TEMPE, Ariz. — The first couple weeks of the Cal Poly football season featured arguably the two most difficult road trips on the Mustangs’ 11-game schedule.
There was the season-opening trip to Missoula, Mont., where a sold-out crowd of more than 26,000 showed up to watch Cal Poly knock off the Grizzlies with a late field goal.
Then this past weekend, more than 46,000 turned out for Arizona State’s home opener and the Mustangs put a scare in the Sun Devils for the better part of three quarters.
The schedule doesn’t get much easier this week with a talented Northern Iowa team looming. But the Mustangs are excited about the opportunity to play their home opener at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
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“We’ve been on the road enough,” senior quarterback Chris Brown said. “It’s time to get back home and play under the Spanos lights and in front of our family and friends and get that advantage back in our hands.”
Cal Poly (1-1) averaged 8,945 fans during its five home games last season, which was the third-highest averaged since Alex G. Spanos Stadium was renovated in 2007. The Mustangs went 4-1 at home in 2014, the lone loss coming against UC Davis in the final home game of the season.
Northern Iowa (1-1) begins a three-game road trip when it visits San Luis Obispo. The Panthers lost their season opener against Iowa State (31-7) and responded by outlasting Big Sky Conference opponent Eastern Washington (38-35) on Saturday.
Northern Iowa handed four-time defending national champion North Dakota State its only loss last season and was the only team to hold the Bison under 17 points. Head coach Tim Walsh said he believes the Panthers are a top-10 team in the FCS, despite being ranked 14th in the coaches poll and unranked in the STATS FCS top 25.
“In our first two weeks of the season we’ve played in two tremendously difficult environments and we have played extremely hard,” Walsh said. “Anybody that looks at us and watches us play has got to say that team has the character it takes to win games.
“If we continue to build on that character, there’s going to be a lot of great things that can happen for the next nine to 10 weeks of our season.”
Fletcher injured against Sun Devils
Senior cornerback Chris Fletcher left Saturday’s game against the Sun Devils with a left knee injury and he did not return.
Fletcher had 10 tackles in the Mustangs’ season opener and made a team-high eight stops before being helped off the field in the third quarter at Arizona State.
In his place, veteran reserve Fernando Cabico stepped in and intercepted a pass in the end zone on the ensuing play to stop a promising drive by the Sun Devils. The former walk-on also made one tackle.
Cabico’s interception marked the end of a goal-line stand by the Mustangs defense after ASU had a first-and-goal opportunity from the 1-yard line. The Sun Devils came away empty-handed and were stopped again inside the Cal Poly 10-yard line on the ensuing possession when kicker Zane Gonzalez missed a 28-yard field goal.