Mark Rodgers wasn’t quite ready to give himself an A grade after No. 25 Cal Poly’s season-opening 23-17 win over Division II Humboldt State on Saturday.
But he was getting high marks from the Great West Conference on Sunday.
Rodgers, who rushed for 105 yards on 14 carries and scored two touchdowns in his first game as a Mustang since transferring from West Virginia, was the conference’s offensive player of the week.
Rodgers accounted for a third of Cal Poly’s yards from scrimmage and added a 49-yard kickoff return before the Lumberjacks began avoiding him.
Without the 5-8, 180-pound junior, the Mustangs might be reeling from an embarrassing upset loss, but he’s positive his performances can get even better and graded himself accordingly.
“Probably a ‘C’ because I wasn’t blocking as well,” Rodgers said. “Touchdowns are touchdowns. They’re going to come, but my blocking wasn’t as good.”
Rodgers’ blocking might not have been ideal, but he did execute a cut block in the open field that sprang fellow running back David Mahr for a 9-yard run on an option pitch in the second half.
Rodgers missed almost the first two weeks of training camp while gaining his academic eligibility and had to play catch-up while learning the offense for the first time.
Senior quarterback Tony Smith appreciated having Rodgers on the field.
“The guy had a couple of scores. He had some big plays. He played great,” Smith said. “It’s exciting that he was able to pick up the offense so well and so early so that we could get him in the game.”
Major announcement due Tuesday
Cal Poly interim president Robert Glidden told ESPN Radio 1280 during halftime of Saturday’s game that the university would be making a major announcement regarding the football program at Alex G. Spanos Stadium on Tuesday.
Mustangs athletic director Alison Cone acknowledged the announcement Sunday but could not confirm details.
Cal Poly is one of many schools rumored to change its conference affiliation and to possibly change subdivisions.
The Western Athletic Conference, a Football Bowl Subdivision conference, announced it had put together a search committee to identify potential members this past week. The commissioner of the Big Sky Conference, a 10-team Football Championship Subdivision conference, said in early August it would be open to expansion.
Cone did say that she has met formally with Glidden about conference realignment in the past month.
Broadous was not warming up
Smith got the start at quarterback after battling all offseason with sophomore Andre Broadous for the job.
Broadous, who practiced only lightly this week, was held out by coaches who feared he might re-injure the ankle he sprained in a scrimmage two weeks ago.
While Smith led three drives that resulted in turnovers, including a fumbled end around that ended up as a touchdown for Humboldt State, Broadous could be seen loosening up his legs on the sideline.
It might have looked like he was readying to enter the game, but there was no chance.
Walsh, however, did say definitively that Broadous would have played had he been 100 percent.
Doug Shumway ended up taking a knee on the game’s final possession after Smith left the game with a head injury.
“Tony and Andre both would have played, but we went into the game saying it was Tony and then it was going to be Doug,” Walsh said, “Keep Andre out and we were going to keep him healthy regardless of what happened.”
“He’ll be ready next week, and we are going to need him, and that’s the honesty of the situation.”
Smith said after the game that his head injury, sustained when a hard tackle knocked off his helmet, was not serious.
West was wide left once
Senior kicker and former Atascadero High standout Jake West is in his own position battle with highly touted freshman James Langford.
Saturday, West handled placekicking duties while Langford did kickoffs.
West was a perfect 3 for 3 on PATs, but missed a 33-yard field goal wide left that would have tied the score at 10 midway through the second quarter.
Walsh has said that the team is only planning to travel with one placekicker. Next week’s home game against No. 2 Montana could determine whether it’s West or Langford, who booted the opening kickoff 4 yards deep in the end zone but could not replicate the feat on his other three.
Romanelli gets respect
After a very stagnant first half against Humboldt State, the Cal Poly offense got rolling in the second half. Lumberjacks head coach Rob Smith gave much of the credit to junior fullback and former Templeton High standout Jake Romanelli, who had 81 yards on 12 carries and might have opened things up on the outside for Rodgers and Tony Smith, who gave the Mustangs the lead for good with a 48-yard run in the third quarter.
“That fullback’s a tough runner. He really is,” Rob Smith said. “And he sits there in that stance and you know he’s going here or there, and they almost say ‘We dare you to stop us.’
“Then they can sit there and pound and pound and pound. And pretty soon, they’ve got one around the edge or up the middle or the quarterback takes one.”