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Cal Poly with biggest test of the season against top rushing offense in No. 2 Montana State

Cal Poly football practice for MSU.png
Posted at 7:18 PM, Oct 10, 2023

The Cal Poly football team wraps up their three game stretch of ranked opponents when they take on No. 2 Montana State in Bozeman coming off a week where they hosted and lost to No. 3 Idaho.

Last year, the Mustangs visited the Treasure State to take on the University of Montana where they played in a snow storm. While there is no snow in the forecast as of right now, the team is preparing for arguably the most intense and loudest FCS home crowd at Bobcat Stadium.

“We played the Griz last year in Montana and that was a great time," graduate student offensive lineman Garrett Weichman said. "I love the crowd noise. It brings energy. Everyone's getting more hyped. We did a little bit of crowd noise today during some of the team periods, just kind of get used to it.”

While the team is preparing to deal with a hostile crowd and less than ideal conditions, the team's most important focus is stopping the run. The Bobcats lead the FCS in rushing yards per game with 322. In match-ups against other run heavy teams like Portland State, the Mustangs have struggled.

“They do that pretty much against anybody, so we got our challenges for us," Head Coach Paul Wulff said in regards to preparing to play the rushing offense of MSU. "We know that the best we can do is formation things like how we think we're going to see them and our players got to go into this game with a great focus on trying to slow and stop the run at times.”

On the flip side, the offense has struggled to get their own run game going now without a single game over 100 yards on the ground averaging just 64 yards per game; a stat line the offensive line is trying to change in the coming weeks.

“With the run game, we've been working extra drills and just really being able to trust in technique and doing the extra work before or after,” Weichman explained.

Coach Wulff also pointed to finding depth at the tight end positions to be able to secure consistent blocking on the edges which he things will help with increased production in the run game.

To help with that depth, redshirt Michael Otterstedt has moved from linebacker to tight end along with lineman John Smolenski.

“We need that help on the perimeter and the run game, and I believe we're going to make some headway in our run game moving forward.”

Wulff added that freshman tight end Aidan Scott has been impressive so far and that redshirt junior Demarcus Oandasan is returning from injury to help add more depth to the position.

Also coming back from concussion protocol will be quarterback Sam Huard, who is expected to play in this week’s match-up where he and back-up Bo Kelly could share snaps.

The Mustangs face Montana State, ending the final leg of a grueling three game stretch against ranked opponents starting with U.C. Davis, No. 3 Idaho and now No. 2 MSU.

“Sometimes when you face really good teams, you don't always see it as much [growth] as you'd like but I do believe we're growing, and I really believe we'll put a good showing up here in Bozeman,” Wulff stated.

Despite a 2-4 record, there are some positives to note. On defense, Elijah Ponder is second in the Big Sky Conference with 5 total sacks while cornerback Donovan Sanders is first in the conference in passes defended.

The game will be broadcast on the CW network, channel 6.2. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m.