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Cal Poly's Walsh worried about a slow start
A year ago a slow start on offense was on Tim Walsh’s mind as Cal Poly prepared to play the Montana Grizzlies.
Now it’s the defense, as his Mustangs ramp up for a visit to Washington-Grizzly Stadium Saturday to play the No. 15-ranked Griz.
Actually he was mad at the defense a year ago, too.
“I hope that’s a trend that we’re going to just get past,” Walsh said of his Mustangs, who lost 49-21 to talented San Diego State. “We didn’t tackle. There are things that you can do to lengthen the game and keep the game closer. We didn’t do them.”
Walsh says this while predicting that the Aztecs will be a Top 25, bowl-bound team. Still, Cal Poly returns eight starters on defense.
“When a 6-yard gain becomes a 47-yard gain because we missed four or five tackles, that’s a problem,” he said. “That the biggest issue and we have to correct it.”
Not everyone played badly in San Diego State. Middle linebacker Kennith Jackson had seven tackles and broke up three passes. Outside backer Johnny Millard had eight stops.
“It was a somewhat frustrating game,” said Asa Jackson, Cal Poly’s standout corner. “It’s not that they came out and dominated us; we just didn’t make the plays we really normally make.
“Unfortunately for us, it was against a quality opponent. The frustrating part is we didn’t play our best game, so the score looks worse than it actually was.”
Walsh does have a tested and sturdy defensive front that includes 270-pound tackle Erich Klemme and ends Kyle Murphy, Brandon Roberts and Gavin Cooper, though Cooper missed the Aztec game.
Cal Poly rates all four as honors candidates in the five-team Great West Conference, which is losing four of its teams to the Big Sky Conference next season.
Jackson loves Kennith Jackson in the middle.
“He always plays hard,” Asa Jackson said. “He’s one of our leaders on defense. He had a real good game against San Diego State, both being physical at the point and playing hard the entire game.”
The defense also includes safety Greg Francis and three-year starter Bijon Samoodi at the other corner.
“We’ve got to clean things up because there’s too much talent back to struggle like that,” Walsh said.
Offense is a different animal, though the Aztecs slowed the Mustangs’ option attack in the second half. Talented linemen like Art Munoz, Scott Winnewisser and Maurice McClure return, along with slotbacks David Mahr and Mark Rodgers (transfer Deonte Williams, who dazzled as a freshman at NAU in 2008, carried five times at San Diego State).
Yet the key will be quarterback Andre Broadous, who was good enough as a prep - at Grant High in Portland, Ore. - that Walsh, then at Portland State, offered a scholarship when Broadous was a junior.
“The tough thing for Andre is he had a tremendous (2010) year in front of him and probably would’ve been our starter, but he got hurt in our last scrimmage,” said Walsh. “Then Tony Smith got hurt against Montana and Andrew still wasn’t ready, and Doug Shumway played.”
Broadous returned in the fourth game last fall, at McNeese State, and started four times - all on the road. He threw for four touchdowns and no picks, but then had ball security issues and Smith moved back into the starting spot.
“The people of San Luis Obispo haven’t really got to see him play,” Walsh said of Broadous. “And he’s a tremendous football player. I really think he is.”
Broadous came to Cal Poly with no idea that Walsh, who left Portland State after the 2006 to spend two years as Rich Ellerson’s assistant at Army, would be his coach. Walsh’s replacement at PSU, Jerry Glanville, kept recruiting him - he was a shotgun QB at Grant - as did Oregon State and Idaho.
“They (the Mustangs) gave me something the other schools didn’t - a chance to play quarterback,” Broadous noted.
If there was a jury it might be still out on the QB, who passed for 95 yards and ran for 20 yards and a TD last week. But Walsh feels good about Broadous, and has installed more read-zone option out of shotgun formation, while retaining the triple-option look that’s been a Cal Poly trademark.
“Overall I gave our guys a pretty good grade for the first time running some of the things we were running,” Walsh said.
The punch line is that a year ago Walsh maligned his offense and defense, and then saw both score big points in a 35-33 win over then-No. 1 Montana. It was the Mustangs’ second-ever win over the Griz.
“You know it was huge,” said Asa Jackson. “Especially to be able to beat them on our home field, when they were ranked No. 1.
“It doesn’t get much better than that - other than actually getting one at the University of Montana. It was a great win and hopefully we can have a great game on Saturday.”
Cal Poly at No. 15 Montana
Saturday, 1:05 p.m. (MST)
Washington-Grizzly Stadium (25,217, Sprinturf)
Location: San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Series history: UM leads 13-2.
Man in charge: Tim Walsh (UC Riverside, 1977) is 11-11 in his third season at Cal Poly and is 128-94 in his 21st year as a college coach.
Ones to watch:
2 Asa Jackson (5-11, 190, sr., Sacramento): The speedster has 25 career pass deflections and six career picks and is on many preseason All-American teams - along with the Buchanan Award watch list.
3 Andre Broadous (6-0, 205, jr., Portland, Ore.): The projected starter in 2010, an ankle injury helped limit Broadous to four starts. He’s thrown just 77 college passes - with no interceptions - but is a talented athlete.
34 Jake Romanelli (6-3, 240, sr., Templeton, Calif.): Slotbacks Mark Rodgers and David Mahr get the pub, but Romanelli is critical to the offense - and went over 1,000 career yards last week. He scored a TD against San Diego State and one against UM a year ago.
By Fritz Neighbor, The Missoulian