Yet another quarterback change could be in store for the Cal Poly football team.
Sophomore Air Force transfer Dano Graves, who has started the past three games, injured his upper leg in the second half of a 17-13 loss to Northern Arizona on Saturday and is in danger of missing this week’s game at rival UC Davis.
Graves did not participate in practice Tuesday, and if he is unable to rejoin the team by Thursday, Mustangs head coach Tim Walsh said, Cal Poly (3-5, 2-2 Big Sky Conference) will turn back to sophomore Chris Brown, who started three games in relief of initial starter Vince Moraga before being sidelined by a hip injury and ineffectiveness.
A junior, Moraga was lost to a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the year.
Graves “obviously needs to practice,” Walsh said. “The timing is the position, and some of the struggles we’ve had scoring points, we need the quarterbacks to practice, but we’re not going to practice him at the risk of getting him further injured, too. That’s just stupid.”
Graves said he hurt a muscle in his hamstring/groin area in the third quarter of Saturday’s loss. After getting his leg wrapped with an ace bandage, he remained in the game to finish 11-of-22 passing for 115 yards and an interception and record team highs with 18 carries for 86 yards.
“Toward the end of the fourth quarter, I was actually physically, at times, unable to run,” Graves said. “I would stumble and fall. On one of the pitches to the outside, I was actually falling over as I pitched it because I couldn’t keep my leg up.
“Adrenaline alone was helping me get through most of it.”
Graves has been the team’s leading rusher since he took over the starting role. He’s moved into second on the team with 292 rushing yards and averages 5.6 yards per carry.
Missing this game would be a significant disappointment for Graves and not just because the Mustangs and Aggies will once again be battling for the Golden Horseshoe trophy.
It would be a homecoming of sorts for Graves. It is less than an hour’s drive through Sacramento from Folsom, where Graves led his high school team to state championship in 2010, to Davis.
“There’s a lot of people that have been texting me, seeing how I’m doing and asking me if I’m going to be able to play,” Graves said, “and it’s been kind of tough not letting them know exactly when Saturday comes whether I’m going to be able to play or not.”
It’s yet another in a parade of injuries for the Mustangs. Already without Moraga and leading receiver Willie Tucker for the rest of the season, they also lost senior guard Lefi Letuligasenoa, a four-year starter, for the rest of the year.
Letuligasenoa was seen at practice with a brace on his knee. Junior slotback Kristaan Ivory, who had one carry for 3 yards against Northern Arizona, was also held out of practice.
Ivory was leading the Big Sky in rushing before he injured his ankle in an overtime loss at Montana two weeks ago. He was among the many without pads watching from the sidelines at the Sports Complex.
Ivory missed all of practice last week before attempting to play in the game. He could make a similar attempt against the Aggies in Davis this week, but the quarterback situation is probably a different story.
Walsh guessed Graves could probably play hurt once again, “but we’d like him to play at 100 percent or as close to 100 percent as possible, and if he can’t, we’ll play somebody else, and Chris is probably going to get the first chance.”
Redshirt freshman Tanner Trosin, another former Folsom High star, would get the second.
Brown was 1-2 as a starter with losses at Colorado State and at home to Yale wrapped around a stirring comeback victory at Portland State.
He sparkled in the second half of a loss at Fresno State after Moraga went down and still leads the team with 539 passing yards and four touchdowns to go with 269 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
Before losing the job, Brown, who completed 57 percent of his passes and had a 123.4 pass efficiency rating, was criticized for ball security. He threw three interceptions and his propensity for late pitches resulted in some costly fumbles.
Brown has spent much of the time since his last start nursing his injury and watching from the sideline as it’s healed. He returned to practice as an active participant last week and was the primary backup for the loss to Northern Arizona.
“From a confidence standpoint,” Walsh said, “stepping away and not being that guy probably has been good for him to watch and continue to learn because he’s playing a lot more crisper than he did at the end of his opportunity early in the year.”