Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Just another manic Monday

"Big Monday" was a fitting label for all of the news coming out of Cal Poly on Monday, which is usually a quiet day for Mustangs sports news (with the exception of the made-for-TV press conferences at Mott Gym each week).
Not only did the news about Morro Bay football star Logan Budd committing to Cal Poly come out, but the Mustangs men's basketball team put together a winning streak, winning its second-straight game at Pacific and on ESPN2's "Big Monday" off all places. Cal Poly always seems to play big on TV, but in the two Big West Tournament finales broadcast by ESPN, the Mustangs couldn't finish. Last night, the Mustangs finally closed out a TV game, in what was their biggest win of the conference season.
If you missed the news, you can read about Budd's commitment here. Stay tuned for more signings next week. National signing day is a week away.
You can read about Cal Poly's five-point win in Stockton here, or watch it online at ESPN360.com. For those who haven't checked it out, ESPN360 shows most of the ESPN-televised games for free, both live and as replays. The only drawback for SLO County sports fans is ESPN360 is not supported by Charter as an Internet provider. But if you have AT&T DSL, it works like a charm. If you go to the replay list, the Cal Poly-Pacific game is toward the bottom (no word on if the games are listed by ratings, but I'm guessing this Big West contest won't be rivaling American Idol this week in the Nielsen Ratings).

Friday, January 25, 2008

'08 football schedule still taking shape

Many of Cal Poly’s opponents have announced their 2008 football schedules, but the Mustangs are still a “ways away” from announcing their schedule, according to head coach Rich Ellerson.
Instead of waiting until late February (which is when the schedule was announced last year), here’s a look at what we know now about the 2008 slate:
Aug. 30: The Mustangs are scheduled to open at I-A San Diego State.
Sept. 6: The home opener is against Montana, which finished the year ranked No. 10 in I-AA.
Sept. 13: Cal Poly heads to McNeese State, which went unbeaten during the regular season and finished the year ranked No. 11 after a first-round loss to Eastern Washington.
Oct. 18: The Mustangs travel to South Dakota State for a nonconference meeting as the Jacks are no longer in the Great West.
Nov. 15: Cal Poly hosts rival UC Davis in a conference meeting.
TBA: The Mustangs will likely host conference foe Southern Utah and has at least one more conference game against one of the two league newcomers, likely South Dakota. The Mustangs also play a nonconference home game against Idaho State. A date has not been announced.
That leaves at least three more opponents to get to an 11-game schedule, with Big Sky teams like Sacramento State or Eastern Washington a possibility. There has also been talk about Northwestern State.
The NCAA has approved the addition of a 12th regular-season game for Championship Subdivision teams in 2008, 2012 and 2013, so there is an outside possibility the Mustangs have 12 games this fall.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Shotwell happy to play for Dungy in '08

Former Cal Poly football player Kyle Shotwell is “elated” to hear Tony Dungy is coming back to coach the Indianapolis Colts.
Shotwell signed a free-agent contract with Indianapolis earlier this month and will join the team in March or April in preparation for mini camp.
“I have an enormous amount of respect for him not only as a football coach but more importantly, a man,” Shotwell noted of Dungy in an e-mail to The Tribune. “He seems to take the same approach to the game of football that I do, and am looking forward to the opportunity to be around a leader like him.
“...I think what separates him from other coaches is the way that he approaches the game. He approaches it with the right perspective, and that is that at the end of the day it's just a game. A very important and beautiful game, that is a large part of our lives, however, it is not your whole life. He prioritizes his life and priorities well, and it seems to me that it has worked out nicely for him and the organization as a whole. I really admire what he stands for and how he goes about his business.”
In the meantime, Shotwell said he plans to continue working out in Goleta and in San Luis Obispo and is gearing up for quite the road trip this week. He flies out to Atlanta on Thursday to visit with former Mustang teammate Jordan Beck.
Beck, who was cut by the Atlanta Falcons last year, is now with the Denver Broncos and Shotwell said he is helping Beck move all of his belongings to Denver — a 1,400-mile road trip.
I guess the two Mustangs — who went to the NFL immediately after graduation — will get to go on that senior trip after all.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ramses remains a Mustang

The NFL will have to wait for Ramses Barden.
The Mustangs' junior wide receiver told The Tribune on Sunday that he will return to Cal Poly for his senior season.
With 10 offensive starters returning, Barden said it would’ve been a tough call to make the jump to the NFL.
The All-American had considered leaving school a year early and filed paperwork with the NFL advisory committee. He was projected as a fifth-round pick for April’s NFL Draft but has decided to come back and might even run track this spring to improve his speed.
With his sights set on the 2008 football season, Barden feels the Mustangs are ready to make a run at a national championship.

