Cal Poly

Cal Poly’s offensive line on record-setting pace

Cal Poly center Stephen Sippel (77) has helped the Mustangs rush for more than 409 yards per game this season.
Cal Poly center Stephen Sippel (77) has helped the Mustangs rush for more than 409 yards per game this season. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Three weeks from now, when the college football regular season comes to an end, Cal Poly’s final record won’t be indicative of just how good the Mustangs’ triple-option offense has been in 2015.

At 2-6 overall and 1-4 in the Big Sky Conference with three games remaining, Cal Poly is guaranteed to finish with a losing record for the first time since 2009. That was head coach Tim Walsh’s first year in San Luis Obispo, and the Mustangs have averaged seven victories each year since that inaugural campaign.

A handful of miscues and turnovers have come to define Cal Poly’s season in terms of wins and losses this fall, despite being one of the best rushing teams in FCS history. Unlike the 2014 season, where injuries played a large role in determining the starting offensive line each week, the Mustangs have used the same five-man group in all eight games this year.

Seniors Weston Walker (right tackle) and Stephen Sippel (center), juniors Nick Enriquez (left guard) and Matthew Fisher (left tackle), and sophomore Joey Kuperman (right guard) have paved the way for Cal Poly to lead the Big Sky and FCS in rushing for the third straight season.

Through eight games, the Mustangs are averaging 409.6 yards rushing per contest, nearly 58 yards more than last year, when they set school and conference records in that category.

“Those guys really have an attitude about who we are and understand that we’re only going to be good on offense if they play well,” Walsh said. “I think coach (Saga) Tuitele’s done a good job of creating that as a culture of who we are as an offensive line.”

Georgia Southern set the all-time FCS single season rushing record back in 1999 when it averaged 419 yards per game en route to the first of back-to-back national championships. The Eagles piled up 4,609 yards rushing that season.

Cal Poly isn’t far off that pace. The Mustangs need 1,338 yards rushing over the next three games — an average of 446 per contest — in order to surpass Georgia Southern’s total. That mark seems realistic, given Cal Poly has rushed for nearly 500 yards in three of its past four games.

During last week’s loss at Southern Utah, the Mustangs became the second team in FCS history to have four 100-yard rushers in the same game.

“But when it doesn’t turn into wins,” the 6-foot-4, 275-pound Walker said, “it’s hard to be too proud of those stats.”

Walker, a 2011 Atascadero High graduate, has never missed a game in 44 career opportunities. Sippel missed one game as a redshirt freshman and has started 32 consecutive games since the start of his sophomore season. Enriquez (31 games), Fisher (21) and Kuperman (20) have been mainstays on the line as well.

Arizona State was the only team to hold Cal Poly under 300 yards rushing this season, limiting the Mustangs to 284 yards in a 35-21 loss back on Sept. 12.

“We definitely take pride in it,” Enriquez said. “But like Weston said, we want ‘W’s. Stats are great and it definitely shows that as a team we’re working well, we just have to finish better.”

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