None of it made sense — it wasn’t supposed to.
If you take the 83-yard touchdown bomb, sprinkle in some heroics of a third-string quarterback, add in the No. 1 team in the nation and shake that cocktail up in the middle of 8,000 fans, that formula — in any so-called expert’s mind — never should have yielded the results it did on Sept. 11, 2010.
But it did, providing yet another example of how in a game based on statistics, the numbers don’t always add up.
Doug Shumway underlined that logic. He showed the nation it was possible. He was thrown into the starting quarterback role during the third quarter of Cal Poly’s win 35-33 over Montana two years ago and never flinched. He went 3 for 3 for 128 yards and two scores, helping the Mustangs defeat the Montana Grizzlies for just the second time in program history.
“It was just a ton of excitement,” Shumway said. “We won a huge football game as a program and, obviously, I was excited to play and be a part of it all. As a team, I just knew it was such a big win for us.”
It was Shumway’s short, and only, stint in the limelight. After that game, he returned to the bench for the next two seasons, playing sparingly as players in front of him would go on to break all-time scoring records. He’d watch all of it, behind a line of white chalk.
“I would love to continue to see the field more, but you can’t complain,” Shumway said. “This year I think I’m going to have a great shot to see the field again, but as big as that Montana game was, I don’t want that to be my last great memory as a Cal Poly football player.”
That memory, however, is going to be quite hard to upstage.
They call ’em ‘the Grizz’
This game was the Mustangs’ chance to make a statement, one needed with a new head coach. Second-year leader Tim Walsh had gone 4-7 in his first season, disappointing most fans who had seen Rich Ellerson, the team’s prior coach, coach his way to the program’s first-ever home playoff game in 2008. Walsh and the team were looking for a bounce-back year in season two, one that would realign Cal Poly football in the same direction Ellerson had taken the program before.
Walsh and the Mustangs would start in that direction with a second week win over Montana, but it wouldn’t be easy. The Grizzlies have been a powerhouse at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) of Division I football. The team has had 26 consecutive winning seasons, dating back to 1986. They’ve been in the postseason every year since 1993 — with the exception of 2010 — and have finished first or second in the Big Sky Conference in 15 of the past 18 seasons. That dominance included wins over the Mustangs. Prior to the 2010 meeting, Cal Poly had beaten the Grizzlies just once.
Montana had beaten the Mustangs 15 times. And after the Mustangs lost their starting quarterback three quarters into the teams’ game in 2010, it looked like that number would turn to 16.
He did … what?
Wide receiver Dominique Johnson was watching the entire scene. With his team trailing 20-14, he saw starter Tony Smith escorted off the field with an injury. He then turned to second-string quarterback Andre Broadous, who had come into the game with an injured ankle. He wasn’t going to be ready either.
Shumway was the team’s next option.
“You don’t really expect to go through two quarterbacks in a game,” Johnson said. “And when I found out ‘Dre wasn’t able to go, I just thought to myself, ‘Man, what an opportunity this is for Shumway. He actually has a chance to come in the game and do something special.’ Not many people get the opportunity, and a few get the opportunity but don’t seize the moment.”
Shumway stepped to the line of scrimmage at the 17-yard line for his first play of the game and dropped back to see David Mahr streaking wide open down the middle of the field. Just as a Montana linebacker sent him plummeting into the turf, he got the pass off.
“I just remember it was something we wanted to do all game,” Shumway said. “We were really hoping the safety would come downhill, he did, and I got the ball off just in time.”
Shumway picked himself off the turf to see Mahr running into the endzone, ball in hand. It was an 83-yard touchdown pass — the longest pass by a Mustangs quarterback since Jonathan Dally hit Ramses Barden for an 85-yard toss against Idaho State in 2007 — to put the Mustangs up by a point.
But it did more than just put the Mustangs ahead.
“It was uplifting,” Johnson said. “I just imagine being in his shoes, being the guy that comes to work, brings his heart to practice every day, but doesn’t always get the opportunity in the game. I mean, it’s not every day a third-string quarterback throws an 83-yard touchdown on his first pass, so it was good for him. I think that helped lift the spirits of the other guys on the team. In that huddle, we all knew we were in good hands and that we were going to try to come away with the victory.”
The pass had the same effect on the fans. Kyle Rosso, then the president of the Mustang Maniacs, was watching in the stands as Shumway’s pass soared the length of the field.
“The fact that a play like that can be made during any football game, no matter what football team you support, it’s amazing,” Rosso said. “Having it done by our third-string quarterback and on his first play is incredible.”
It got better. Shumway scored again, hitting Johnson for a 25-yard score to put the Mustangs up by as much as 15 points.
But Shumway soon turned human. After the Grizzlies made it 35-27 off a 5-yard touchdown pass, they sacked him at the Mustangs’ 13-yard line and stripped him of the ball. They recovered and scored to make it a one-possession game at 35-33.
“As a fan, it was both nerve-racking and exciting,” Rosso said. “It was just a roller coaster the entire game.”
Montana got the ball back with 1:04 on the clock, needing just a field goal to walk off with a win. The Mustangs ruined any hopes of a comeback. Marty Mohamed intercepted a pass with four seconds left on the clock and Shumway iced the game with a victory kneel.
“I am just kind of trying to come back from such a high,” Shumway said immediately after the game. “It was such a huge momentum swing; just everything about beating the No. 1 team in the country. It’s hard to come down from. I am trying to come back to reality right now.”
Looking back, moving forward
Reality soon hit. He’d start the next game against Texas State, go 10 for 21 with 64 yards and then trot back to the sideline for the remainder of the season as Smith got healthy.
But he was never discouraged, and his teammates noticed.
“From the time that I came to Cal Poly and got a chance to practice with him out there on the field, he’s always had a smile on his face,” Johnson said. “Mentality takes you a long way. If he were on the sideline completely discouraged, and felt like he was never going to play, he never would have learned as much as he did, or been in the situations he put himself in.”
Fast forward two years later and he’s put himself in a prime situation to see the field yet again. Coaches are starting to use his athleticism as a weapon, throwing him on the field as a slot receiver for his senior season.
“If you’re the type of guy he is, who works the way he works, things tend to work out for you,” Johnson said. “I’d be happy to see him get a chance on the field at another position, whatever it’s going to take … I have faith in whatever they do. I just hope everything works out for Shumway because he is a hard worker; he deserves it.”
But for now, Shumway’s history consists of one big moment. He’s still hoping to make more memories in a Cal Poly uniform, beyond being the backup who beat Montana. However, to anyone who saw that game — his teammates included — it’s one most will remember.
“It just seemed like one of those nights that you never forget,” Johnson said.