cal-polycalCal Poly and the Griz square off in less than 48 hours, starting probably the toughest 3 week stretch of schedule the Griz have. I’m trying to remember a Griz vs CPSLO game in the last 15 years that wasn’t a total battle from start to finish.

Cal Poly Mustangs 3-3

38-16 win vs San Diego – Poly’s offense was on fire in their opener, 307 rushing, 226 passing for just over 530 total yards. San Diego had some success passing, almost 260 yards. It was a closer game for a while 17-10 Poly at the half, but they kept on going while San Diego came out flat in the 3rd qtr and fell too far behind.

25-41 loss vs Fresno – The score suggests it might’ve been close but it really wasn’t. Fresno was up 34-0 at the half and Poly added 3 TDs late in the game when the outcome was known. Fresno scored 14 points on punt returns alone.

17-34 loss vs Colorado State – CSU held a 27-10 lead at the half and each team added a TD in the 2nd half. Poly had some good rushing numbers but their defense was torn up by Colorado State, 533 yards with almost 300 passing allowed.

38-34 win vs Portland State – PSU was up big early, 21-7 but Poly then scored 24 unanswered points over the course of the 3rd quarter and into the 4th. That put Poly up 31-21. Just 15 seconds after Poly went up 31-21, PSU scored on a long pass to make it 31-28, but Poly answered with another TD to put the lead up to 10 points again. PSU had a chance to make it a game but had a drive die on the Poly 16 after a costly penalty. They got the ball back and tacked on a late TD but couldn’t grab the onside kick. PSU had 305 passing. Poly meanwhile rushed for 431 and passed for about 90 yards. Both teams were heavily penalized, 22 penalties combined and 202 penalty yards.

10-24 loss vs Yale – Poly held a 10-7 lead at the half, but in the 2nd half Yale went lights out on defense. Poly had just 1 first down the whole 2nd half, just 22 total yards. Meanwhile Yale scored 21 unanswered points on a few long and clock-chewing drives.

47-0 win vs Weber – Weber’s defense allows on average 550 yards per game, Poly exceeded that with 580 total yards. Their starting QB (3rd one this year) who the Griz will face, Dano Graves, passed for 3 TDs on 13 attempts and 170 passing yards and 116 rushing yards as well.

Players to watch

#10 Dano Graves, QB – Graves is a transfer from Air Force. Some Poly articles suggest he’s a better passer than the other Poly QBs and his numbers vs Weber last week were rock solid. He’s played in 3 games this season but the Weber game was his most significant time and the only game he’s completed passes. If Graves has troubles look for backup QB Chris Brown who is a good runner but a bit of a liability as a passer.

#5 Kristaan Ivory, RB – The leading rusher on the team, Ivory is a 200 pound slot-back, he’s got 684 rushing yards this year and 6 TDs on the ground. He’s also got the 2nd most receptions this season on the team with 17, but just 87 yards on all of those catches, 1 more TD receiving. He may return a kick off as well, not the primary returner but has done it.

#8 Akaninyene Umoh, FB – A bruiser of a runner at 220 pounds, the senior has 223 yards this season and 2 TDs rushing, he’s got 30 receiving yards as well. Look for him a lot in shorter yardage situations.

#7 Willie Tucker, WR – Not sure if he’s playing, he missed the Weber game. Tucker is their Ramses Barden type of guy, 6-3, 200 pounds, 312 yards receiving this season which leads the team. I just did a search and it suggests he’s out for the year? That sucks if true.

#2 Cole Stanford, WR – Another taller WR, Stanford is 6-2. He’s going to be the prime guy with Tucker out. He’s got 213 receiving and 1 TD, he’s also got 23 rushing yards.

#31 Brandon Howe, RB – Another running back in this tricky Poly attack. Howe is another bigger guy at 220 pounds, he’s got 156 yards on the ground, 12 receiving yards, and 2 total TDs.

#94 Sullivan Grosz, DT – One of the better interior defensive linemen in the FCS. Grosz has never missed a start, he’s almost 300 pounds, has 29 tackles this year, 5.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, and he’s even blocked a kick.

#41 Nick Dzubnar, LB – a 6-2, 240 pound linebacker Nick leads the team in tackles right now with 61. He’s got 1 sack, 5 TFLs, and has forced a fumble.

#11 Johnny Millard, LB – A bigger backer at 240 pounds Millard has 50 tackles this year and 2.5 TFLs. Look for Millard and Dzubnar in on most all rushing plays come Saturday.

