Pretty much, all the home crowd at Alex G. Spanos Stadium has ever seen Andre Broadous do is stretch his legs on the sideline.
And after five weeks of road games in which the sophomore quarterback worked his way to the top of the Cal Poly football depth chart, Broadous might go back to being a non-game attraction when the No. 23 Mustangs (4-3, 0-1 Great West Conference) finally play in San Luis Obispo again today.
Broadous was sacked hard in Cal Poly’s final play from scrimmage in a 20-7 loss at Southern Utah last week, had to be helped up by teammates afterward and had his throwing shoulder wrapped in ice during postgame interviews.
The joint remains painful, and Mustangs coach Tim Walsh said the starting quarterback will be a game-time decision against North Dakota (2-4, 0-2 Great West).
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Depending on how Broadous feels while throwing the ball in pregame warmups, Tony Smith could start his first game in six weeks.
“We’re not going to play him just because he’s Andre Broadous,” Walsh said. “If he’s only 75 or 80 percent, he’s not Andre Broadous. If he was the quarterback who was head and shoulders beyond everyone we had, it would be different.”
After an offseason position battle, Smith began the season as the starter when Broadous went down with an ankle injury in a preseason scrimmage.
Smith, a fifth-year senior who started every game in 2009, subsequently suffered head and neck injuries in the first two games, and when it appeared coaches would turn to a backup, Broadous was seen on the sideline stretching and testing his ankle.
It was all a mirage. Third-stringer Doug Shumway got the call, playing the last two drives against Humboldt State in the season opener and leading Cal Poly to an upset the following week over then-No. 1 Montana, who the Mustangs had never beaten in the regular season.
Two weeks into the three-game road swing, Broadous was finally healthy and helped lead the Mustangs to wins at McNeese State and Old Dominion, providing an upgraded running threat under center in the Mustangs’ triple-option offense.
Since taking over, Broadous has claimed ownership of the position. In his past three games against Football Championship Subdivison opponents, he averaged 163 passing yards and 64 rushing yards per game.
He’s completed 64 percent of his passes and has a 4-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Smith, who Walsh said took the majority of the snaps in practice this week, has one passing touchdown, one interception and has completed 50 percent of his passes in limited action for an 86.6 efficiency rating this season.
Walsh said Broadous is not in jeopardy of missing an extended period of time.
“It’s a day-to-day deal,” Walsh said. “It’s not an injury that could ever be damaging to him, let’s put it that way. It’s totally a pain-tolerance deal, and when I say pain tolerance, I mean, to throw a football the way you’re supposed to do it.”
But Broadous could be out at an inopportune time for the Mustangs, who need to win their final four games of the season to become playoff eligible and already trail Southern Utah by two victories in the conference race.
By all accounts, practices were peppier this week, with players knowing there would be no day-long travel trip at the end of it for the first time in more than a month.
“Traveling’s not an excuse for the way that we played a couple of the games on the road,” junior cornerback Asa Jackson said, “but coming home feels real good.”
Said Walsh: “I really hope that the energy is also because of the urgency of the game. This game is a big game. We’re going to have a great crowd and all that, and we could definitely use a home-field advantage. We haven’t had one in five weeks. And I think it helped against Montana.”
With an identical record, Cal Poly was in the same position going into this same game against the Fighting Sioux last season.
The Mustangs took a 17-7 lead in the first half in Grand Forks, N.D., but North Dakota ran off 24 unanswered points in a 31-17 win to send Cal Poly’s season into a tailspin.
The Fighting Sioux limited the Mustangs to a season-low 62 yards rushing, and North Dakota quarterback Jake Landry gashed them on the ground for 92 yards and a touchdown.
Now a senior, Landry had several big runs through the heart of a defensive line that was struggling with its depth even before it lost defensive tackle James Chen for the game.
This season, Cal Poly has bolstered its front four with eight different linemen all sharing snaps. Starters, Walsh said, are playing little more than around half of the team’s defensive snaps per game.
A bigger concern to this point has been depth in the secondary. Several reserve safeties have missed time this season, and nickelback Bijon Samoodi, a part-time starter, has been in and out of the lineup all season.
Those injuries have led to true freshmen Vante Johnson and David Douglas being activated in the past two weeks. Douglas has played mostly on special teams, but Johnson appears to be a key backup if Samoodi can’t play.