Even before the Cal Poly football team’s 21-12 loss to Texas State (2-1) wrapped up Saturday, the Mustangs’ lack of offensive diversity in the first of a five-game road swing had become starkly apparent.
Cal Poly fullback Jordan Yocum ran for a career-high 145 yards on 17 carries but was held out of the end zone.
The Mustangs’ only touchdown came on a 1-yard run by Doug Shumway — a sophomore quarterback who rushed for 88 yards in his first-career start — but Shumway and fellow sophomore Andre Broadous combined for only 66 passing yards.
In those ways, the game was similar to Cal Poly’s 28-10 early-season loss at Ohio last year, when Yocum had his previous career high of 130 yards but the Bobcats were able to keep the Mustangs’ offense out of the end zone altogether.
Cal Poly (2-1) had the inexperience of the quarterbacks working against it as well as in-game injuries to left guard Maurice McClure, who was replaced by true freshman Lefi Letuligasenoa, and fullback Jake Romanelli, a former Templeton High standout.
But head coach Tim Walsh said the youth of the signal callers wasn’t a factor in the signals they were calling.
Walsh said Texas State’s defense, in scheme and execution, was good enough Saturday to dictate where the ball was going in the Mustangs’ triple-option offense.
Where it did not go very often was to slotbacks, like West Virginia transfer Mark Rodgers, and leading receiver Dominique Johnson, who had five catches for just 30 yards and a long of 9.
“They weren’t going to allow us to do that,” Walsh said by phone after the game. “That was in their game plan, too. They planned not to let the ball go over their heads, and they played very good underneath pass coverage as well.
“As much as we’d like to get the ball to those guys, this is not an offense where you run plays to get the ball to those guys. This is an offense where you run the offense and let the plays come to you.”
Rodgers averaged 32 yards on four kick returns and brought a 65-yarder back to the Texas State 20-yard line in the first quarter, but he only carried the ball from scrimmage four times for a total of 1 negative yard.
Rodgers, who came into the game as Cal Poly’s leading rusher with 119 yards on 20 carries combined in the first two games, also had two catches for 14 yards against the Bobcats.
After going 3 for 3 for 128 yards and two touchdowns against Montana last week, Shumway was 10-for-21 passing for 64 yards. He had no interceptions and was sacked once but was charged with a fumble on a first-quarter handoff that killed a Mustangs drive in the red zone.
Broadous got his first action of the season after missing Cal Poly’s first two games with an ankle injury.
He came in midway through the second quarter to lead the final two drives of the half and finished with 31 yards on nine rushes. His lone pass completion in two attempts went for 2 yards to Johnson.
Romanelli, who came into the game having rushed for 112 yards on 24 carries, rushed twice for 9 yards before he left the game for good in the first half. Walsh said a minor head injury ruled the junior out for the rest of the game.
Romanelli’s helmet came off following one of his carries in a scene reminiscent of the hits that helped take Cal Poly starting quarterback Tony Smith out of each of the first two games.
Smith made the trip to San Marcos, Texas, but was relegated to third-string duty because of the reported neck strain that knocked him out against Montana.
Romanelli’s injury left Yocum as the only experienced fullback available.
Cal Poly wasn’t able to move the ball any better when the running attack became the imprudent option as time ticked away late in the game.
The Mustangs punted away on fourth and long from deep in their own territory with three minutes left and trailing by two scores.
“They scored to make it 21. Ten minutes to go into the game and down 9 points,” Walsh said. “We only really ran our real offense 20 minutes in the second half, and that’s just not going to be us. Them knowing when we have to throw it, that’s not good.”