's 2008 schedule is coming along.

Atherstone an All-American

Cal Poly volleyball player Kylie Atherstone was named to the AVCA All-America third team on Wednesday, become the Mustangs' first All-American selection since 1989.
The 6-foot-1, opposite-side hitter helped lead Cal Poly to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament and is the program's first All-American since Michelle Hanson earned second-team honors in 1989.
Cal Poly middle blocker, Jaclyn Houston, also a junior, was an All-America honorable mention.
The All-American teams can be found at AVCA.org.
I'll be writing more on this story in Thursday's Tribune.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Poly volley can't pull off upset

After cruising through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament unscathed, Stanford head volleyball coach John Dunning was obviously relieved his top-ranked Cardinal wasn’t one of the seeded teams that fell victim to an upset.
Of the 16 teams that made it to this weekend’s third round, six were underdogs that advanced via upsets – five of which came on the right side of the bracket. Oregon was the lone unseeded team remaining on the left side.
“Some amazing upsets, and it’s just a sign of the parity in the sport,” Dunning said after the sweep of Sacramento State in the second round. “There are so many good teams. Women’s volleyball is amazing, the number of good players. The skill level, all the teams are good.”
But in an NCAA Tournament that's been filled with upsets, the Stanford Regional went according to the seeds on Friday night.
Top-seeded Stanford swept 16th-seeded Cal Poly.
Eighth-seeded UCLA took out unseeded Oregon in four games.
No real surprises here, although the Mustangs were disappointed they didn’t really do any better against the Cardinal the second time around.
Cal Poly lost 30-15, 30-24, 30-20 on Friday, exactly three months after losing to Stanford on the same floor by scores of 30-20, 30-18, 30-28 in the Stanford Invitational.
Because the match didn’t get over until 11:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday’s story will be without any postgame reaction. I’m working on a follow for Sunday’s paper, which will wrap up the season and include plenty of player reaction.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Remembering Tom Lee

I received word of Cal Poly Hall of Famer Tom Lee's death late Thursday night, but I wasn't able to write anything until today for the Web and for Saturday's paper. It was one of the toughest stories I've written having covered Lee's son, Larry, as Cal Poly and Cuesta's baseball coach for eight years now. I'd spot Tom at nearly every game I covered, sitting right there behind the plate rooting on his son's teams.
I also interviewed Tom dozens of times about his sons, or for Hall of Fame stories and obits on other Cal Poly legends. His stories were always classic.
Tom, a former Cal Poly coach and PE instructor, died at his San Luis Obispo home Thursday afternoon. He was 90.
Tom retired from the physical education and recreation department in 1988.
He came to Cal Poly in 1952 when he was hired as the varsity baseball, freshman football and boxing coach. Tom coached all three sports until the late 1950s and continued coaching boxing for 12 years until it was discontinued in 1963.
You can read more about his legacy in Saturday's paper, or you can find it at www.sanluisobispo.com late tonight. A funeral is planned for next Friday at the Old Mission Church in San Luis Obispo.
I talked to a bunch of people around the community today, and the stories they had about Tom Lee were almost as classic as his own tales. Everything from how he fought in WWII, had the brakes go out on the family car during their move to SLO (going down the Cuesta Grade of all places), and how he even played in the NBC World Series alongside Satchel Paige. I saw a comment had already been posted just minutes after posting a short breaking news story on Lee's passing at sanluisobispo.com and thought this could also be a good forum for readers to post their stories/memories about Tom as well. If you have any you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comment section below.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shotty signs with Philly

Former Cal Poly linebacker Kyle Shotwell, the 2006 Buck Buchanan Award winner, was officially signed to the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad on Wednesday.
The Eagles, who run a speed-oriented and blitz-happy 4-3 defense that could be well suited for the 6-1, 240-pound Shotwell, made the move to replace linebacker William Kershaw, who was signed off the practice squad by Houston.
The move comes just three days after former Cal Poly standout Chris Gocong turned in his best game as a pro for the Eagles, tallying a sack and four tackles in a loss to the New England Patriots.
Gocong’s big night against Tom Brady and company might’ve reninforced the belief that small-school products like Gocong, another Buchanan Award winner, and RB Brian Westbrook (I-AA Villanova), a Payton Award winner, can succeed at the next level.
Shotwell, however, still has his work cut out for him. As a practice squad player, there are no guarantees, and he isn't eligible to play on Sundays until he makes the active roster. Since September, five players have been released from the Eagles practice squad. Then again, two players have been signed to other teams and two others were promoted to the Eagles’ active roster after injuries hit Philly on the defensive side of the ball. Stay tuned on this one.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Barden doesn't make final cut

The three finalists for the Walter Payton Award have been announced and, as expected, Cal Poly wide receiver Ramses Barden wasn’t one of them.
In fact, there were no wide receivers among the finalists as Barden wasn’t even among the top 10 receiving votes. Since the award was first presented in 1987, only one wide receiver has come away with the trophy -- Villanova's Brian Finneran won it in 1997. Four of the past five awards have gone to quarterbacks, starting with Tony Romo of Eastern Illinois in 2002.
The three finalists, as named by The Sports Network, were all quarterbacks: Georgia Southern’s Jayson Foster, San Diego’s Josh Johnson and Eric Sanders of Northern Iowa.
Yeah, can you believe it? Everyone’s favorite coming in, 2006 Payton Award winner Ricky Santos of New Hampshire, wasn’t among the finalists and finished fifth in this year’s balloting. Another surprise was where North Dakota State running back Tyler Roehl fell in the voting. He was eighth after a less than stellar finish for the Bison.
The Payton Award winner will be announced Dec. 13 at the Chattanooga Marriott during the annual Sports Network awards dinner.
The Buck Buchanan Award, given to the best defender in the FCS, and Eddie Robinson Award, for the best coach, will be handed out on the eve of the championship game as well. The Sports Network does not announce finalists for the Buck Buchanan, but Cal Poly does not have a player up for the honor for the first time in five seasons. Mustangs Kyle Shotwell, Chris Gocong and Jordan Beck won the previous three awards.
Delaware running back Omar Cuff was fourth in the Payton Award voting, followed by Santos, Southern Illinois quarterback Nick Hill, Richmond running back Tim Hightower, Roehl, Yale running back Mike McLeod and Appalachian State running back Kevin Richardson. That means Barden finished somewhere between Nos. 11 and 16. Here's a list of the 16 candidates coming into the week along with past winners of the award.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Poly volley off to Athens

