Cal Poly

Mustangs defense needs to bounce back with Montana State looming

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo hosts Northern Iowa at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, Saturday, September 19, 2015 in San Luis Obispo, CA.   

(AP Photo/The Tribune/Laura Dickinson
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo hosts Northern Iowa at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, Saturday, September 19, 2015 in San Luis Obispo, CA. (AP Photo/The Tribune/Laura Dickinson

On the heels of back-to-back losses, the Cal Poly football team now shifts its focus to the start of Big Sky Conference play and a road trip to Bozeman, Mont., this week.

The Mustangs (1-2) will be back on the road for the third time this month when Cal Poly plays at Montana State at 12:35 p.m. Saturday.

The Bobcats (1-1) fell in a 55-50 shootout against Eastern Washington over the weekend during a game that featured a combined 1,385 yards, 58 first downs and 105 points.

Montana State quarterback Dakota Prukop accounted for a school-record 549 yards, but a late interception sealed the outcome for the Bobcats.

“We’ll go to Bozeman and see what we can do to play better than what we did (Saturday),” head coach Tim Walsh said. “We’re going to learn a lot by watching this game because (Montana State is) similar on offense and their pace of play is going to be similar.

“They rolled up 50 against Eastern Washington, so we better have our A-game back on all phases of the game or we’re gonna struggle.”

Cal Poly defeated eventual FCS playoff qualifier Montana State in San Luis Obispo last season. Kori Garcia and Chris Brown combined for 221 rushing yards and three touchdowns during the 35-27 victory.

Following Saturday’s loss, Brown said he was confident the Mustangs would be able to move past the setback and refocus on a talented Bobcats team.

“Keeping that mentality within your head is something that individually you’ve got to be willing to accept that anything can happen,” Brown said. “At the same time, understand that it’s a long season. Every game is a tough game. There is no take off. There is no easy game.”

Peluso more involved in Week 3

Junior running back DJ Peluso had his best performance of the season against ninth-ranked Northern Iowa.

The transfer from College of San Mateo finished with a season-high 104 all-purpose yards, 76 of those coming on five kickoff returns. He also caught a team-high three passes for 19 yards and had a 9-yard carry.

“Obviously everyone knows that we run the ball a lot,” Peluso said. “To keep executing running the ball, we need to open up the passing game. We tried to do that a little bit (Saturday) and hopefully it will work some more toward the end of the season.”

Stokes carted off, unlikely to return

Paso Robles High graduate Elias Stokes appeared to suffer another physical setback on Saturday night.

The 5-foot-10, 195-pound slotback caught a 7-yard pass during the third quarter and stayed down on the field for several moments. He was eventually helped to the bench by trainers and was later carted off the field with his left arm in a sling.

It looked to be another tough break for a player with local ties. Stokes overcame serious hip and knee injuries to return to the field this season and his status moving forward doesn’t look positive.

“He’s done,” Walsh said following the game. “We’ll have to deal with all that.”

Fellow running back Kori Garcia also came out of the game in the second half with an injury. If he also is unable to play next week at Montana State, redshirt freshmen Malcolm Davis and Alex Suchesk could see increased carries.

“We talk about that throughout the week that each guy has to be ready,” Brown said. “Malcolm Davis and Alex Suchesk came in with that mentality at the start of the game, understanding that whatever happens they’ve got to be ready to go in.”