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
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.