The Cal Poly volleyball team earned the No. 16 seed to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday but was not rewarded with a host site.
The Mustangs will instead travel to Athens, Ohio, to play Xavier in the first round on Friday.
Cal Poly (21-7) lost to Xavier (24-10) in five games on Sept. 14 at the ASICS/Coca-Cola Invitational in San Francisco.
The winner of the first-round match advances to play the winner of host Ohio (26-15) and Purdue (18-13).
See Monday’s Tribune for more on this story. The 64-team bracket can be found here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mustang men's soccer feeling left out

The Cal Poly men's soccer team saw its season come to an end Monday when the Mustangs were not invited to the NCAA Tournament. Here's the bracket.
Getting left out of the tournament field wasn't all that shocking considering the Mustangs (11-4-4, 6-3-4 Big West Conference) won just two of their final eight matches after upsetting defending champion UC Santa Barbara at home on Oct. 17.
Cal Poly had an RPI of 31 last week, and 48 teams advance to the tournament, so it will be interesting to see where their RPI is this week after splitting its two matches over the weekend. Friday's loss to Portland might have been the one that burst the Mustangs' bubble. Like the Cal Poly football team, and the women's soccer team, Cal Poly might have been just one win away from the postseason.
The Big West Conference, which did not have a representative on the committee, got two teams into the tournament as conference champion UCSB and second-place UC Davis advanced. Cal Poly finished third in the conference standings, losing to UC Davis on Nov. 10. The teams split the season series.
The Pac-10, which had a representative on the committee as you can see in the previous post, got three teams in -- (11-5-2)(8-8-3) (8-7-4)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Men's soccer keeps its fingers crossed

We know the Cal Poly football team didn't make the playoffs today. Monday, we find out if the men's soccer team is going to the postseason. The Mustangs (11-4-4, 6-2-4 Big West) split two matches over the weekend, wrapping up the regular season with a 3-1 win over Cal State Fullerton today. The Mustangs, who came into the weekend ranked 31st in the NCAA’s RPI rankings, could have a tough time getting into the playoffs considering they dropped to third place in the league standings this week behind second-place UC Davis and league champion UC Santa Barbara. Cal Poly hasn't advanced to the playoffs since 1995 and only 48 teams are in the field. There are no Big West Conference representatives on the selection committee either, which won't help the Mustangs' cause. We'll find out Monday when the field is announced at 2:30 p.m. on ESPNews.

• • •
The selection committee is made up of:
Ken Kavanagh, Bradley University, chair
Craig Angelos, Florida Atlantic University
Elmar Bolowich, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
John Diffley, St. John’s University (New York)
Charlie Elwood, Fordham University
Mary Lu Gribschaw, University of Akron
Schellas Hyndman, Southern Methodist University
Gina Markland, Coastal Carolina University
Earl Koberlein, Stanford University
Seth Roland, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Metropolitan

Poly misses playoffs for second straight year

As expected, Cal Poly's football season officially came to a close today when it was not among the 16 teams invited to the FCS playoffs. Here's the bracket. New Hampshire (7-4) was the only four-loss team to make the playoffs, which shows just how important getting to that eighth win is. New Hampshire will open the playoffs next weekend against top-seeded Northern Iowa (11-0).
Montana (11-0) and Eastern Washington (8-3) advanced from the West out of the Big Sky Conference. The Gateway Conference, where the North Dakota State and South Dakota State will be playing next season, got two berths to the playoffs. The Colonial Athletic Association raised eyebrows when it got five teams in. New Hampshire got in despite being ranked No. 20 in last week's Sports Network Top 25, only five spots better than Cal Poly. The CAA was represented by UMass and former Cal Poly AD John McCutcheon on the selection comittee. UMass earned an automatic bid as a co-champion of the league.
As expected, no Great West Football Conference teams advanced. Neither did any of the Mustangs' nonconference opponents. Cal Poly finished 7-4 the past two seasons after making the playoffs in 2005 with an 8-3 mark.

• • •
AUTOMATIC QUALIFIERS (8): Montana (Big Sky Conference), Massachusetts (Colonial Athletic Association), Northern Iowa (Gateway Football Conference), Delaware State (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference), Eastern Kentucky (Ohio Valley Conference), Fordham (Patriot League) Wofford (Southern Conference), McNeese State (Southland Conference).

AT-LARGE QUALIFERS (8): Eastern Washington (Big Sky Conference), Delaware (Colonial Athletic Association), James Madison (Colonial Athletic Association), New Hampshire (Colonial Athletic Association), Richmond (Colonial Athletic Association), Southern Illinois (Gateway Football Conference), Eastern Illinois (Ohio Valley Conference), Appalachian State (Southern Conference).

