CEDAR CITY, Utah — Tim Walsh was happy his team showed it could pass last week.
It just doesn’t sound like the head coach cares much if the Cal Poly football team’s air attack continues in the Great West Conference opener against Southern Utah (2-4) today — as long as the No. 13 Mustangs put up points.
“At some point in time, we have to become consistent in the offensive production from a point standpoint,” Walsh said. “Regardless of how we do it, run or pass, we would like to make sure we’re scoring four touchdowns and making sure it’s 28 or 31 points a game that we’re getting. That allows us to feel comfortable that we’re in control of the game.”
Quarterback Andre Broadous had scoring passes to Dominique Johnson and Mark Rodgers, and another big pass to David Mahr set up one of Broadous’ two rushing touchdowns against Old Dominion.
The Mustangs (4-2) needed those points in that 50-37 shootout, but they’ve not been consistent scoring this season.
They backed a 35-point output in an upset over No. 11 Montana, then top-ranked, with 12 points at Texas State. Then came 40 points at McNeese State, followed by a 17-point effort where Cal Poly was shut out in the second half at Fresno State.
By that pattern, they’re due for another low score.
“I’m hoping we’re going to break that,” Walsh said. “We have to play to our capability.”
If recent history is any indication, it will take a few touchdowns to come away with a win.
The Mustangs took a 24-23 win at home last season when the Thunderbirds missed an extra-point in the final seconds. The teams combined for seven touchdowns in the first quarter alone in their 2008 matchup.
Each of the past three seasons, Southern Utah receiver Tysson Poots has had standout games against Cal Poly. Now a senior, there’s no reason to think he can’t continue that trend.
Poots has had double digits in catches against the Mustangs each of the past two years, including the record for a Cal Poly opponent with 16 in 2008. He has five touchdowns total against the Mustangs during his career, including the 15-yarder with 9 seconds left that set up the failed PAT in 2009.
“He’s done remarkably,” Thunderbirds head coach Ed Lamb said. “His stats probably speak for themselves.
“We have a new quarterback and a new offensive line this year, and, really, he’s carried those guys through some rough learning times. At some point this season, we’ll be able to look back and say that’s when we turned the corner, and Tysson helped us get there.”
A win over Cal Poly would move Southern Utah to 2-0 in the Great West and make the Thunderbirds one of, if not the sole frontrunner for the conference crown.
Southern Utah’s record is somewhat deceiving. Two of the Thunderbirds’ four losses came against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, and each of those games was close.
Wyoming escaped with a 28-20 win over Southern Utah in the season opener, and San Jose State had to come from behind for a 16-10 victory two weeks later.
“They’re the team that never gets any credit in the conference,” Walsh said. “Last year, they were one of the better teams in the conference. I think this year they’re one of the better teams in the conference. I really think they have a great chance to win the conference if they beat us. So, this is a huge game for them, but it’s obviously just as big for us.
“Coach Lamb has done a really good job at Southern Utah. Ten, 12, 13 years ago, not a lot of people gave them a lot of credit, but right now, they’re at a point where they’re playing everybody tough.”
The Big Sky Conference didn’t seem to think so when it invited Great West members Cal Poly and UC Davis to join for football only.
The Big Sky has been open about its desire to add at least one more additional football program to push its membership up to 12 teams and hasn’t ruled out a jump to 16.
Some were surprised when the Thunderbirds weren’t also invited. They could still be a viable candidate. But if that remains true, why didn’t they get the initial call?
Now in his third season as head coach, Lamb can only guess.
“Strangely enough, what I head from the Big Sky is that SUU has not put themselves in a position to be considered a strong football playing institution,” Lamb said. “To me, that’s an outdated opinion. I think anybody that’s on our schedule and plays us knows that we have a quality football team.
“To say that our football team’s not of a Big Sky caliber is not a fair way to state it.”