“I can’t say (our goal) will be any different from any other year, but the possibility is a lot more real than it has been in the past,” he said. “We have all the right pieces in place at the right time. We have another opportunity this year. We have a little more talent than we’ve had in the past. We have a lot of experience, and we have a lot of people that buy into what we’re doing. We have a great community, too, so we have a good chance to get to that championship game and be the one team that can (win) it this year.”

Read more about Barden’s decision to return in Monday’s Tribune and at www.sanluisobispo.com.
• • •
In other news, I'm out of town for the week, so I won't be posting any more scoops until after Jan. 20. In the meantime, post your thoughts on Barden's return — and whatever else is on your mind — below:

Friday, January 11, 2008

Should he stay or should he go?

That is the question facing Cal Poly junior wide receiver Ramses Barden heading into the weekend.
In an interview Thursday, Barden confirmed he has turned in paperwork to the NFL advisory committee and is considering leaving school a year early for the NFL Draft.
The 6-6, 228-pound All-American said he was projected as a fifth-round pick by the committee -- which some have said can be right on with its projections or be a bit conservative, depending on who you talk to.
Either way, it looks like leaving a year early could be a gamble for a FCS/I-AA player, even if it's someone with Barden's size, speed and play-making ability.
The general feeling I'm getting from players and others sources close to the program is that Barden is leaning toward returning to school but is keeping his options open just in case.
Then again, in the interview Thursday, he said he's "still not completely decided yet.”
Well, he better be soon. The deadline is Jan. 15. You can read the rest of the story here.

Saturday update:
Reached by phone tonight, the Cal Poly wide receiver told The Tribune he is still undecided on whether he will return for his senior season or forego his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft.

In the meantime, what do you think Ramses should do?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shotwell signs with Super Bowl champs

Former Cal Poly linebacker Kyle Shotwell has signed a free-agent contract with the defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts.
Shotwell, whose five-week stint on the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad ended at the conclusion of the regular season, is expected to join the Colts after the postseason in preparation for the 2008 preseason.
“When I was finishing up my time with the Eagles, I thought the (interested) teams would be the Eagles and the Raiders,” Shotwell said. “Then the Colts kind of came out of nowhere. I was excited when I heard that because that’s one of the teams that was interested in me from the start and a place that I saw myself fitting in with. I’m glad it worked out that way.”
The 2006 Buck Buchanan Award winner is one of five former Mustangs in the NFL.
Two others — Philadelphia LB Chris Gocong and Denver LB Jordan Beck — just finished up their first seasons with their respective teams.
The other two are in the playoffs this weekend.
Kassim Osgood, who played at Cal Poly for three years before transferring to San Diego State, is a wide receiver and Pro Bowl special teams player for the San Diego Chargers, who travel to face Shotwell’s new team in Indianapolis on Sunday.
Former Mustangs cornerback Courtney Brown is a defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys, who host the New York Giants on Sunday.
See Friday's Tribune for more on this story.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Trib sports staff BCS picks

OK, so it's not exactly Cal Poly related, but it's college and it's local because I polled our sports staff to see who they like to win Monday night's BCS title game between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 LSU. Needless to say, the staff doesn't like the Buckeyes' chances.
• Tristan Aird: LSU, 35-24
• Ashley Conklin: LSU, 34-17
• Erick Smith: LSU, 34-14
• Donovan Aird: LSU, 35-21
• J.D. Scroggin: LSU, 42-13
• Brian Milne: LSU, 28-17
Well, I guess it's a clean sweep for the Tigers. If LSU wins, whoever is closest to the final score will get dinner or something on the rest of staff. If Ohio State wins, we should look into another profession.


LSU battled back from an early 10-point deficit to beat Ohio State 38-24 in Monday's BCS Championship Game in New Orleans.
The Tigers' second BCS title made The Tribune sports staff look smarter than some would think. But some looked smarter than others. While all of us picked the Tigers to win by at least two scores, Tristan "The Wizard of Odds" Aird was a mere three points off the final score thanks to the two late touchdowns. Nice work by Aird and the Tigers.

