By Kent Schmidt
CSN West Columnist
College Sporting News
The Mustangs won their fourth game against an FBS school since 2003, its first under fourth-year head coach Tim Walsh and improved to 2-0 on the season.
And Cal Poly just might have proved that they will be a team to contend in their new conference of the Big Sky this year.
Who did the Mustangs defeat in their FBS win?
Cal Poly upset Wyoming 24-22 on the road this past Saturday. This should not be too suprising as the Mustangs also defeated Texas-El Paso in the 2003 season opener and beat San Diego State in both 2006 and 2008. Cal Poly has won four of its last 14 games against FBS schools and is 5-24 against such opponents since 1980.
In this win over Wyoming, running back Deonte Williams rushed for 187 yards and a touchdown, junior place kicker Bobby Zalud kicked what proved to be the game-winning field goal from 51 yards out, and senior cornerback Nico Molino clinched the win with a late interception.
Williams broke off a 65-yard touchdown run and scampered 74 yards to set up Cal Poly's second score, a nine-yard run by back Kristaan Ivory, as the Mustangs raced to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
Wyoming battled back for a 15-14 halftime advantage on a pair of one-yard runs by tailback Shaun Wick plus a two-point conversion pass.
Cal Poly regained the upper hand on a five-yard pass from quarterback Andre Broadous to Ivory late in to the third quarter.
Zalud made it 24-15 with his 51-yarder with just under ten minutes to go.
Wyoming closed the gap to two points on Wick's third touchdown run of the game, a 14-yarder with just over seven minutes left in the game.
Cal Poly picked up one first down before it was forced to punt. Wyoming went three and out and punted with just under four minutes to go.
Cal Poly garnered another first down on a key third-down pass from Broadous to wide receiver Willie Tucker for 11 yards before punting the ball back to the Cowboys with a minute and a half to play.
Molino sealed the win with his interception on the next play, his third career theft as a Mustang.
Williams finished with a career-high 187 yards on 19 carries, his third career 100-yard game as a Mustang – he also had four as a freshman at Northern Arizona in 2008.
What does the Cal Poly schedule look like?
The Mustangs will have all Big Sky opponents left although their game at Eastern Washington on Nov. 3rd will actually be classified as an out-of-conference game. Two teams that Cal Poly will avoid on the schedule will be Montana and Montana State—last year’s co-champions.
This week, Cal Poly plays their first game within Big Sky play but it is a familiar opponent in former Great West and Horseshoe Classic opponent UC Davis.
With the schedule and the team Coach Walsh has, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Mustangs make the playoffs for the first time since 2008 when the Mustangs lost to Weber State in the opening round of the playoffs.
It seems to me that Cal Poly has the team to make it again but we have a lot of season to play to see if this comes true.
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CSN WEST GAMES OF THE WEEK
This week there are two key games as we get started into conference play.
Sam Houston State (1-1) at Central Arkansas (2-1), 4:00 p.m.
These two Southland foes were the two to make the playoffs last year. The Bearkats defeated the Bears 31-10 last year in Huntsville early in the season and both went undefeated in the regular season the rest of the way.
SHSU comes to Conway on the purple and gray turf for the first time but UCA has yet to lose on the multi-color playing surface in the past two years.
UCA quarterback Wynrick Smothers has performed well in taking over an offense from graduated Nathan Dick. The Bears are averaging 46.3 points per game thus far.
Last week, SHSU led Baylor, 20-10 at halftime but had some mental lasps in the second half, losing, 48-23. Brian Bell threw three interceptions, while the offense only rushed for 126 yards. This conference opener will be the first FCS opponent this year for SHSU.
UCA has three games under its belt. The Bears led FBS Mississippi early and hung with the SEC foe for most of the game before falling in the fourth quarter for a final of 49-27. In Week 2, UCA dominated the Ohio Valley’s Murray State 42-20 on the road and last week in the Bear home opener, they defeated lower division foe Bacone College 70-3.
Even though this game is in Conway, I feel SHSU’s talent level will win out in this game. The key likely will be how the game starts. If the game remains close, the crowd at Estes Stadium might help the Bears keep the game close but I feel SHSU will be able to get up early and hold on for a win.
Sam Houston State 33 Central Arkansas 27.
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Northern Iowa (1-2) @ Youngstown State (3-0), 7:00 p.m.
The Panthers have suprisingly won the last 11 contests against Youngstown State since 2001. Coach Mark Farley has never lost to YSU in his tenure in Cedar Falls.
UNI comes in with two losses but were against two Big Ten opponents Wisconsin and Iowa - however, the Panthers were very competitive in both games. The Panthers lone win came against Division II Central (Ohio) State.
YSU is off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2005. Included in the win total is a dominating win over FBS Pittsburgh.
The Penguin offense comes into the game averaging 250 yards per game on the ground with Jamaine Cook, Torrian Pace and Amdre Stubbs all supplying carries to give the Penguins depth at the position. Quarterback Kurt Hess doesn't have that impressive numbers as of yet, but he with the rushing game, he hasn’t had to throw much.
The Penguin defense maybe, however, the best part of the team after allowing just 13 points per game.
Last year, the two teams played a close contest in Cedar Falls with the Panthers winning 21-17.
This year, I think the 11 year winning streak is very much in jeopardy for Northern Iowa. Youngstown State seems like a team that has all the tools and the fact that UNI just lost to FBS Iowa last week with a number of key folks banged up or out for the game, I see the Panthers falling in a close contest at the Ice Castle.
Youngstown State 27 Northern Iowa 24.