SOS distress call from Mustang fans

If you were planning on coming out to a Cal Poly men’s basketball game during the nonconference season, I hope you made it out to Thursday's home opener against Utah State because that might be the only good one until the start of conference play.
Utah State, favored to win the WAC this year, could be the best team Cal Poly brings to Mott Gym all season - and that's not saying much considering the tumble the Aggies are taking - as the Mustangs were able to schedule only 12 home games this season.
Cal Poly head coach Kevin Bromley was hesitant about bringing Utah State in after losing eight straight to the Aggies, but the move paid off Thursday when the Mustangs ran away with an 83-69 victory.
“Nobody in our conference will play them because they used to own this conference,” Bromley said. “But we only have 11 home games if we don’t play them and then 18 on the road – so I have to play somebody at home. Our booster club and our student-athletes deserve to have some home games.”
Well, the part about nobody playing the Aggies isn't entirely true. Utah State, sliding to No. 222 in the latest Sagarin Ratings, lost 70-51 at UC Irvine on Saturday night. Which makes you wonder, what the heck happened to Utah State?
Well, here’s what you get to look forward to from the rest of the Mustangs’ nonconference home schedule:
Dec. 2: Menlo College, an NAIA DII team that went 15-12 last year but returns five starters.
Dec. 15: Cal State Bakersfield, a team transitioning to Division I that did manage to beat Fresno State the other night.
Dec. 29: Southern Utah, a team that is a Division I program but is ranked No. 265 in the Sagarin Ratings.
For the record, Cal Poly's Sagarin Rating is 156, middle of the pack for the Big West, which ranges from 101 (Pacific) to 292 (UC Riverside). Which, if these numbers hold up, means Cal Poly fans might not see a top-100 team in Mott Gym this season. With those RPI and SOS (strength of schedule) numbers it looks like the Big West is a one-bid league again this season.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

One play away from the playoffs?

Cal Poly head football coach Rich Ellerson says it all the time, the outcome of a game can "come down to one play." The play that everyone was still talking about following Saturday's victory over Iona College was Kole Heckendorf's 80-yard touchdown reception from Steve Walker a week earlier as North Dakota State overcame a 19-point deficit to stun Cal Poly and crush its playoff hopes. Even Cal Poly senior linebacker Jayson Relyea referenced the play today, knowing the Mustangs (7-4) were possibly one play away from making the playoffs, again. Last year's fourth-quarter letdown against South Dakota State likely cost the Mustangs a playoff spot during Relyea's junior season.
"That's kind of been our whole season," said Relyea, whose team lost three of its games by a total of 13 points. The Mustangs' worst loss of the year was a 48-35 defeat at Great West Football Conference champion South Dakota State.
"That one play. Those two plays that just kind of happen. That's kind of how it's been the past couple years."
As luck would have it, that "one play" has made its way onto YouTube for those who couldn't get a ticket to the sold-out showdown with the Bison. If you Poly fans can stomach it, it's embedded below.

Not a bad first year for Dally

I know, it’s apples and oranges comparing FBS and FCS players, playing USC or LSU vs. Idaho State, but after hearing Florida QB Tim Tebow became the NCAA's first 20-20 player today, it got me thinking about the numbers Cal Poly QB Jonathan Dally put up in his first season with the Mustangs. After Saturday’s 55-7 romp of Iona College, Dally finished with a school-record 29 touchdown passes and a 12 rushing touchdowns (four shy of the school record). Forty-one TDs isn't a bad start for a JC transfer who was largely overlooked by most FBS and FCS schools for that matter.
It's a stretch, but for snits and giggles and the stat geeks in the Cal Poly crowd, here’s how Dally’s numbers look when put up against the two big-name, double-threat
QBs in the Heisman Trophy conversation. Dally, for the record, is not up for the Walter Payton Award, the FCS version of the Heisman, although his favorite target Ramses Barden is - and for good reason - after catching a school-record 18 touchdowns as a junior.

  • Tim Tebow, Florida
    Rushing:
    181 carries for 749 yards (4.1 avg) and 20 TDs

    Passing:
    198-289-6 (68.5 percent) for 2,870 yards and 26 TDs

    Total offense:
    329 yards per game

  • Dennis Dixon, Oregon
    Rushing:
    105 carries for 583 yards (5.6 avg) and 9 TDs

    Passing:
    172-254-4 (67.7 percent) for 2,136 yards and 20 TDs

    Total offense:
    271 yards per game

  • Jonathan Dally, Cal Poly
    Rushing:
    182 carries for 763 yards (4.2 avg) and 12 TDs

    Passing:
    104-192-5 (54.7 percent) for 2,238 yards and 29 TDs

    Total offense:
    272.8 yards per game

Comparing the stats show exactly what Dally wants to work on this offseason, passing accuracy. While Tebow and Dixon were completing close to 70 percent of their passes this year, Dally was down around 55 percent for most of the season. After getting picked off just once in the first nine games, he was intercepted four times over the final two (including three times in the red zone). The turnovers are the top concern, including the lost fumbles - which Dally had one more of in the finale. But all in all, it was a pretty good debut for the Santa Maria product, and if he improves on these numbers (with 10 starters coming back on offense) he might find his way on the Payton watch list in 2008.