— Associated Press photo

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Cal Poly aims to shoot out of slump

Cal Poly guard Lorenzo Keeler was the first to field the question after Thursday’s blowout loss to Cal State Northridge.
What’s wrong with the Mustangs’ shooters?
The Cal Poly men’s basketball team had another miserable night from the floor in the 80-59 defeat in Mott Gym, signaling the start of what could be a long Big West Conference season if the Mustangs (5-8, 0-1) don’t turn around their dismal 38.5 shooting percentage.
“We need more confidence on offense,” said Keeler, who was 2 of 8 from the floor against the Matadors. “We haven’t shot well all year, and I think it’s a mental thing because in practice they’re going in. In the games, it’s been a different story.”
Has it ever.
Despite what Cal Poly head coach Kevin Bromley said were “three good days of practice” early in the week, the Mustangs were 19 of 56 from the field and 5 of 21 from beyond the arc in the loss to the Matadors. It was Cal Poly’s worst home loss since a 64-37 debacle against UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 15, 2006.
And this is a Mustangs team that returned a conference-high 11 players from a squad that shot 46.5 percent from the floor and 39.3 percent from long range last season. It’s a team that obviously misses the shooting and leadership presence of departed seniors like Derek Stockalper and Tyler McGinn.
Cal Poly, which hasn’t shot better than 36 percent in its past three games, is now dead last in the Big West in field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage (29.4) and free-throw percentage (61.9).
The Mustangs hope to regain their touch tonight in Mott Gym when they host defending-conference champion Long Beach State (3-9, 0-1), which lost at UC Santa Barbara 79-64 on Thursday.
The 49ers beat Cal Poly in last year’s Big West Tournament finale to advance to the NCAA Tournament, but with both teams struggling. the Mustangs are more concerned with fixing their shooting woes than exacting revenge on a 49ers squad that lost its top nine scorers and is playing for a new coach in Dan Monson.
“This basketball team has to have a nice mixture of an inside presence, penetration and a 3-point presence. When we have that mixture, we’re going to be pretty darn good,” Bromley said. “We can’t go away with 30 3s. We can’t go away when we don’t have penetration in the paint. We can’t go away when we don’t have any post touches.”
In the first half of Thursday’s loss, Cal Poly center Titus Shelton did not have an official field-goal attempt, though he went to the free-throw line once.
Despite missing their first five attempts from 3-point range, Cal Poly attempted another nine treys in the first half. Mustangs guards Keeler, Chaz Thomas, Trae Clark and Dawin Whiten finished a collective 5 of 19 from beyond the arc while Cal Poly big men Shelton, Matt Hanson, Dreshawn Vance and John Manley were 6 of 15 inside.
“We’re not on the right page right now,” Bromley said. “We just have to get this out of our system. All I know is there’s no easy solution. ... You want it back hard enough, you just have to work harder and that’s when it comes. If you’re passionate about it, work hard for it and work smart, you’re going to get where you want to go.”

The latest from the sports desk

Well, that Cal Poly men's basketball preview didn't make today's edition because of the power outage. In fact, no sports made today's paper, which is discouraging as that's never happened in my previous seven plus years here. But we'll have to blame Mother Nature on that one.
In the meantime, you can find a capsule previewing the game at SanLuisObispo.com.

In other Cal Poly news today:
The awards keep coming for Cal Poly football players Ramses Barden and Stephen Field.
Barden and Field, a pair of juniors who have one more year of eligibility, earned All-America honors Saturday when The Sports Network announced its Football Championship Subdivision All-America teams.
Barden, a wide receiver, earned first-team honors.
Field, an offensive lineman out of Arroyo Grande, was recognized on the second team. You can find the entire All-America list here.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Raining, pouring, sports desk is snoring

Luckily it was a slow night on the Cal Poly beat tonight as it appears there will be no sports section Saturday because of a power outage at The Tribune office – the first time I can remember us having such a problem in my seven plus years.
The only event involving a Cal Poly team tonight was the wrestling squad's 22-15 victory over Oregon in Mott Gym.
The fact that the Mustangs wrestled tonight at home, with power going out all over the place, is a good indicator Saturday’s Cal Poly men’s basketball game against Long Beach State (7 p.m.) should go off without a hitch. I’ll keep you posted tomorrow and will be sure to post a game preview if it doesn’t make the morning paper. I apologize ahead of time if this is the case.
Chad Mendes did not wrestle tonight because of a forfeit at 141 pounds.
Notable victories by the Mustangs included:
• Micah Ferguson’s 4-0 win over Joey Lucas at 125
• Eric Maldanado’s 9-5 decision against Jeremy McLaughlin at 149
• Chase Pami’s 15-3 victory over Elliott Trace at 157
• Ryan Williams’ 5-4 win against Kyle Bounds at 165
• AG’s Arturo Basulto’s 3-1 decision over Shaun Dee at 197

