Cal Poly

Stories of the year, No. 2: Cal Poly goes 4-7 in Walsh’s first season as coach

With former head coach Rich Ellerson departing to take the same job at Army, the Cal Poly football team knew it would be in a year of transition.

Not only was Ellerson gone, but so, too, were the bulk of Cal Poly’s offensive weapons from a 2008 team that led the Football Championship Subdivision in points and yards per game.

The Mustangs hired recently released Army offensive coordinator Tim Walsh as their new head coach Jan. 9.

Walsh, perhaps better known for his 14 years as head coach at Portland State, had little time to settle in. Within a month of his arrival, Walsh announced the signings of 15 recruits.

The Cal Poly defense ditched Ellerson’s double-eagle flex formation and went to a more traditional 4-3 scheme while the offense retained its triple-option look.

Things started well under Walsh, as junior quarterback Tony Smith led the Mustangs to a 38-19 season-opening win over Sacramento State. But Cal Poly followed that by managing just one win in a tough four-game stretch that saw them travel to play two Football Bowl Subdivision teams, FCS championship runner-up Montana and host another FCS contender in South Dakota State.

After climbing back to a 4-3 record with a 44-14 win over Dixie State, the Mustangs would lose their remaining four games to give Cal Poly its first losing season since 2002.