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
    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
    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

• • •
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 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