Not a lot has gone right for the Cal Poly football team this fall, and things won’t get any easier when No. 23-ranked Weber State comes to San Luis Obispo on Saturday night.
The Mustangs are 0-6 overall and 0-3 against Big Sky Conference opponents, marking the first time since 1964 that a Cal Poly team has started the season with six consecutive losses.
But Saturday’s visit from the Wildcats (4-2, 2-1 Big Sky) — part of the annual Mustang Family Weekend festivities — presents another opportunity for the Mustangs to tally their first notch in the win column.
“What we need to do is play a complete football game,” Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said during his weekly radio show Tuesday night. “I want it more than anything for these players.”
Here are three things to watch leading up to the 6:05 p.m. kickoff inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
A new look under center
Wildcats senior quarterback Stefan Cantwell — who passed for 431 yards against Cal in early September — was knocked out of that game, leaving fourth-year head coach Jay Hill to turn to reserves Justin Shaw and Braden Miles. The two underclassmen went a combined 8-of-18 for 53 yards and two interceptions.
Cal Poly can relate.
Redshirt freshman Jake Jeffrey made his collegiate debut at Southern Utah, completing 11-of-21 passes for 137 yards with two lost fumbles. The starting job will likely be his to lose the rest of the way while Khaleel Jenkins recovers from season-ending knee surgery.
Perhaps the extra week of practice during the bye week will get Jeffrey and the Mustangs headed in the right direction.
“He put the ball on the ground a couple of times, and that hurt us,” Walsh said. “But he also did some things that were very good.”
Strength on strength
Walsh praised Weber State as “probably physically, defensively the toughest team” that Cal Poly will face in 2017.
The Wildcats lead the Big Sky in scoring defense (18.2 points per game), total defense (336.8 yards) and rushing defense (129.5). When opponents do make it into the red zone, Weber State gives up points a conference-best 66.7 percent of the time (compared with 80 percent for the Mustangs).
“Their front seven is one of the best front sevens we’re going to see this year,” Cal Poly fullback Jared Mohamed said. “We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
While the Mustangs have regressed statistically in rushing this season, they still lead the Big Sky with more than 248 yards per game on the ground.
Mohamed has shouldered much of the heavy lifting offensively.
The senior from Brawley is coming off a career-best 30-carry, 142-yard performance against Southern Utah. No player in the Big Sky has carried the ball more than Mohamed (132 for 573 yards) this season.
The second-half schedule sets up more favorably than the first for Cal Poly.
After playing four of their first six games on the road, the Mustangs host three of their next four opponents, and Weber State is the only one with a winning record among that group.
Considering four of Cal Poly’s six losses have been decided by seven points or less, perhaps there’s reason for measured optimism that a second-half turnaround is feasible.
“We’ve played six good football teams, and we’ve been competitive, really, in all six of them,” Walsh said.
“We’ve had a couple good weeks of practice and we’ll see what happens.”
Cal Poly (0-6, 0-3 Big Sky) vs. No. 23 Weber State (4-2, 2-1)
When: 6:05 p.m. Saturday
Where: Alex G. Spanos Stadium (11,075)
On the air: 1280 AM (5:30 p.m.)