WEEK 2: Cal Poly Mustangs vs. Fresno State Bulldogs
WHEN: Saturday, September 7 -- 7:00 PM, PST.
WHERE: Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, CA (41,031)
CONFERENCES: Big Sky Conference (FCS) vs. Mountain West
2013 SEASON: Cal Poly 1-0, Fresno State 1-0
COACHES: Entering his fifth season as Cal Poly's head coach, Tim Walsh has accumulated a 27-19 record, which includes a 2012 campaign where the Mustangs went 9-3 and earned a FCS playoff berth. Fresno State's Tim DeRuyter is in year two as the Bulldogs head coach, and he is 11-4.
RADIO: Fresno's two ESPN Radio affiliates, KFIG 940 and KGST 1600, will carry the Bulldogs broadcast in English and Spanish, respectively. The Cal Poly broadcast can be heard on KXTK 1280 (San Luis Obispo), though links to both audio and video streaming can be found through the team's website.
SERIES RECORD: Fresno State leads the overall series 31-10-2. The Bulldogs won the last meeting in 2010, a 38-17 win at Bulldog Stadium.
WEB SITES: GoBulldogs.com, Fresno State's Official Athletic Site | GoPoly.com, Cal Poly's Official Athetlic Site
On the heels of a season opener to remember against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Fresno State will play host Saturday to a respected FCS program, the Cal Poly Mustangs.
It has been asserted that Fresno's non-conference schedule is very friendly, important for a team with BCS aspirations, but the Mustangs are not an opponent to be overlooked. Cal Poly joined the Big Sky Conference in 2012, earned a share of the regular season title and then took eventual FCS runner-up Sam Houston State to the wire in the playoffs. Last weekend, their 2013 season got off to a strong start with a resounding 38-16 against the University of San Diego. The Mustangs enter this matchup ranked #10 among FCS teams and could follow its FCS peers in collecting a paycheck and a win to haul back to San Luis Obispo if Fresno is not prepared.
Judging from the box score of last Thursday's offensive bonanza, however, it would be surprising if Fresno were not ready for anything.
What to watch - Cal Poly: The Mustangs' spread triple-option offense set a Big Sky record with 3,890 rushing yards in 2012. Despite losing quarterback Andre Broadous and 1,500-yard back Deontre Williams, Cal Poly put on an all-round show last weekend against the Toreros in racking up over 500 yards of offense. Running back Kristaan Ivory paced the attack with 185 yards on 14 carries, an astounding 13.2 yards per carry.
The offensive line, anchored by all-conference performers Giovanni Sani and Lefi Letuligasenoa, kept sophomore quarterback Vince Moraga clean against USD. Wide receivers Willie Tucker and Cole Stanford, who were also all-Big Sky selections in 2012, were the main beneficiaries of Moraga's good fortune and hauled in 10 passes for 174 yards between them. Fresno showed some uncertainty in how to handle Rutgers' Brandon Coleman and were beaten a few times by Leonte Carroo, so shoring up the mistakes in the secondary will be crucial to the Bulldogs' success.
On defense, the Mustangs return 10 starters from a year ago. Tackle Sullivan Grosz is likely to draw lots of attention, but Cal Poly also boasts a trio of active linebackers in Xavier Ramos, Johnny Millard and Nick Dzubnar. When one considers Fresno's spread passing attack, however, there is a question of how big an impact the traditional front seven will have. The secondary, led by safety Alex Hubbard, will have work to do against the Bulldogs' trio of talented receivers.
What to watch - Fresno State: If last week is any indication of things to come, Derek Carr will be more than happy to get the ball to his receivers in any conceivable fashion and allow them to make things happen. Davante Adams, Isaiah Burse and Josh Harper were the first trio in school history to catch 10 passes in the same game, and though it must have been exasperating to watch Carr deliver screen pass after screen pass against Rutgers, the nickel-and-dime approach worked.
Some of it was no doubt necessitated by the shaky offensive line that showed up early against the Scarlet Knights, but the offense found its groove and Carr did not take many hits after halftime. A sub-par performance from the running game did not help matters: The 'Dogs averaged only 3.5 yards per carry, and this week's news that freshman Dontel James could see action against Cal Poly is probably a response to that. Whoever is beside Carr in the backfield will only need to do just enough to prevent the Mustangs from focusing solely on the pass. Keep in mind that despite the overall struggles, both Marteze Waller and Josh Quezada had long runs of over 15 yards, suggesting there are opportunities to be seized.
Another thing to keep an eye on: Fresno was not great on third down against Rutgers and was 0-for-6 in the second half. One conversion was foiled by a Josh Harper fumble, and another was enabled only by the pass interference penalty that allowed the Bulldogs to tie the game late in regulation.