“[Brasch] is handling it really well,” head coach Beau Baldwin said. “He handled it well before, so you knew if the situation occurred, he was going to be in a good place if he was called upon to play.”
The Mustangs (1-3) opened up Big Sky Conference play against the highly touted Sacramento State Hornets (4-0) this week, who currently are the number five ranked team in all of FCS and fell 49-21.
The first half started slow for the offense, which had the ball five times and went: punt, punt and three straight turnover-on-downs. Brasch completed 17 of his 28 pass attempts for a total of 151 yards.
However, the offense looked better out of the break, scoring three touchdowns, including a 26-yard touchdown pass from Brasch, who ended the game 27-for-46 with 281 passing yards.
Facing the Hornets was a tall task for a team whose quarterback just went out, but starting is familiar territory for Brasch.
Brasch came in as a transfer from UC Berkeley in 2021 after Baldwin, the former Offensive Coordinator for the Golden Bears, also made the move to San Luis Obispo. The quarterback started seven games in the 2021 season and was the Mustangs’ co-offensive player of the year despite a midseason injury that left him out for some time, throwing for 1,725 yards, 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions on a 54% completion percentage.
After this debut season, Coach Baldwin made the surprising decision to start the redshirt freshman walk-on, Jones, to begin the 2022 season. Jones played well through three starts, passing for 655 yards and five touchdowns, but unfortunately, he planted wrong on his right leg and tore his ACL and MCL, ending his season.
Brasch entered the game against South Dakota and didn’t miss a beat. The former Golden Bear threw for 362 yards and three touchdowns on a 57% completion percentage, and Baldwin said the team felt comfortable when Brasch came in.
“There’s no doubt [the team was comfortable],” Baldwin said. “You saw it even in the South Dakota game. It wasn’t perfect, but he was still able to come in and operate, and he was still able to move the ball.”
With Brasch back in the lineup, the offense will have to adjust, given his drastic playing style difference compared to Jones.
Jones is more of an elusive athlete who has regularly extended plays with his legs, while Brasch is the prototypical pocket quarterback who can make every throw without leaving the backfield.
However, Baldwin, who calls plays for the Mustang offense, said that the offense will remain very similar, for the most part.
“We are running the same stuff,” Baldwin said. “I mean, obviously, you are going to tweak things that fit any quarterback, but you also tweak things for running backs, receivers, whoever your guys are. Overall it’s the same base structure to our offense.”
It’s not just Brasch who has to adjust on offense. The quarterback is the one position on the field that touches the ball on every play, and the whole offense runs through Brasch now.
Quarterbacks Coach Erik Meyer said the change at quarterback “hasn’t been an adjustment at all” for the other offensive players.
“Every man has to do his job, and the offensive line and receivers have to come ready to work, and it doesn’t change who’s out there throwing the ball,” Meyer said.
Meyer praised Brasch’s biggest strength, his arm.
“He can make every throw on the field,” Meyer said. “He’s absolutely ready.”
The Mustangs will need all of Brasch’s arm talent against the gauntlet that is their Big Sky schedule in 2022. They play No. 20 Eastern Washington University, No. 3 Montana University, No. 4 Montana State University and UC Davis (who received 31 votes to be ranked within the NCAA top 25) all in a four-week stretch towards the end of the season.
It’s a familiar feel for the Mustangs with Brasch at the helm, and the team will look to bounce back from a tough loss in the opener, with their next test coming on Saturday against Northern Arizona at 1 p.m. in Flagstaff, Ariz.