When the Cal Poly football team arrived in San Luis Obispo from its 38-34 road victory over Portland State last Thursday, the Mustangs received the next closest thing to a police escort.
Senior slotback Cole Stanford, who did not make the trip to Portland because of injury, led two team buses onto campus in his own car, twirling red and blue cups out of the sunroof to mimic law enforcement lights.
It was one way Stanford could stay involved with the team during a season in which his role has been much more limited than expected.
Since spraining his ankle in training camp, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound back has been hampered with leg injuries.
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His practice time was lessened as his ankle recovered leading up to the Aug. 31 season opener against San Diego. He played through that recovery against the Toreros and into the following week’s game at Fresno State, where he limped off the field in the fourth quarter.
After spending much of the week wrapped in ice, again Stanford limped off the field the next week at Colorado State and in the second half was relegated to the sideline with ice taped to his right calf, an ache that lasted through the bye week and kept him off the plane to Portland.
“He’s played hurt the entire season,” Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said. “We have a term for Cole: He’s stupid tough, and we had to learn that.
“He’s going to tell you he’s good even though he’s not good. And then you watch him, and somehow, he can push himself through it to make it look like he’s good. But he’s playing though a lot of pain, which we know now. So, therefore, we’re going to be smarter in how we deal with him.”
In preparation for Saturday’s 2 p.m. home game against Yale, Stanford was able to get through practice both Monday and Tuesday.
He’s only rushed five times for 11 yards and a touchdown, but Stanford is also a weapon as a blocker and a receiver.
Though he has yet to play fully healthy and has missed an entire game, Stanford still accounts for a chunk of Cal Poly’s passing game. Second to team leader Willie Tucker in receiving yardage, yards per catch and per game, Stanford has six catches for 122 yards.
Walsh was not ready to declare Stanford healthy enough to play against Yale, but the coach said he will take a day-to-day approach with the injury and that there were steady signs of improvement.
“We’ve got to be able to see him really push off and be Cole Stanford,” Walsh said. “I’d rather he be Cole Stanford for seven games than be half a Cole Stanford for one game.”
Hubbard held out for helmet hit
Senior safety Alex Hubbard is suspended for the first half of the Yale game after he was flagged and ejected for an illegal hit late in the fourth quarter of the victory over Portland State.
“It was kind of a bang-bang play,” Walsh said. “The receiver had to go low, and he went low and hit him with the top of his helmet. So, that’s the call.
“I’m totally about the safety of all individuals, so I think it doesn’t make a statement just to Alex. It makes a statement to your whole team.”
By rule of the on-field call, Hubbard will not play the first half but should return for the second half, and Walsh said he does not expect additional penalty from the Big Sky Conference.
This is the second time the former junior college transfer from College of San Mateo will sit because of an aggressive play.
Hubbard was one of four players in a single week that received one-game suspensions from the Big Sky last season. In a game at Weber State, Hubbard leveled a receiver over the middle who was looking back toward the line of scrimmage on a run play.
The two-year starter ranks third on the Mustangs with 30 tackles and has one pass breakup and one deflection on the season. Senior Matt Reza and junior Jordan Williams figure to start at the safety positions Saturday.