Mustangs finish on a winning note

Quarterback Jonathan Dally threw two touchdowns and ran for three more as Cal Poly closed out its season with a 55-7 victory over Iona College.
The win ensured a second-straight 7-4 season but is not expected to earn the Mustangs a berth in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) playoffs.
Dally threw a 48-yard touchdown to Ramses Barden to give Cal Poly a 7-0 lead with 5 minutes left in the first quarter as the Mustangs never trailed. Dally was just 4-of-10 passing but hit Ryan Mole with an 11-yard touchdown that gave the Mustangs a 21-0 lead.
The junior playcaller added 100 rushing yards on 17 carries, scrambling for touchdowns of 2, 9 and 7 yards out of the triple option.
Iona (7-4) foiled the shutout on Dane Samuels' 5-yard touchdown run with 10:12 remaining.
Cal Poly's defense scored for the third consecutive game on David Fullerton's 95-yard interception return.
Kevin Spach and Michael Chowtham rounded out the scoring with touchdown runs of 1 and 5 yards.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Offense vs. Defense

Statistically speaking, Saturday's football game between Cal Poly and Iona College pits one of the Football Championship Subdivision’s top offenses against the top-ranked defense.
Cal Poly comes in ranked second in the FCS in total offense at 491.4 yards per game. Only Appalachian State, which beat Michigan to open the season, has put up a better numbers at 492.9 yards per game. Iona is 50th among 116 FCS teams, averaging 383 yards.
Iona comes in ranked No. 1 in total defense, allowing just 254.1 yards per game. Cal Poly ranks 78th in allowing 386.9 yards per game.

Cal Poly beats Utah State in home opener

For those who can't get enough Cal Poly hoops, here's my first-run story from tonight's men's game. I usually write one quick first write for The Tribune Web site minutes after the game and then follow it up with my typical game story with quotes, etc., which you'll find in the next day's paper and at SanLuisObispo.com. Many of you have bookmarked this site, so I'll try to post the first-run stories here after games. You also can usually read them in the breaking news column at SanLuisObispo.com.

Cal Poly 83, Utah State 69
Cal Poly had four players in double figures in an 83-69 victory over former Big West Conference foe Utah State.
Titus Shelton and Lorenzo Keeler each had 19 points to lead the Mustangs, who were 7 of 12 from the 3-point line in the second half.
Dawin Whiten added 17 points, and Chaz Thomas had 14 for Cal Poly (2-2).
Thomas broke a 36-36 tie with a layin early in the second half and the Mustangs never trailed again. Cal Poly’s next 18 points came on six three-point plays.
The preseason favorite in the Western Athletic Conference, Utah State came into the game with a 15-1 record against Cal Poly, winning the previous eight meetings.
The Aggies (2-2) were led by Stephen DuCharme’s 22 points and 10 rebounds. Jaycee Carroll had 18 points.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Van Ostrand represents Canada at World Cup

Former Cal Poly baseball player Jimmy Van Ostrand and the Canadian senior national team were knocked out of the IBAF World Cup on Wednesday with a 7-6 loss to Australia in Taipei, Taiwan.
Canada fell one win shy of moving on to the medal round, finishing fifth in Pool B.
Van Ostrand hit .400 in Canada’s seven games, going 8 for 20 with a triple.
The first baseman’s biggest game of the tournament came Nov. 8 in an 18-0 romp of Thailand. The former Cal Poly outfielder and first baseman was 3 for 5 with two singles, a triple, two runs score and four RBI.
The national team went 4-3 at the World Cup and will return to Taiwan in March for the final qualifying tournament for the Olympics.
Tribune file photo by David Middlecamp.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More Minnesota players coming to Poly?

Two more Minnesota products are expected to sign with the Cal Poly men’s basketball program.
Hopkins’ Anthony DiLoretto and Maranatha’s David Hanson, brother of current Mustang forward Matt Hanson, will sign with Cal Poly during the early signing period, according to today's Minnesota Star Tribune.
The NCAA’s early signing period began Wednesday and runs through
Nov. 21.
Cal Poly has not announced any signings as of this post.
The Mustangs have drawn a rash of players from the North Star State, including current Mustangs Hanson, John Manley and Zach Thurow.
Cal Poly's all-time leading scorer Chris Bjorklund was from the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" as was former Minnesota transfer Shane Schilling.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

'They should fire me'

I’m writing more about this topic in Monday’s paper, but it’s already quite evident Cal Poly head football coach Rich Ellerson’s emotional postgame comments after the fourth-quarter letdown against North Dakota State tonight raised eyebrows everywhere from SLO to Fargo.

“I let (my players) down,” Ellerson said minutes after the 31-28 loss. “That’s on me. They should fire me.”
The game’s only a few hours old and Ellerson’s “fire me” comment has already been published on Web sites by The Tribune, Lompoc Record and The Forum in Fargo, N.D., where the North Dakota State Bison took a step closer to the Great West Football Conference crown and remained unbeaten after overcoming a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Ellerson apparently echoed similar comments during a postgame interview with ESPN 1280 AM, which I’m sure added to the disbelief of Cal Poly fans as they drove home after another Homecoming collapse.
While the comments were surprising, it was evident Ellerson was trying the shoulder the load of the loss and did not want the debacle being blamed on his assistants, an interception in the red zone, a blown assignment in the secondary or a missed field goal early in the game.
Because I’m a beat reporter, and not a columnist, I try to refrain from injecting my opinion on these types of topics (which has been the challenge of trying to publish and interesting blog), but I will reiterate what I wrote in my game story for Sunday’s paper.
It’s doubtful Ellerson would find himself on the hot seat any time soon after leading Cal Poly (6-4, 2-2) to its fifth straight winning season -- not to mention the fact that he’s under contract through at least the 2013 season.
This is Cal Poly football we’re talking about, not New York Yankees baseball.
After enduring three straight 3-8 seasons, Cal Poly fans and message board honks should keep in mind that the Mustangs have enjoyed winning campaigns in six of Ellerson’s seven seasons. The Mustangs went to the playoffs in 2005 for the first time and were one win – make that one quarter – away from a possible playoff bid the next two seasons. Two bad quarters against the Dakotas shouldn’t override 47 wins in the Mustangs’ other 76 games under Ellerson.
Flipping through the Mustangs media guide, Cal Poly hasn’t strung together five straight winning seasons since Joe Harper put together 13 straight dating from 1968-80.
Ellerson also has a .603 winning percentage in his seven seasons. Only three of Cal Poly’s 15 head football coaches have done better – Howie O’Daniels (.621), Roy Hughes (.662), Joe Harper (.685).
What are your thoughts on Ellerson's "fire me" comment?
I'd like to hear your thoughts on this one. Post your thoughts in the comments section below.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bison trample Poly's playoff hopes

Here are the early stories from the Cal Poly football team's heartbreaking 31-28 loss to North Dakota State tonight.
As always, our full coverage of the game will be available at sanluisobispo.com later tonight.

