With a monumental win last week against Montana, the football team is looking to ride its momentum into this week’s quarterfinal game against Texas State, Saturday.
Cal Poly (9-3, 4-1 Great West) defeated the favored Grizzlies in Missoula, Mont. 35-21. Montana (8-4, 5-2 Big Sky) and came into the game No. 9 in the Sports Network Poll to Cal Poly’s No. 10 ranking.
Montana behind them, the Mustangs will once again play the underdog against Texas State. The Bobcats finished the season ranked No. 4 in the Sports Network poll and No. 5 by ESPN/ USAToday.
Texas State comes into Saturday’s game after a come-from-behind win over No. 6 Georgia Southern 50-35. In that, Texas State quarterback Barrick Nealy passed for a school record 400 yards on 23-32-1 passing, and four touchdowns. Nealy also ran for an additional 126 yards on 12 carries.
The Mustangs will look to shut down the high-powered Texas State offensive attack by putting pressure on Nealy.
This season, Nealy set Texas State records for passing (3,129 yards) and total offensive yards (3,403). He also finished fifth in the voting for the 2005 Walter Payton Award, which is given to the top offensive player in NCAA Division I-AA.
In their last game, the Mustangs sacked Montana’s quarterback seven times with last years Buck Buchanan runner-up Chris Gocong contributing three sacks, giving him 22 on the season.
Redshirt freshmen continue to step up and lead the Mustang offense as quarterback Matt Brennan, running back James Noble and receiver Ramses Barden have combined for all of Cal Poly’s 14 touchdowns in the last four games.
In those contests, Noble has rushed for 775 yards on 105 carries and 10 touchdowns with only two fumbles. A majority of which, 436 yards and nine touchdowns came in the Mustangs last two contests against Montana and Idaho State.
Brennan, a late-season addition to the Mustangs offense stepped in at quarterback after senior Anthony Garnett went down with a knee injury, but has showed promise, leading the Mustangs to four consecutive victories and posting 708 yards passing and 4 touchdowns on 56-115-6 passing.
Barden has been a season-long target of choice for all of Cal Poly’s quarterbacks, posting 627 yards receiving on the year with nine of the Mustangs 11 total receiving touchdowns on the year.
Whether it is Cal Poly or Texas State that comes out of Saturday’s game a winner, one thing is for sure: a tough road is ahead. The winner will move on to face at least three top 10 opponents before advancing to the championship game, with a high possibility of facing No.1 New Hampshire in the semifinals.