Still unsure whether he was going to play in Saturday’s 24-23 win over Southern Utah, Tony Smith got up earlier that morning and had his bowl of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios.
The Cal Poly quarterback hadn’t practiced much since being knocked out of the previous week’s loss at Montana, but as he finished up his breakfast and began scrubbing some dishes, he was feeling confident about playing.
That was until a glass cup he was holding shattered with a sponge and his throwing hand inside it.
A shard of glass gashed the inside of Smith’s right index finger and blood began pouring out near the knuckle.
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“This is my 11 o’clock wake-up call right here,” Mustangs coach Tim Walsh said, and it was only Walsh’s second bizarre injury call of the week.
The cut was so deep, one of the team’s athletic trainers said Smith was lucky it didn’t damage the ligament in his hand. All of a sudden, pre-game concern about Smith’s bruised thigh took a backseat.
“I was just rubbing the sponge on the inside of the cup scrubbing it clean,” Smith said. “It happened so quick, I was shocked. You think that as much as you’re going through with the leg, it was kind of a setback, but obviously, it didn’t end up hurting us in the game.”
Smith and the No. 19 Mustangs (3-3, 1-0 Great West Football Conference) held on for the one-point win when Southern Utah kicker Ryan Griffith followed up a 15-yard touchdown catch by Tysson Poots with 9 seconds left by missing the extra point.
On Sunday, Mustangs defensive end Ryan Shotwell was named Great West defensive player of the week after he tied a career high with three sacks, had five solo tackles, forced a fumble, broke up a pass and hurried the quarterback twice.
Shotwell now has 17.5 career sacks, No. 9 on Cal Poly's all-time career list and moved ahead of his older brother Kyle (17.0), the 2006 Buck Buchanan Award winner and a first-year Mustangs defensive assistant coach.
Smith skipped having his wound stitched to avoid any numbing medication and finished 3 of 7 for 22 yards in a game where Walsh said he chose to forgo the passing attack to burn up the clock with the run and keep the high-powered Thunderbirds offense off the field as much as possible.
Smith also rushed five times for 39 yards and scored on a five-yard option keeper that was sprung on an outside block by running back Jon Hall, who returned after missing the past three games and most of a fourth with a meniscus tear.
The other unconventional injury call came Thursday when fullback Jordan Yocum called offensive coordinator Bryan Cook to tell him he was sitting in class and couldn’t get out of his chair.
“So we had to go get a wheelchair,” Walsh said. “Coach Cook got him, and we got him down to the hospital … They’re still running some tests on him.”
By Walsh’s accounts, Yocum was having a great week of practice, but the hematoma Yocum developed in a Sept. 19 loss at Ohio had apparently worsened.
Yocum missed one week initially with the severe bruise on his hip, but came back to rush for 162 yards in the next two games combined.
This week, Yocum was completely unavailable, and Walsh said he’s not sure when the junior will be able to return.
“I hope not much longer,” Walsh said, “but I can’t answer that question. I really don’t know.”
Former Templeton High standout Jake Romanelli ran for 108 yards and a touchdown in Yocum’s place. Hall, a former fullback, was listed as the backup but was not needed to fill in.
With more bad injury news came the return of a few hurt players. Hall ran 7 times for 29 yards and scored a 2-yard touchdown on a pitch to the outside.
Receiver Dominique Johnson, who missed most of the past two games with a partial shoulder dislocation, returned to catch two passes for 16 yards.
Romanelli was the only other Mustang with a reception after he made a 6-yard gain on fourth down to keep what turned out to be the game-winning scoring drive alive in the fourth quarter.
Cornerback Xavier Gardner also returned to the starting lineup after being replaced for the Montana game by true freshman Bijon Samoodi and had five tackles.
Smith said he’s supposed to finally get five or six stitches on his cut today but said that neither of his injuries should keep him from starting at home Saturday against Division II Dixie State (4-4).
The gashed finger didn’t really bother him at all.
“I was just worried if I get hit in the hand is it going to be gushing,” Smith said. “As far as the pain thing, it wasn’t that painful.”