Cal Poly football team stunned by North Dakota State
The Tribune
Steve Walker hit Kole Heckendorf with an 80-yard touchdown pass with 38 seconds left as North Dakota State stunned Cal Poly 31-28 on Homecoming ...

Walker caps another fourth-quarter comeback
Dickinson Press
The legend of Steve Walker outgrew the size of the state of California on Saturday night...
Bison win in a flurry of late tds over Poly
Santa Maria Times
For the first 50 minutes of Saturday night's Homecoming game at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, the Cal Poly football team ...
Poly coach says he’s to blame for loss
In-Forum
It was stirring with big plays by NDSU and a major collapse by the Mustangs. ...
Bison pull off improbable come-from-behind victory
In-Forum
North Dakota State University kept its dream of a perfect season intact, scoring on an 80-yard pass play from Steve Walker to Kyle Heckendorf in the final ...

Friday, November 09, 2007

A closer look at the big game

If a page and a half of Cal Poly football previews in Saturday's paper isn't enough, here are some additional stories previewing Saturday's Great West Football Conference showdown between No. 24 Cal Poly and No. 2 North Dakota State:

At 6-foot-6, Cal Poly receiver creates havoc
In-Forum, N.D. - Nov 7, 2007
For Cal Poly to knock off North Dakota State on Saturday, wide receiver Ramses Barden will probably have to play a big role.

A road trip to forget
In-Forum, N.D. - Nov 6, 2007
North Dakota State is still looking for its first win at Cal Poly, where the Bison are 0-2 in San Luis Obispo.

Mustangs return home to face a big challenge in Bison
The Tribune - Nov 5, 2007
Cal Poly goes from 0-9 Southern Utah to 9-0 North Dakota State.

The Tribune - Nov 9, 2007
During a weekly Great West Football Conference coaches teleconference this week, Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson was asked how the Mustangs planned on slowing down Tyler Roehl and North Dakota State's dominant running game. He didn't have an answer.

www.greatwestfootball.com - Nov 9, 2007
Columnist Chris Kelly breaks down the game and picks North Dakota State to spoil Cal Poly's Homecoming festivities.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The end of the road ... is here ...

The mountains behind the Southern Utah campus in Cedar City make for a great backdrop on a lazy Saturday afternoon, especially when there are no fans to block the view. According to Saturday's box score, only 4,021 fans attended the game - and that number was probably a bit high.

The longest road trip in the Rich Ellerson era has come to an end ... thankfully.
The Cal Poly football team finished its grueling four-game road trip on Saturday with a lackluster 28-21 victory at hapless Southern Utah (0-9).
When it was all said and done, and the Mustangs finally rolled into town Sunday, Cal Poly had gone 3-1 and traveled more than 7,500 miles in the process.
Yours truly followed every mile of the trip and every minute of the four games, which is why I’m falling asleep ... as I write ... this last post.
I’d give you a rundown of how the game went and how beautiful Southern Utah was but ... my eyelids can’t keep up with fingers any more.
Instead of falling asleep by reading my sluggish post here ... read about the game here ... and here ... and here.
Before I doze off ... the news worth mentioning today is Cal Poly moving up to No. 24 in Monday’s Sports Network top 25 media poll.
Cal Poly (6-3) remains unranked in the Football Championship Subdivision coaches poll.
The Mustangs have won six of seven since dropping two straight to Texas State and Idaho to open the season.
Cal Poly hosts one of the top teams in the country when 9-0 North Dakota State comes to town for a Homecoming game Saturday. ... The Great West Football Conference favorites are ranked No. 1 in the coaches poll and No. 2 in the media poll.
The Mustangs have to win and then pray like heck if they want a part of the Great West title and a spot in the postseason.
Just thinking about the possibility of another road trip for the playoffs — the day after stuffing myself on Turkey Day — makes me sleeeeeepy ...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Poly still on outside looking in

Saturday’s 48-28 victory at Idaho State wasn’t enough to sway the voters.
The Cal Poly football team was left out of both major Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 polls on Monday.
Cal Poly dropped out of The Sports Network media poll and FCS coaches poll with a loss at South Dakota State two weeks ago and was still stranded in the “others receiving votes” category again Monday. The Mustangs were 34th in the FCS and 28th in the TSN.
Prior to the South Dakota State loss, the Mustangs hadn’t been out of both polls since early in the 2004 season.
Here is The Sports Network poll and the FCS poll.
The poll position doesn't exactly help Cal Poly's playoff cause, although opinion polls are not supposed to be a factor in the committee's decision in picking eight at-large candidates. But to have a chance, Cal Poly has to be considered among the top 20 teams or so in the country.
The Gridiron Power Index, although it hasn't been updated as of this post and Cal Poly is still 31st, is usually a better indicator than opinion polls as far as playoff consideration is concerned. Another good power ranking system is Sagarin, which includes all Division I teams. Cal Poly is 34th in the Sagarin ratings.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Poly poll position likely to improve

