Head football coach Beau Baldwin era finally begins

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Fifteen months after he was hired as head football coach at Cal Poly, the Beau Baldwin Era finally began last Saturday afternoon as the Mustangs (0-0, 0-0 Big Sky) hosted Southern Utah (0-2, 0-2 Big Sky) for the first of six Big Sky Conference games this spring.

Beau Baldwin named head coach just prior to the pandemic.

Links for audio and video streams as well as live stats are available on the football schedule page at GoPoly.com.

Baldwin was named Cal Poly’s 17th head football coach on Dec. 11, 2019. Since then, the Mustangs’ 2020 Spring Camp was canceled due to the pandemic. Still anticipating a normal fall schedule of 11 games, Cal Poly’s Summer Access Period, limited to eight hours of weight training, conditioning, and film review per week was limited to 11 days in July. The four-week Fall Camp (which replaced the customary Spring Camp), scheduled for late October and much of November, was cut short to just five days by the pandemic.

Even the three-week preseason camp, which started in late January, faced delays, forcing Cal Poly to postpone its first two Big Sky games. Nevertheless, the modified 2020-21 spring season is at hand, the two games have been rescheduled, and the Mustangs were eager to face their first opponent since November 2019.

Cal Poly fans are anticipating major changes, particularly on offense, with Baldwin at the helm. The Triple Option is gone, and the new offensive package likely will result in three or four wide receivers on most plays with one running back instead of two slotbacks, a fullback, and a pair of receivers in the formation.

Baldwin guided Eastern Washington for nine seasons, compiling an 85-32 overall mark with five Big Sky titles and six NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoff berths, including the 2010 national championship. In the last three years before he became Cal Poly’s head coach, Baldwin was the offensive coordinator at Cal, leading the Bears to a pair of bowl games.

Baldwin greeted 53 returning lettermen shortly after his arrival on campus, including 17 starters (10 offense, seven defense) off the 2019 squad which went 3-8 and shared ninth place in the Big Sky with four other schools. 

Topping the list of returnees are sophomore quarterback Jalen Hamler, junior running back Duy Tran-Sampson, defensive lineman Myles Cecil, and linebacker Matt Shotwell.

Hamler completed 62 of 108 passes for 1,167 yards and 12 touchdowns while also rushing for 522 yards and nine more scores. Tran-Sampson, a second-team All-Big Sky fullback, rushed for 1,037 yards and eight touchdowns but will miss the spring season due to a leg injury. Shotwell, a third-team All-Big Sky selection, led Cal Poly in tackles for the second straight year with 89 (90 in 2018), and Cecil, an All-Big Sky honorable mention in 2019, made 35 stops after garnering 39 tackles in 2018. 

In its first year in the conference, Cal Poly captured the 2012 Big Sky title, was picked to finish 10th by both the head coaches and the media in the 13-team Big Sky this fall. Weber State was selected to claim the 2020-21 Big Sky crown, followed by Montana and Montana State. Since the polls were released in July, both the Grizzlies and Bobcats have opted out of the 2020-21 spring season, along with Sacramento State, Portland State, and Northern Colorado.

The Mustangs claimed four Great West Conference titles in the eight-year history of the league (2004, 2005, 2008, 2011) before moving to the Big Sky in 2012 and have earned NCAA Division I FCS playoff berths in 2005, 2008, 2012, and 2016.

The Cal Poly Mustangs have won 65 of their last 94 home contests (70 percent) and, overall, Cal Poly has won 107 of its last 194 games (56 percent) going back to the 2002 finale and has won 24 of its last 58 and 43 of 96 on the road while producing 12 winning seasons in the last 19 years.

On Saturday, Mar. 20, Cal Poly plays the first of three straight road games, visiting UC Davis in the first of two Battle for the Golden Horseshoe contests. Kickoff in UC Davis Health Stadium is set for 1:05 p.m.

Getting through this together, Atascadero