The worst fears about Vince Moraga’s knee injury were confirmed. So was the identity of the new Cal Poly quarterback.
Mustangs head coach Tim Walsh said sophomore Chris Brown will start Saturday’s game at Colorado State, replacing Moraga full-time after the junior limped off the field at this past Saturday’s 41-25 loss at Fresno State.
On crutches during practice at the Cal Poly Sports Complex on Tuesday, Moraga said tests confirmed a torn ACL and torn cartilage in his right knee. He is due to have surgery in two weeks with an expected recovery time of six months.
On that timeline, he would be back in time for spring drills.
Brown started the season as the third-string quarterback behind Moraga and sophomore Air Force transfer Dano Graves.
But when Graves hurt his leg in backup duty during the season opener against San Diego, he was unavailable for the game against the Bulldogs, and Brown came in to lead the Mustangs (1-1) on three touchdown drives, running two of them in himself.
Brown’s highlights included a 50-yard bomb to receiver Willie Tucker and a 22-yard touchdown scramble.
He also bobbled his first snap and had a late pitch fumbled to the turf and nearly become a turnover. Set to start the game against the first-string defense of the Rams (0-2) instead of the Bulldogs’ backups, Brown can’t make the same miscues.
“He made a lot of first-game mistakes,” Walsh said. “If we were truly grading him, his grade wouldn’t be great, but his productivity was unbelievable. … But he’ll to have to play way more efficiently week in and week out. He can do much better.”
Walsh gave Brown the same vote of confidence he gave Moraga coming out of camp. The job is now Brown’s to lose, and he’ll keep it if he plays well.
Now healthy, Graves remains the No. 2 option, and redshirt freshman Tanner Trosin moves up to third string.
Though Brown said he’s trying not to alter his pregame mentality and preparation from the routine he used as a backup, Walsh noticed the former Compton Dominguez High standout feeling some pressure to have a perfect practice Tuesday.
He knows he has to help the Mustangs succeed in order to remain in place.
“I totally understand and I take full responsibility for every one of my actions,” Brown said. “I’m just going to try to control what I can control, keep the sticks moving and try to pull off a W.”
ONTKO’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT
Junior outside linebacker Cameron Ontko made his first career start at Fresno State, and the former Wisconsin transfer responded with a team-high 12 tackles, including one for a loss of 2 yards.
The performance marked an impressive comeback from a minor knee surgery less than two weeks prior.
Ontko said he had been feeling chronic knee pain but that it got significantly worse after playing in the training camp scrimmage in August.
Given the option to play through the pain, Ontko decided to have surgery to repair a torn meniscus, and just eight days after the operation, he was back to full strength on the practice field.
The projected recovery time for the arthroscopic surgery “can be 7 to 10 days,” Ontko said. “It could be four weeks. I was just really blessed that I felt really well.
“It’s feeling real nice. I can’t even tell it happened to tell you the truth.”
FLOWERS COULD MISS TRIP
Battling turf toe, junior defensive end Wesley Flowers must practice today, Walsh said, or he will be unavailable for the Colorado State game.
Flowers, a former UCLA transfer, also made his first career start in a three-man front against Fresno State. He had five tackles, including three solo stops but was helped off the field twice, suffering from leg cramps and turf toe, a ligament sprain that causes swelling around the big toe.
Expected to return to a four-man front against the Rams, senior Andy Alcaraz and junior Jake Irwin, a former Wisconsin transfer, should start at oppositeends.
The Mustangs announced that senior end Chris Judge, a former Air Force transfer, will redshirt this season. He has not played in either of the first two games.