The Cal Poly football team’s win over Idaho State on Saturday could land the Mustangs back in the top 25, which is key considering only 16 teams advance to the playoffs.
The Mustangs, out of the top 25 in both major polls last week for the first time since early 2004, likely have to win out to be considered for one of the eight at-large spots and have a big home game looming against No. 2 North Dakota State in two weeks.
There were very few upsets in the top half of The Sports Network’s top 25 on Saturday, although there were plenty of losses by lower-half teams, which should help Cal Poly. A look at the top 25 losses on Saturday:

  • No. 6 James Madison (6-2) lost vs. Richmond, 16-17
  • No. 15 Hofstra (6-2) lost at Villanova, 31-35
  • No. 18 Nicholls State (5-3) lost at Central Arkansas, 42-49 (2OT)
  • No. 19 Montana State (5-3) lost at Northern Colorado, 13-16
  • No. 20 Youngstown State (5-4) lost at Northern Iowa, 13-14
  • No. 23 Norfolk State (6-2) lost vs. Howard, 10-17
  • No. 25 The Citadel (5-3) lost at Georgia Southern, 17-21

Bye-bye boo birds

Five weeks ago, Cal Poly football fans actually began to boo the Mustangs’ triple-option offense at Alex G. Spanos Stadium as it struggled for a half against Division II Western Oregon.
Fans were upset with the option run calls as Cal Poly struggled to get much going offensively with two of its top wingbacks dinged up.
Now that the Mustangs are healthy and rolling up yardage again, Cal Poly fans are buzzing not boo-hooing over the triple option.
Cal Poly put up 35-plus points for the fourth straight game Saturday as the Mustangs won at Idaho State 48-28.

  • QB Jonathan Dally had five touchdown tosses (not to mention a quarterback rating of 294 and 572 yards of total offense) and matched a school record with his 23rd touchdown pass of the season. Dally finished 16 of 24 for 453 yards passing – the second greatest single-game total in Cal Poly history behind Seth Burford’s 566-yard performance versus Northern Iowa in 2000.
  • WR Ramses Barden broke the school’s all-time touchdown reception record and had three touchdown grabs of 27, 85 and 79 yards – the first of which broke Kamil Loud’s program record of 26 career touchdowns from 1994-97. The 6-6 touchdown magnet finished with a career-high 10 catches for 268 yards.
  • WR Tredale Tolver caught four balls for 154 yards, with touchdowns of 38 and 62 yards – the second of which came on a screen.
The Mustangs have now scored in 19 consecutive quarters since getting blanked in the opening quarter against Western Oregon, sending those boo birds into hibernation in the process.

The most dominant program on campus

Can you say perennial power?
The Cal Poly men’s cross country team defines the term, winning the Big West Conference Championships for a record fifth consecutive time Saturday when the Mustangs swept the top five individual places and Phillip Reid took the individual title for the second straight year.
No other men’s cross country team in Big West history has won more than four consecutive titles. The only other team to win more than three straight titles was Long Beach State in the first four years of the league’s existence, meaning Cal Poly has put together one of the most dominant stretches the conference has seen in any sport.
The five straight titles is the most consecutive conference crowns by any current Cal Poly team, making Mark Conover’s squad the most dominant program on campus.
While some would hesitate to put a cross country team and dominance/dynasty in the same sentence, five straight conference tiles is certainly a monumental feat for a school that started the academic year with a total of 23 team conference titles since moving to Division I in 1994.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Previewing a big sports day for Poly

Saturday is a big day for Cal Poly athletics. Here’s a rundown of stories previewing today’s action, which includes the Big West Conference Cross Country Championships in SLO, key soccer matches and the football team’s game at Idaho State:

  • Idaho State plays host to Cal Poly
    The Idaho State Bengals host the Cal Poly Mustangs in thier final non-conference game of the season at 3:05 pm Saturday at the Holt Arena in Pocatello. ...

  • Idaho State hosts Mustangs
    Idaho
    State hosts the Cal Poly Mustangs in their final nonconference game at 3:05 pm Saturday at Holt Arena in Pocatello. ISU (3-4, 2-3 Big Sky) is coming ...

  • Idaho State game again key for Poly
    Cal
    Poly and Idaho State are meeting Saturday for the fifth time in six seasons, with four of those games coming in the final month of the regular season. ...
  • UCR Runners Aim for Title
    The Highlanders enter the Big West Championships at Cal Poly undefeated and have been training since the summer to not only capture the conference title ...
  • Soccer: 49ers battling for the top spot
    For the sake of argument, the BWC is a down to four-team race for the title among LBSU, Fullerton, UCI and
    Cal Poly. LBSU (11-5-0, 4-1-0) is tied for first ...

And if you missed this story, former Cal Poly pitcher Greg Bochy had to evacuate his parents’ house in San Diego because of the recent fire storms:

  • Former Cal Poly pitcher forced to evacuate
    Former Cal Poly pitcher Greg Bochy, son of San Francisco Giants manager Bruce, was house-sitting his parents' home in Poway on Monday when he was forced to evacuate ...

