At the midway point of its fall training camp, the Cal Poly football team completed an organized scrimmage Saturday afternoon inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
There was a mixture of energy and some fatigue during a two-hour long session, the 15th practice since the Mustangs opened fall camp less than two weeks ago.
Many of those days begin before 7 a.m. and end more than 12 hours later for players, each with an eye toward the Sept. 5 season opener at Montana.
“Obviously when we first get out here everyone’s a little tired,” senior linebacker Burton De Koning said. “But once us captains and leaders kind of get it rolling and get the juices flowing, I think everybody falls in line and we do our thing.”
The opening drive matched the first team offense against the first team defense with the ball starting on the 25-yard line. Senior quarterback Chris Brown ran for 30 yards on the first play from scrimmage, and his day was done five plays later.
Enter fellow senior Dano Graves, who combined with Brown to lead the offense on a 14-play, 75-yard scoring drive that was capped by Joe Protheroe’s 1-yard touchdown run.
“At certain points we looked tired,” head coach Tim Walsh said. “But I was really impressed with our first drive that went all the way down the field for a touchdown. I was impressed with a couple of stops the defense made in the red zone areas.”
Protheroe was as busy as anyone on the roster, rushing for 51 yards on 15 carries and scoring two of the four combined touchdowns. The 6-foot, 225-pound sophomore looks like the heir apparent to replace the graduated Brandon Howe, who ran for 867 yards and 10 touchdowns last fall.
“I’m just looking forward to meeting the expectations,” Protheroe said. “I want to meet them and hopefully even do better.”
Though most of Saturday’s scrimmage featured situational plays such as third-and-long or goal line, the Mustangs defense seemed to be a step ahead of the offense on several occasions.
Walsh said there were a lot of positives, but he “probably would have liked to thrown the ball better and protected the quarterback a little bit better. But that’s going to come.”
Injuries pile up
One key absence from Saturday’s scrimmage was third-string quarterback Andrew Barna, who injured his hamstring in practice on Wednesday and is expected to return early next week.
The junior has competed with true freshman Khaleel Jenkins throughout fall camp, and the scrimmage could have been an interesting measuring stick to see how far each player has progressed.
Instead, redshirt freshman wide receiver Kory Fox has stepped into the No. 4 spot. The San Diego native completed one of the longest passes of the day down the left sideline to Victor Beglitsoff.
“It was (Fox’s) third day,” Walsh said. “He did really well for a guy that doesn’t really know what’s going on.”
Fox was pressed into that position following a hamstring injury to Grant Caraway, a sophomore listed on the roster as a quarterback but has spent the entire fall camp at wide receiver.
Cal Poly also might be without safety Kaulin Blair for some time after the senior captain was helped off the field with a leg injury early in the scrimmage. Blair tackled running back Kori Garcia for lost yardage and stayed down on the field until trainers came to his side. He later returned to the sideline on crutches.
Other players injured during Saturday’s scrimmage were defensive tackle Augustino Elisaia (ankle) and offensive lineman Zach Shallcross (unknown).
Tight end Reagan Enger, running backs Alex Suchesk, David Cooper and Elias Stokes, and wide receivers Jake Smeltzer and Willie Tucker did not participate because of injuries.