LAKE CHARLES, La. — Junior safety Greg Francis wasn’t the only player the Cal Poly football team got back from the injured list in Saturday’s 40-14 win at McNeese State.
Senior defensive tackle James Chen and junior fullback Jake Romanelli were also back in the lineup against the No. 19 Cowboys (1-2).
Francis, back from a back injury, and Chen both stayed home for the team’s unsuccessful trip to Texas State last week, and Romanelli suffered minor shoulder and head injuries and was out early in the game against the Bobcats.
All three made contributions this week, with Francis grabbing a key interception at the end of the first half and Romanelli rushing 12 times for 59 yards.
But an injury-riddled offensive line for the No. 20 Mustangs (3-1) was only hit harder by more losses.
Already without starting center Hal Kelley (knee sprain), left guard Maurice McClure (foot) and tackle Giovanni Sani (shoulder), a part-time starter who’s been ruled out for the rest of the season, the Mustangs lost senior tackle Art Munoz, who was in street clothes with his left arm in a brace by the end of the game.
Left tackle Scott Winnewisser, who had already been banged up, fell to the ground while jogging off the field during a third-quarter lightning delay and did not return to the game.
That left senior right guard Will Mitchell as the lone first-team offensive lineman still playing.
And none of that includes injuries to receivers Eric Gardley, who did not travel this week, and Ryan Taylor, who did.
“They’re kind of piling up,” Francis said, “but we got backups. People are stepping in, doing their part. So, it’s working out for us.
“I’m about 85-90 percent, but it’s getting better every day. I’m looking forward to next week already.”
The Mustangs travel to Fresno State this week in what is perhaps paradoxically both the easiest and toughest road trip of this current five-game stretch.
The 150-mile drive is the shortest. The opponent is the most talented they’ll face.
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
When Cal Poly quarterback Andre Broadous broke free for his 39-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, it appeared as if he might get taken down for a loss.
Broadous, a sophomore making his first collegiate start, used his legs to scramble to the left sideline for a gain.
A tenacious downfield block on a McNeese State defensive back is what allowed Broadous to turn that gain into a score as Mustangs running back Mark Rodgers cleared the way. Rodgers, a West Virginia transfer in his first season with Cal Poly, had charged himself with becoming a better blocker.
It’s the reason he gave himself a “C” grade following a standout season-opening game against Humboldt State, prior to which he had not practiced for much more than a couple weeks after joining the team late.
That improvement seems to have taken place — pending a video review.
“I didn’t know who it was,” Broadous said. “It was a big-time block. I was just hoping he’d put a body on him, and he did. I told Mark Rodgers good block, and he accepted it, so, I’m guessing it was him. If it wasn’t, then he just took credit for it.
“But I’ll see him on film and tell him again it was a great block.”
PINING FOR GOLD
Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh came up with the idea to change Cal Poly’s road uniform in an attempt to help reverse the mojo of the program’s eight-game road losing streak going into Saturday and earn him his first road victory with the Mustangs.
Cal Poly ended up ditching the white and green road pants to instead pair its matching white and green road jersey with the Mustangs’ solid gold home pants.
But the idea had to pass through several channels first.
First, Walsh said he pitched it to his assistant coaches. Then he approached the team captains. Players these days, Walsh said, are very particular about their on-field fashion.
Spearheaded by cornerback Asa Jackson, players laid the combinations of clothes out flat, modeled for photographs and circulated pictures amongst the team to gain a popular consensus.
Though there may be psychological correlations to looking good and feeling good, there really was little difference between the actual fabrics.
“Our gold pants are a little bit looser than our white pants,” Broadous said, “but I didn’t really care which pants it was. I was just trying to stay focused on getting my reads down, getting my checks down and getting everybody involved.”