Greetings from Big Sky country

Welcome to Pocatello, Idaho, where’s it’s a cool 40 degrees as I attempt to write blog entry No. 101.
While it’s a little cold for us Californians, Pocatello – and the rest of Big Sky country for that matter – is beautiful this time of year. The leaves are turning. There’s snow atop the mountains. The late-afternoon sunsets are gorgeous (as you can see in my great camera phone shot of Holt Arena).
It’s really not that cold during the day, but I’m sure the Cal Poly football team is happy Saturday’s game is indoors at Idaho State’s good ol’ Holt Arena.
Holt Arena, for those who have never been here, is by far the oldest “dome” in Division I football.
The arena, originally called the Mini Dome, was built in the early 1970s entirely by voluntary student fees and was the first covered football stadium built on a college campus.
The idea of a covered venue, which would protect the Idaho State Bengals – and fair-weather sportswriters – from the elements over the latter half of the season, was dreamed up by former athletic director Milton “Dubby” Holt.
The only domed arena built before 12,000-seat Holt Arena was the Houston Astrodome. And like the Astrodome, the surface at Holt Arena is good old-fashioned Astroturf, which was reset in 1999 but still gets a thumbs down from most of the Mustangs.
I remember Cal Poly quarterback Chris Peterson said Astroturf was the “worst invention ever” when he played here a few years back. Peterson also had one of the nastiest rug burns I’ve ever seen on that day.
Welcome to Pocatello.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Is it hoops season yet?

A lot of Cal Poly fans are asking that question this week after the Mustangs football team dropped out of the national rankings for the first time since early in the 2004 season.
The good news is Cal Poly still has an outside shot at the postseason and is two wins away from ensuring its sixth winning season in seven years under head coach Rich Ellerson.
Other good news for Cal Poly folks, the men's soccer program has cracked the rankings for the first time since 1995, according to the school. You can read about the ups and downs of those two teams here.
But now that the fall sports are into the second half of their seasons, it probably isn't a bad time to start talking basketball.
After all, practices have started and the Mustangs open the season next month. Hungry for a Big West Conference preview already? Here's a brief team-by-team breakdown of the Big West at SI.com.

• • •
P.S. This is a noteworthy update in that it is post No. 100 for me, which is kind of a surprise considering I was initially against taking time away from writing for the print edition to publish a blog -- which is still a four-letter word in my eyes. Now the question is, has anybody been reading this thing? Does anyone even care about blogs, particularly one on Cal Poly sports?Likes? Dislikes? Do you think blogs are lame and the print edition is better and where The Tribune should be focusing its attention/resources? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Running wild in the Dakotas

If there’s one thing the Mustangs learned from their trip to the Midwest this weekend it’s that the FCS schools in the Dakotas certainly know how to run the football.
South Dakota State running back Cory Koenig lived up to our Gameday feature and ran all over the Cal Poly football team on Saturday, rolling up 259 yards on 21 carries in the 48-35 victory. Koenig, who missed last year’s meeting with a shoulder injury, came into the game with four touchdowns and was averaging four yards a carry. He matched that touchdown total and more than tripled the average against the Mustangs’ struggling defense, which was once built on stonewalling the run and pressuring the quarterback up front.
But on this day, Cal Poly did neither, coming up with just one sack and failing to prevent Koenig from reeling off touchdown runs of 32, 46, 52 and 11 yards. Those numbers are that much more impressive when you consider Koenig’s longest carry of the season had been 27 yards.
Koenig’s 259-yard night would’ve been a Great West Football Conference record if not for North Dakota State running back Tyler Roehl’s monster day in a 27-21 victory at FBS Minnesota (making that Fargo Farmboys 21, Golden Gophers 17 prediction on the previous post look pretty darn good … I guess it pays to wake up early and milk those cows).
Roehl, who grew up in nearby West Fargo, N.D., rushed for the school-record 263 yards on just 22 carries, pushing North Dakota State’s record to 7-0 on the season.
Second-ranked North Dakota State, which plays unranked Southern Utah and Illinois State next, could easily be 9-0 by the time the Bison roll into San Luis Obispo for Cal Poly’s Homecoming game on Nov. 10. And if Cal Poly doesn’t figure out what’s wrong with its run defense soon, the Mustangs are going to be very happy to see North Dakota State leave the Great West after this season.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Safe landing in Sioux Falls

Thursday's news about USC’s thunderstorm-plagued flight to South Bend, Ind., along with my Friday flight back to my favorite airport in South Dakota, got me thinking about a harrowing trip to the Dakotas three years ago.
Eerily similar thunderstorms rocked the Midwest in 2004 while I was on a commercial flight to Fargo, N.D., for Cal Poly’s game at North Dakota State. (The Mustangs were on a separate flight, and I’ll get to that adventure in a minute.)

Like the USC flight, our pilot was forced to abort a landing at the last moment because of the stormy conditions in Fargo. I’ve been on some bumpy rides before but nothing like this, balking on a landing attempt when the airstrip was within sight … in the middle of an already unnerving thunderstorm.
We circled the Fargo airport for 45 minutes before the gas gauge started pointing toward empty and forced us to land in Sioux Falls, S.D. – the same airport the team and I flew into today without any hassle (here's a preview of Saturday's game along with a story on Cal Poly's bend-but-don't break D).
It was a different story three years ago when a few dozen Cal Poly fans and I were forced to drive the eight-hour trek from Sioux Falls to Fargo because our pilot didn't want to brave the storm.

• • •

During my eight-hour drive to North Dakota State three years ago, I called Cal Poly assistant SID Eric Burdick to see how the team’s earlier flight went and found out they encountered a similar scare in Fargo. Their pilot aborted a landing at the last minute, too, although he made good on his second attempt after a brief stop in Sioux Falls. Unlike yours truly, they were able to fly to Fargo later that night while the rest of us hydroplaned our way across the state in our compact rental cars.
So that’s my white-knuckle airline story in seven years of covering this team.

