Preseason DI-A non-conference action continues this weekend as the University of Utah and Cal Poly meet in Mesquite, Nev. The Mustangs head into Saturday’s game with back-to-back wins over local men’s club San Luis Obispo (79-7) and rival UC-Santa Barbara (31-17) last weekend. Meanwhile, the Utes are coming off a bye weekend and a 51-0 shutout over UCSB on January 7.
Both teams earned big wins over UCSB this month, so Saturday’s match will lend some early-season insight into the teams’ relative strength. These pre-season games are integral to building stamina for the long season ahead, which will culminate in conference matches against DI-A finalists California and BYU.
“It’s early in the season so any improvements we see in any phase of the game will be a plus,” said Utah assistant head coach Rob Kingsford.
Cal Poly has a knack for getting out early and staying there, as seen in the team’s 79-7 rout over SLO. The Mustangs have an able, mobile back row, which provide much of Cal Poly’s go-forward ball. Captain and No. 8 Dave Schaefer as well as freshman flanker Matt Ryan have devastated defenses early in the season.
Saturday’s game will likely be determined by Utah’s ability to hold Cal Poly, a team known for their immediate energy, on defense early in the game. The Mustangs have already proven their quickness to respond on the field this season, running away with a 79-7 preseason opener over club team San Luis Obispo.
The Utes’ primary focus is to contain and respond to Cal Poly’s first-half attack, although it’ll be a difficult task for a squad that has struggled to find consistency on defense in the early minutes. They’ve lost key leaders like All American Camden Burd to graduation last year, and are still looking to prove themselves.
“Cal Poly has always had a solid program and if we don’t match their physically early, we could be in for a long afternoon,” said senior lock Scott Metcalf.
The Utes will look to seniors Danny James and Scott Metcalf to launch the physical assault, while loose forwards Alex Muehle, who had three tries over UCSB, and 2010 All American Mike Shepherd, back from injury, will take on the Cal Poly forwards.
Saturday’s game will the first time these two teams have faced each other since 2009 in San Diego. Utah won that contest 26-12.
The action gets started at 12:30 p.m. MST. Stay tuned for match details and player/coach feedback.