When it comes down to it, there is one thing the Mustangs (2-1) think they need to do in order to rebound from their first loss of the season against McNeese State (1-1) this weekend: get back to “Cal Poly football.”
“That is the one line and phrase that sums it all up,” fullback Jake Romanelli said. “We didn’t play Cal Poly football.”
Turnovers, missed opportunities and a lack of big plays kept the Mustangs from what would have been their third win of the season last week; against the Cougars, the Mustangs strayed away from their identity as a football team, Romanelli said. At their best, on offense and defense, they can compete with the best teams in the country. It’s just a matter of not falling into defensive traps and playing hard-nosed football, he said.
“Mustang football is just playing with great passion, speed and great pace,” Romanelli said. “Offensively we are going to be on the ball, grinding it out. No defense can keep up with our pace. Defensively we are going to cause turnovers and cause havoc.”
The Mustangs’ struggles could be attributed to last week’s quarterback situation. Heading into the game, head coach Tim Walsh planned to utilize Doug Shumway and Andre Broadous in a two-player scheme.
This week may be a bit different. After all the time he has been sitting on the bench, it looks like Broadous will be the man chosen to help get back to the team they were two weeks ago. Walsh informed Broadous he would be starting, he said.
“I kind of already knew; I think some of it has to do with Smith’s injury, but I’m not sure what the exact situation is,” Broadous said. “No matter what quarterback is out there, we just want to win. I got to go out there play my game and help this team get a victory.”
Broadous, who many fans believed should have been starting since the season began, played for the first time of the season last week against Texas State. Broadous came into the game with just under eight minutes left in the first half and played until the break, then gave the spot back up to Shumway in the second half.
“I think I did pretty good and the coaches said I did pretty good,” Broadous said. “We got a couple runs in and I just tried to be explosive … I know there are a lot of things that I could have done better; I learned from them, so hopefully I can correct the mistakes that I did make.”
Broadous looked to be the second string quarterback heading into the fall, but was forced to give up his spot to Shumway after suffering an ankle injury in practice. The injury has done its part to keep Broadous off the field, but will hinder his play no longer, he said.
“It’s 100 percent now,” Broadous said.
In his wake, he leaves quarterbacks Shumway and Tony Smith on the bench. Smith was the starter for the Mustangs’ first two games before being sidelined by a neck injury and said he is getting better by the day. He expects to be healthy for this weekend’s game.
“I feel great, I got a lot of range in my motion in my neck back,” Smith said. “I’m planning on being healthy for it and right now obviously it still depends on what the doctors say. I feel that I am ready to play.”
But what was a chance for Smith to, if healthy, come back in and lead his team under center has been seized by Broadous. When, and if, Smith returns to the field this weekend, it will be the first time he has started two consecutive games on the bench since he was Jonathan Dally’s backup in 2008. It’s a sacrifice Smith is willing to make if it gives his team a better chance of winning, he said.
“Whatever it’s going to take for this team to win is what I support,” Smith said. “It’s not about me. It’s about our team, and we have to play well in every stage of the game, give ourselves a chance to win every time.”
Smith isn’t the only one who will be losing playing time this weekend. In the backfield, Romanelli said while he hopes to see playing time, he is not expecting to play this Saturday, due to a shoulder injury.
“How I feel, with how my shoulder is healing up day-to-day, I think at most I’ll be out for a week,” Romanelli said. “It’s really disappointing.”
The loss slows down the Mustangs’ running game, but in last week’s game against Texas State, Jordan Yocum proved he could handle all the carries by himself. After rushing for 36 yards in the Mustangs’ first two games, Yocum took off for a career-high 145 yards against the Cougars.
“He had one of the best games he had ever had,” Romanelli said. “He was making some great reads and made some great plays for us, and to be honest, it was really thrilling to see Jordan run the ball.”
But even though the first-team All-Great West fullback may not be able to help his team on the field, he will be doing his best to help the Mustangs grab their first win on the road since 2008, from the sidelines.
“(I can) be there for support. Jordan and I are always talking on the sidelines,” Romanelli said. “Sometimes I can see something on the field that will help him with his reads. I just have to be there for moral support and kind of get the guys going and stuff.”
While the majority of the attention this season has fallen on the offense, Mustangs on the other side of the ball are stating their claim for some spotlight. Defensively, the Mustangs have allowed no more than 20 points scoring in two games this season, while boasting four interceptions and one defensive touchdown this season.
“Defense is playing real well this year,” Broadous said. “As of right now, our defense is our soul point, and they are just going to keep getting better. It’s going to make our team better.”
Overall, if the Mustangs want to grab a win this weekend, it’s going to be earned by playing to their strengths, Romanelli said. That task falls on Broadous, making his first career start at quarterback, and the rest of the team. There is a difference from having a record of 2-2 and 3-1, and the fact McNeese State has had a bye week to prepare for the Mustangs isn’t going to help Cal Poly be the better of the two.
It is a task that Broadous is up for, he said.
“We just got to play our game,” Broadous said. “We are very hungry and we want to get a win on the road most importantly. We want to just wipe out that bad taste from Texas State against McNeese State.”