• • •

I asked former Mustang Kyle Shotwell about that Fargo flight the other day, and he said it was the scariest flight he’s ever been on. He recalled the pilot announcing over the speaker that he was going to “try landing again” the second time around.
Shotwell recalled teammate Karl Ivory yelling out: “Try! No, you’re going to land this thing.”
The good news was the team landed safely and all of Cal Poly’s followers made the drive to North Dakota in one piece.
Luckily, Friday’s flight to Sioux Falls was a piece of cake. Let’s hope Saturday’s 45-minute drive up to Brookings is uneventful as well.

• • •

P.S. Cal Poly better get used to these fall trips to the Dakotas. While South Dakota State and North Dakota State are leaving the Great West after this season, North Dakota and South Dakota will be joining the conference in the near future. Cal Poly is also trying to schedule nonconference games against South Dakota State in 2008 and 2009.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hey Coach, what do you think about ...?

I always enjoy when media members ask college football coaches about the time of day, weather or venue they’re playing in because in the skewed minds of the coaches those “distractions” have nothing to do with the game, and you never know what kind of response you’re going to get.
You have to ask the question, because it’s your job, but don’t be surprised if the response is a little cold.
Ask an offbeat question on game day, and you'll likely get an, “Are you kidding me, asking me that on game day?”
If you ask it after practice during UC Davis week, you might get an expletive-laced tirade.
Ask it during a Great West Football Conference coaches call early in the week and you might get the best response of all.
Here are a couple quotes from the teleconference call that I couldn’t fit in the paper this week:

North Dakota State head coach Craig Bohl on Saturday’s 11:07 a.m. start at I-A Minnesota, accommodating the Big 10 Network’s TV coverage:

“That’s one of the advantages of having a bunch of farm kids. They’ve been used to getting up in the morning and milking cows.”
I’m calling the next FCS upset win right now: Fargo Farmboys 21, Golden Gophers 17, with the winners landing a sponsorship deal with Rodenator.

Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson on leaving California, where the Mustangs have won their previous four games, to play in the Midwest weather at South Dakota State’s outdoor stadium on Saturday:
“We’re not going to bring our surfboards if that’s what you’re asking. I think we’ll be OK.”
Game time weather forecast in Brookings, S.D., according to weather.com: 57 degrees and partly cloudy. Game time forecast in San Luis Obispo: 61 degrees and mostly sunny. Hope the Mustangs can adjust to the climate change. I’ll ask Ellerson if he thinks his team can overcome it just before kickoff Saturday and let you know what he thinks.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Look Mom, one hand!

For the next four weekends, we're sending postcards from the various college towns the Cal Poly football team travels to during its grueling four-game road trip — its longest swing of the Rich Ellerson era. The Mustangs kicked off the road trip with a 63-28 victory at rival UC Davis on Saturday.

Greetings from Davis,
Didn't have a chance to catch SportsCenter tonight (being I was in the middle of a 560-mile trek on the I-5), but if Ramses Barden's third touchdown catch wasn't part of "Top Plays," it should have been.
Barden's one-handed grab in the second quarter was one of the most impressive catches you'll see at the I-AA level this season. Cal Poly's 6-6 receiver hauled in Jonathan Dally's perfectly thrown ball to the right corner without the use of his off hand. He caught it with his right, held it up to the crowd with his right and even flipped it to the ref with his right. The pigskin never even touched his left hand. The touchdown drew mixed reviews, with some thinking the play was a show-stopper and others thinking it was more showboater. After the game, Barden admitted he might have been able to use two hands and probably will go the two-hand route in the future, a comment Ellerson greeted with a nod and a smile.
Either way, the junior made up for a fumble earlier in the game and it was certainly an unbelievable catch. On the left is our first postcard of the catch, a photo by Tribune photographer Joe Johnston. After the catch and the buzz around the press box died down, one of the writers noted:

"I haven't seen anything like that since Keyshawn Johnson at USC."
Other impressive notes from this one:
  • One of the largest Cal Poly crowds to travel to a road game, filling two entire sections at new Aggie Stadium, with green and gold clad fans scattered about the bowl-shaped venue and the two grass sections as well.
  • Four Mustangs scoring multiple touchdowns, including Ryan Mole and James Noble scoring their first two TDs of the season.
  • Dally throwing four more touchdowns, eclipsing 1,200 yards on the season with only one interception.
  • 704 yards of total offense, a school record.
  • Four straight victories by the Mustangs heading into next week's trip to South Dakota State.
That's it for now. One trip and 560 miles down. Three out-of-state dates to go.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Ex-Mustangs still waiting for the call

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from Cal Poly fans lately about the whereabouts of some former Mustangs football players.
Well, here you go:

  • Kyle Shotwell is home in Goleta.
  • Jordan Beck is home in Atlanta.
  • And Kenny Chicoine is home in Newport Beach.
The three former Mustangs’ football careers are on hold this week as they play the waiting game until they get a call from another pro team.
You can read more about Shotwell and Beck’s hopes of filling a free-agent linebacker position in the NFL in Friday’s Tribune. Shotwell had a workout with the Green Bay Packers on Tuesday, not Monday as many of the local media reported.
Chicoine, as I wrote this past weekend, was bummed he missed the Hall of Fame activities at Cal Poly because he was looking forward to meeting former Cal Poly career interceptions record holder Mark Davis. Chicoine broke Davis’ record of 17 career interceptions last season.
Chicoine was in Japan last week where he was playing for the Fujitsu Frontiers of Japan’s X-League and had been living in Kawasaki, Japan, but appears to have moved back to Newport Beach after what he called a “fallout” with the Frontiers.
Chicoine did not comment on the reason for his departure in an e-mail today, but I do know he had an opt-out clause if things didn’t work out there. So like Beck and Shotwell, it sounds like Chicoine’s playing career is on hold as well.

Chicoine photo courtesy Kinzo Takaba/Fujitsu