Rain, rain, go away

The power went out at The Tribune at about 4:45 p.m. today and there is a possibility the paper won't be able to run the presses tonight. If we receive power, I'll try to post a preview I wrote for Saturday's Long Beach State-Cal Poly men's basketball game.
• Last time I checked, Cal Poly's 7 p.m. wrestling match against Oregon was still on for tonight. You can watch it online here.
• A handful of prep events have been washed for today. I believe J.D. will be posting an update on that on his blog.
• In other college news, soon-to-be Great West member North Dakota has already hired a new football coach. North Dakota assistant Chris Mussman has been tabbed as the replacement for Dale Lennon, who recently resigned to take over head coaching duties at Southern Illinois.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Matadors dressed to kill

Initial thoughts from tonight’s Big West Conference opener, which the Cal Poly men’s basketball team lost to Cal State Northridge 80-59 before only 1,500 fans in Mott Gym:
• The Mustangs might have returned a league-high 11 players this year, but they really miss those three seniors they lost – their best all-around player Derek Stockalper, the grit of Tyler McGinn and the emotional lift that one of their verbal leaders, Joe Henry, brought.
• Cal State Northridge is better than people thought.
• The Matadors' coach, Bobby Braswell, was sporting another sweet suit. Braswell, once named the conference's best-dressed coach by one random magazine or another, was wearing what was kind of a beige suit with a coral pattern this time around.
• Why am I going all GQ and writing about suits? That stuff happens in a 21-point blowout.
• Josh Jenkins, the Matadors JC transfer point guard, is the one who gets them going. When he’s under control, he’s fun to watch. He had 11 assists in like 20 minutes.
• Cal Poly had 11 assists, AS A TEAM.
• The Mustangs didn’t jack up 30 threes tonight, but they made just five of the 21 they attempted. Cal Poly head coach Kevin Bromley must have had a talk with his shooters at halftime because they attempted only seven treys in the second half. Should be interesting to see how they come out Saturday against Long Beach St.
• Cal Poly big men Titus Shelton, Matt Hanson, Dreshawn Vance and John Manley attempted just 15 shots inside the arc.

- Braswell photo courtesy GQ, I mean CSUN.

Great West will get another new face

Another Great West Conference program will be playing under a new coach next season.
A week after Southern Utah announced the hiring of Ed Lamb, University of North Dakota’s Dale Lennon resigned from his post to take over head coaching duties at Southern Illinois.
North Dakota and South Dakota are set to play in the Great West in 2008, although you wouldn’t know it by the Great West Web site, which barely mentions the schools on its homepage. North Dakota State and South Dakota State are still featured on the site, although the two programs will be playing in the Gateway Conference in 2008.
Even though the FCS season is over, the conference site probably won’t recognize the realignment until the end of the current academic year.
In the meantime, there is a Web poll on the site that asks what team should be the preseason favorite in the Great West. As of Thursday at midnight, UC Davis led the poll with 2,508 votes (56 percent). Cal Poly was next with 1,252, followed by North Dakota (489), Southern Utah (112) and South Dakota (86).

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Big zero for Big West women

Zip, zero, zilch, nada.
I’m writing a Big West Conference women’s basketball preview and realized that’s the number of teams with a winning record heading into conference play.
Going into tonight’s opener between Pacific and UC Riverside, the league is a combined 28-76 this season. Yikes.
Only league newcomer UC Davis, which is 6-6, has a .500 record.
Everyone else has losing records, and the league favorite, UC Riverside, is 2-9 thus far. Double yikes.
Why is the Big West struggling so bad? Well, you can find out more about that tomorrow when the preview runs. Or you can just look at a never-ending injury list that includes: UC Riverside’s Kemie Nkele (knee), Long Beach State’s Karina Figueroa (foot), Pacific’s Jake Kelly (undisclosed health condition) and UCSB’s Jenna Green (back). Yikes times four. And those are only the injuries that have been announced by the respective programs and are expected to be season ending.
All of which should make for a wide-open Big West race this year.

Here's to a happier new year

The new year couldn’t have come soon enough for the Big West Conference.
Of the conference’s nine men’s basketball teams, only three closed out 2007 with victories – and none of those teams is riding a winning streak heading into conference play.
UC Santa Barbara (11-2), Cal State Northridge (8-3) and UC Irvine (5-8) are the only teams entering 2008 on a high note. League favorite UC Santa Barbara is coming off a 58-51 victory at Eastern Washington on Dec. 29. Cal State Northridge, which opens at Cal Poly, is fresh off a 73-65 win at Utah Valley State on Dec. 28. UC Irvine needed overtime to beat Harvard 80-77 on Dec. 30 to snap a three-game losing streak.
The other teams will try to get their seasons back on track beginning tonight, when Pacific and UC Riverside officially tip off the Big West season.
Most of the league gets underway Thursday, with Cal Poly hosting Cal State Northridge.
See Thursday’s paper for a team-by-team preview of the league.