In the Information Age, game film goes everywhere.
Just like college football programs all across the country, Cal Poly allows its players access to footage on their laptops, tablets and mobile phones — all chopped up into clips specific to positions or situations.
The more novel idea at this stage is watching your opponents play a live game, and the winless Mustangs (0-2) indulged in that pleasure Saturday, capping a physically intense bye week by viewing incoming visitor Portland State’s 59-21 loss at Washington State.
Sophomore defensive end Josh Letuligasenoa said about 25 players got together to watch the game at his home. Most were defensive players, but the larger group also included former players like defensive end Nick Leyden and guard Lefi Letuligasenoa, who each completed their eligibility last season.
The veterans helped the younger players on what to focus on, which players to watch and how to look for tendencies.
Cal Poly might have been on a bye, but the past week was anything but a rest.
“Everybody was coming back with energy and I think it’s rolling over,” Josh Letuligasenoa said. “Everybody’s just ready for a win, especially with a home game. The intensity was up. Everybody was coming out with more energy, and we’re just ready to go.”
The Mustangs open their home schedule with a nonconference game against the Big Sky Conference-rival Vikings (1-2). Typically, a bye week can be about taking advantage of the time to rest and recover. There were certainly players who did that, but after two disappointing losses to start the season, Cal Poly is thirsty for success.
“It was definitely one of the more intense bye weeks,” junior center Stephen Sippel said. “I guess that’s a byproduct of coming early in the season. At this point, we still have a lot to work on.”
Said sophomore guard Derek Sabo: “It was the same tempo, maybe even more because we’re 0-2. We’re not happy about that. Of course, we’re going to go harder. We’re not going to take any time off.”
The areas of emphasis included conditioning, defensive alignment and finishing off drives. There is a definite shortage of points this season.
Cal Poly has had six trips to the red zone in two games, scoring four touchdowns and one field goal. The Mustangs have had several more drives enter opposing territory but resulting in zero points.
Cal Poly’s 14 points per game rank tied for 96th out of 113 FCS programs. Portland State is tied for 54th at 27.6 points per game.
Defensively, the Mustangs got back to basics.
“In the third quarter against New Mexico State and the fourth quarter of South Dakota State, we had guys trying to do too much, trying to do more than their responsibility,” Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said. “So, we’ve worked on understanding that you’ve got to play your position and trust that the other 10 guys are going to do the same thing.”
On the injury front, junior cornerback Chris Fletcher is expected to return to the starting lineup. He suffered a leg injury late in the game against South Dakota State but returned to practice with no limitations last week.
Senior defensive ends Jake Irwin and Chris Judge, both coming back from offseason hip surgeries, each made abbreviated season debuts against the Jackrabbits but still do not appear ready to play for a full game.
Junior kicker Stephen Pyle, who injured his hip attempting a PAT in the first quarter at South Dakota State, is likely to miss Saturday’s game. Walsh said senior slotback Chris Nicholls will be the punter, and a committee of kickers including Utah transfer Zach Schottenfeld and redshirt freshmen Ben Adam and James Foug will handle the kicking duties.
In lieu of recovery times, Walsh chose to emphasize another focal aspect of the bye: Ensuring that younger players were fully ready to see some action when called upon. That group included true freshman defensive tackle Fino Elisaia, who has appeared in each of the first two games.
Earlier this week, suspended senior slotback Kristaan Ivory and redshirt freshman runner Jake Brito entered not-guilty pleas along with two of the other five Mustangs players charged in an alleged attempted armed robbery.
While they are not expected back any time soon — if at all — freshmen running backs Lance Mudd and Joe Protheroe, who each saw offensive snaps against the Jackrabbits, are being prepared for larger roles.
It’s all being done in the hopes of avoiding the first 0-3 start in more than a decade.
In fact, Cal Poly has started 0-3 just twice since 1965, the most recent time coming during a 3-8 season under then-head coach Rich Ellerson in 2002.
“It’s definitely a hard way to start the season,” Sippel said. “Coming in with two losses, it’s definitely a little kick to the gut. Nobody wants to start the season off like that. We’re still sticking together and not getting discouraged.
“All our goals are still in front of us. We still have a chance to beat UC Davis. We still have a chance to be competitive in the Big Sky and get to the playoffs. So, we’ve still got a pretty positive outlook.”