Cal U thinking ahead to fall and football
California University of Pennsylvania will not begin its training camp until early August but the schedule is out and expectations for the Vulcans' first winning season since 1987 have been running high.
Fifth-year Cal U head coach Mike Kolakowski has guided the Vulcans to consecutive 5-6 overall records over the past two years. Three of Cal's six setbacks last fall were by a combined deficit of 10 points. Finding a way to attain success in close games and taking Cal U from a competitive level to a winning level appears to be Kolakowski and his staff's biggest challenge.
'You hear people talking all the time about the fine line between winning and losing and that's where we're at right now,' Kolakowski said. 'I believe that heading into training camp that we're a better football team now than since I've been here. The reality is that when it is time to make a play, whoever it is, has to step and make the play. We have to take our program to the next step this year.'
While the five victories won by both the 1999 and last year's team are Cal U's most single-season wins since 1987, Kolakowski will hope to win his first season-opening game since he became the head coach in 1997 after serving as the team's defensive coordinator in 1995 and 1996.
The season opener will be a home game against the Geneva Golden Tornadoes 7 p.m. Aug. 30. Cal U lost 16-14 at Geneva in last year's season opener. Ahead 14-13 with seconds left, Cal intercepted but lost the pickoff on a fumble on the return. Geneva kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired.
Cal U will open the season with two home games for the first time since 1988 and the Vulcans second game will be Sept. 8 against Fairmont State. Since 1992, Cal U has won five of seven games against the Falcons. Last year, Cal trailed 14-10 in the final quarter before erupting for three straight touchdowns and a 31-14 victory.
The first Vulcan road game this fall will be at West Virginia Wesleyan 1 p.m. Sept. 15. Cal U beat Wesleyan 35-14 in the 2000 home opener and Kolakowski's first win at Cal U was a 21-16 victory at Buckhannon in 1997. Two years ago, Cal U won 42-7 at Wesleyan.
The Vulcans will return to Adamson Stadium for two more consecutive home games, hosting Mansfield and Edinboro on Sept. 22 and Sept. 29, respectively. Both of those games will start at 7 p.m. The Mansfield game will be Cal U Family Day and a softball statue will be dedicated earlier that day at the Natali Student Center, honoring the 1997 and 1998 NCAA national title squads. Cal U has defeated Mansfield each of the past three years. The Edinboro game will be the PSAC-West opener and Cal U defeated Edinboro at the 1999 Cal Homecoming, 40-35. Edinboro beat Cal U at Sox Harrison Stadium last fall, 31-17.
Cal's second road game will be in game number six at Clarion, the 2000 PSAC-West tri-champion along with IUP and Slippery Rock. Clarion defeated Cal U last year 32-28. Ahead 28-25 and at the Clarion 4-yard line with a minute left, the Vulcans fumbled away the football and opportunistic Clarion drove 94 yards for the win.
Cal U's 2001 Homecoming game will be against Slippery Rock on Oct. 13. This will be the only day game at Adamson Stadium with an accommodating 2 p.m. start. The Vulcans have not defeated the Rock since 1987.
Game number eight will see the Vulcans making their first visit to Lock Haven's Hubert Jack Stadium since 1998. Since 1990, Cal U has won six of 11 games against the Bald Eagles after winning nine of 10 games from LHU during the decade of the 1980s.
The home finale and senior recognition game will be against Shippensburg on what figures to be a chilly Oct. 27. Cal U will look for its first win against the Red Raiders since 1990. Last year, Cal U squandered a 17-0 halftime deficit and lost 21-17 at Shippensburg.
The regular season will conclude with 1 p.m. road games at IUP (Nov. 3) and at Cheyney (Nov. 10). The Vulcans will hope to end a 16-year stretch of football futility against the powerful Indians. Since 1990, Cal U has defeated Cheyney five straight times, including a 41-12 home win over the Wolves in the 2000 season finale.
'A schedule is what it is,' said the no-nonsense Kolakowski. 'I believe we can line up and play with any team in our conference. Saying that is one thing and doing it is something else. Now we have to get ready to get it done.'