FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Cal Poly football program has lacked a go-to receiver since
losing Willie Tucker to an MCL tear in the fifth game of last season.
With Tucker still recovering from surgery and expected to miss all of this season as a redshirt as well, the Mustangs (1-3, 0-1 Big Sky Conference) were looking for one of their less-experienced receivers to grow into a key role.
Enter Jordan Hines, who shone during Saturday’s 38-35 loss to Northern Arizona.
The junior receiver and former prep track and field star had a career game, highlighted by a diving touchdown reception where he beat double coverage to make a spectacular catch.
“Coming into this week, coach Walsh challenged the receiver group and told us it was going to be on us to win our one-on-one matchups this week,” Hines said. “He put that challenge on our shoulders, so we just had to respond. That’s what I tried to come out and do, just catch everything that was coming my way.”
Hines finished with five catches and led all receivers with a career-high 117 yards. He had a 50-yard catch on the Mustangs’ first play from scrimmage. Fellow junior receiver Roland Jackson also got into the act, catching two passes for 61 yards, including a 44-yarder.
It’s becoming clear that Cal Poly’s passing game has matured since completing just two of seven passes in a 28-10 loss in the season-opener at New Mexico State. Mustangs junior quarterback Chris Brown finished 10-of-17 passing for 214 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
“We practice it all week, and we practice those tough throws and those tough catches all week,” Brown said. “I was really proud and really excited that we were able to use Roland Jackson and Jordan Hines because they’re great receivers. They block their butts off every game, and it’s good to reward them with some catches.”
Hines in particular had never come close to the kind of performance he put on against the Lumberjacks. He had only one catch for 8 yards in the first three games and more than doubles his career yardage in a single outing after coming in with 10 receptions for 116 yards.
Hines’ athleticism has always been undeniable. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder from Chula Vista Eastlake High placed fifth in the triple jump at the 2010 CIF Track and Field Championships with a personal best mark of 48 feet, 10 inches.
The accomplishment helped him become the San Diego Union Tribune’s athlete of the year and earned him track and field scholarship offers from Cal and Iowa.
He stuck with football, and in an offense that isn’t known for its passing, Hines could become the go-to guy the Mustangs are looking for.
“We put him in good positions,” Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said after the game. “The coaches had a good game plan, but he’s still got to make the plays. And I thought he made a lot of plays tonight. I’m relay proud of him because we think he can be that kind of player if he plays with that kind of confidence, but it can’t be one game. He’s got to prove he can do it on a consistent basis both in practice and on game day.
“He’s that kind of an athlete. He’s grown up. He’s matured a lot of as a player. So, I’m proud of him, and I think the best is yet to come from Jordan.”
BERRY ON THE MEND IN ARIZONA
Cal Poly redshirt freshman left guard Ross Berry suffered a fractured leg and was unable to return home on the team bus after Saturday’s game. Making his first collegiate start, the Templeton High product injured his leg early in the third quarter and was taken from the Walkup Skydome in an ambulance.
Still at a local hospital, Berry was scheduled to undergo surgery Sunday, and the team was expecting him to return to San Luis Obispo on Wednesday.
The injury will be re-evaluated after surgery, and it has not been determined how long Berry may be out.
“He was playing really well, too,” Walsh said. “It’s unfortunate for him to have the opportunity to start a game, you’re playing well and to get injured like that in that situation. I feel for him. Ross is a great kid. He’s married; he’s got a child. He’s got a lot on his plate, and he’s a great young man. He’s going to be missed in a lot of ways, but he’ll be all right eventually.”