In 2004, Cal Poly football’s middle line backer Jordan Beck led the Mustangs’ defense and received the Buck Buchanan Award for the best defensive player of the year.
Running right behind him in the voting for the Buck Buchanan and further anchoring the Cal Poly defense was the always soft-spoken, defensive end Chris Gocong.
This year, however, Gocong has been anything but quiet on the field, recording a Cal Poly record and leading Division I-AA in sacks with 22 coming into this weeks quarterfinal match up against Texas State.
Gocong has become an unspoken leader by example in the Mustangs’ defense.
“Being a leader is a lot more effective than trying to be a leader,” Gocong said. “To lead by example.”
Gocong will certainly have to be a leader this week, with Texas State quarterback Barrick Nealy at the helm. In last week’s match up against Georgia Southern, Nealy threw for a Texas State record 400 yards on 23 for 32 passing and ran for an additional 126 yards on 12 carries.
“We just have to do our jobs,” Gocong said, adding that the Mustangs will go about defending Texas State like they defend all of their opponents.
This is the second time these two teams have met, with the first of the series coming last fall, a mustang victory, 38-21.
“Just like anyone they are going to improve after a year,” Gocong said. “But we have also gotten better.”
With Nealy displaying tendencies of a scrambler, the burden rests firmly on the shoulders of the Mustang defense to stop him. There will have to be a strong emphasis on containment, Gocong said.
“I think our greatest strength is our ability to overcome adversity,” Gocong said.
An ability that will come in handy this Saturday as the mustangs will undoubtedly face record crowds at Bobcat stadium, a surface they have little experience on and the added pressure of a nationally televised game.
Gocong, however, feels as if the Mustangs are up to the task.
“You don’t really notice the crowd when you are on the field,” Gocong said. ” We did well in front of crowds of 24,000 in Montana.”
In response to concerns of a faster game on the AstroPlay surface, Gocong was optimistic.
“I think it will give us an advantage, because we are so used to compensating for the mud,” Gocong said, adding that the game play would be significantly faster on AstroPlay.
At 22 sacks, Gocong is in good position to win the Buck Buchanan award, and a win this week against Texas State supplemented by a strong performance would only strengthen his chances.
“If I won it, it would just be the icing on the cake of a great season,” Gocong said, adding that there are bigger things than personal goals. “It’s something I will worry about after the season.”
With the Mustangs offense coming into their own, on the backs of red shirt freshman Matt Brennan, James Noble and Ramses Barden, Gocong admits that pressure is taken off of the backs of the defense.
“It is a different game when you three and out and get a rest on the sidelines,” Gocong said.
With, the increased game speed this week, resting the defense and controlling the ball will be key to winning the game.
Texas State comes into the game ranked No. 4 in the Sports Network poll, making the mustangs underdogs in the Matchup.
“Looking back on the season it shows that anyone can loose on any given day,” Gocong said. “It really is not the best team that is going to win, it is the team that plays the best on that day.”