The Cal Poly football team reached the midway point of its 15-practice spring season on a gorgeous Saturday morning at the Upper Sports Complex.
A small gathering of fans and coaches from around the area roamed the sidelines as the Mustangs closed practice with a 20-play scrimmage. That period was dominated by a defense playing without four starters.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Dano Graves, who took a big hit and fumbled earlier in the series, made sure the offense would get the last word to end a spirited practice.
Improved protection up front and two key blocks in the backfield gave Graves an opportunity to end the period on a high note as the 5-foot-10, 185-pound quarterback connected with redshirt freshman wide receiver J.J. Koski on a fade route down the right sideline for a long touchdown.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“It’s good to see us make a big play in the pass game,” head coach Tim Walsh said. “It really started with the protection up front and Malcolm Davis and Joe Protheroe making great blocks that allowed Dano to have the time to throw a good ball.”
Humphrey drops the boom
Redshirt freshman defensive back Kitu Humphrey continued to impress.
The Long Beach Poly graduate delivered arguably the most exciting play of the scrimmage. Davis caught a short pass in the flat with Humphrey in pursuit, and the 5-10, 180-pound safety slammed Davis to the turf, drawing a loud reaction from the rest of the defense.
Humphrey is projected to start at the safety spot opposite senior B.J. Nard and has drawn strong reviews from teammates and coaches since he arrived on campus last summer. Walsh said Humphrey’s biggest focus this spring is not to over think things or worry about making mistakes.
“At some point in time he’s got to just go play and understand that he’s going to make mistakes,” Walsh said, “and if he makes mistakes we’ll correct him on film.
“We don’t want to see him play tentatively, that’s just not who he is.”
Injuries pile up
With defensive-line starters Kelly Shepard and Jason Patterson already sidelined, Walsh said Cal Poly’s defense lost two more key players for at least a week.
Fifth-year senior linebackers Joseph Gigantino and Josh Letuligasenoa did not practice Saturday, and Walsh said he hopes to have them both back by the end of next week.
Redshirt freshman fullback Raven Middleton also sat out with an injury Saturday. Walsh said he and Gigantino were involved in a big collision Friday that will keep them both sidelined for a few practices.
Despite playing without those four veterans, the Mustang defense seemed to have an extra step throughout practice.
“The energy that they played with, I thought, was probably the most important thing that I saw today,” Walsh said. “We’re trying to talk about playing with passion.”