#4 Cameron Ontko, LB – Much like the Griz, Poly’s got a group of great linebackers. Ontko has 49 tackles already this season.

General Stats

– Poly rushes for 283 yards per game on average and passes for 173 yards per game, for a whopping total of nearly 460 yards per game. The Grizzly defense allows 114 rushing, 222 passing for a total of 337 yards per game allowed on average.

– Poly’s defense allows 155 rushing and 230 passing per game for a total of 385 yards per game allowed. UM’s offense averages 240 rushing and 235 passing for a total of 473 yards per game.

– Poly is -1 in turnovers on the season, but it’s interesting that they’ve rarely committed turnovers and have rarely created ones either. They’ve lost 3 ints and 3 fumbles this whole season and have forced 2 interceptions and 3 fumbles. That’s pretty low when you compare to Montana who is +10 on the season, forcing 10 interceptions and 5 fumbles (to just 5 fumbles lost).

– Poly converts 40% of their 3rd down attempts (UM allows 40% conversion). Meanwhile Poly’s D allows conversions 32% of the time (UM converts 49% of the time).

– When in the red zone Poly scores 88% of the time and of the same attempts they score TDs 82% of the time, that’s really damn good. UM’s defense allows scores just 56% of the time in the RZ and TDs 38% of the time… that’s pretty damn good too.

– On the other side Poly’s defense allows RZ scores 83% of the time and of the same attempts 63% are TDs. UM when in the red zone on offense scores 81% of the time and of the same attempts scores TDs 67% of the time.

– Poly’s offense seems to start cool but improve as the game goes on, about 60% of the points they score come in the 2nd half. The Grizzly defense in comparison is just the opposite, allowing more points in the 1st half compared to the 2nd.

– Cal Poly’s special teams doesn’t have big numbers in terms of punt yards or kickoff yards, however thanks to probably that Fresno game their punt coverage looks pretty poor, allowing 13 yards on average per return.

– Even though they’re an option-running team Poly doesn’t focus much on TOP, they’re pretty close to a 1:1 ratio of clock time on offense and defense.

– Not much of a pass-rush statistically for Poly, just 6 sacks this season.

Keys to a Grizzly Victory

– Don’t get out of place, do your 1/11. The PSU game exposed some issues of our defenders getting out of position too often. Poly’s rush attack will attempt just the same. Cannot stress it enough to not let this offense get the defense too far out of place. Poly will probably have 6 to 8 different guys rush the ball, running backs, full backs, slot backs, QB, WRs.

– Win in the red zone. CPSLO’s efficiency in the red zone when they have the ball is shockingly good. The Grizzly defense will need to prove itself in a major way, especially when the Mustangs get inside the RZ. Force fieldgoal attempts and don’t allow TDs. That will be huge.

– I see an opportunity for the Grizzly passing game to have an effective day. Sure Poly has returned 10 starters on defense but it really seems to me that in some of their losses they were burned through the air. The Griz will keep their mix of run/pass going but I think the passing game has a great chance to do something big.

– Don’t slump in the 3rd qtr. If prior scoring stats give us a glimpse of the game on Saturday the Griz might be able to open big but then Poly will work to chip away and then bust out in the 2nd half. Yale prevented this and won, the Griz need to keep pace with scoring in the 3rd/4th qtr.

– Forcing turnovers. Poly simply doesn’t turn it over much, so far neither have the Griz… it could be that the team who makes a mistake in terms of a key fumble or interception, could decide the game.

– No big pass plays. The Mustang offense sets up for a few deep shots per game. Don’t let those happen!

– Clock control. This is where the O-line and our running game can help win the game. In their losses Poly’s offense spent a lot of time watching their defense play and then when they stumbled their D was right back out there getting worn out even more. Poly’s D-line is talented, it will be struggle for the O-line.

What’s interesting is that Poly’s D on the road vs at home is starkly different. Their defense when on the road allows an average of 37 points per game, while their offense averages 10 less points per game when on the road. The crowd and atmosphere must be whipped up into a frenzy and keep that Poly defense rattled. I’ve had some people suggest a concern about looking forward to EWU but I’m just not seeing it, this team is focused on this game.

I’m seeing a battle that’s going to really test our defense at times. Poly has played here a ton (granted a lot of players on this team haven’t). Their coaches will have the team prepared for Wa Griz. I’m seeing a game where the first team that gets to 30 wins. Gut feeling, Griz win 38-28, but that’s only if the Griz can keep that Poly offense at bay come the 4th quarter.

Go Griz!