Cal Poly

Mustangs get fullbacks involved in the red zone

When the Cal Poly football team gets into the red zone, the Mustangs have gotten used to going to West Virginia transfer running back Mark Rodgers or seeing their quarterbacks carry the ball across the goal line.

That made it all the more surprising when Cal Poly fullbacks went on a touchdown parade in Saturday’s 41-33 win over visiting St. Francis (Pa.).

Senior fullback Jordan Yocum had a career-high three touchdowns, scoring on runs of 7, 6 and 2 yards, combining with junior fullback Jake Romanelli to score five of the No. 22-ranked Mustangs’ six touchdowns.

Romanelli had scoring runs of 4 and 5 yards to give Cal Poly (6-3) a comfortable 27-12 lead early in the third quarter. The only other Mustangs touchdown was a game-clinching 21-yard pass from Tony Smith to Dominique Johnson with 2:23 left in the fourth.

“The line played great,” Yocum said. “They were driving them off the ball. So, it was so easy. I think four of the five touchdowns Jake and I scored, we didn’t even get touched.”

Coming into the game, Yocum and Romanelli were the second and third leading rushers on the team, having combined for 672 yards, but they had only accounted for three of the team’s 24 touchdowns.

Cal Poly quarterbacks, in contrast, totaled seven rushing touchdowns, and Rodgers had scored six of his own. Against the Red Flash (1-7), the Mustangs changed it up.

“Our offensive coordinator Bryan Cook did a very good job of seeing where he could attack them, both in the run game and in the pass game,” Mustangs head coach Tim Walsh said. “The fullback thing was something that Bryan saw, and I think we made some good adjustments.”

Yocum in particular hasn’t had as many trips to the end zone in his career as one might think for a player who’s been a contributor in the backfield ever since his true freshman season.

Even after Ramses Barden was finished monopolizing Cal Poly’s scoring summary, Yocum hadn’t had many opportunities to work on a touchdown dance.

He scored only once in 2009 after ranking second on the team with 459 rushing yards, and coming into the year, he had just four career rushing touchdowns.

“Normally, it’s other guys getting in,” Romanelli said, “so, that was kind of a nice change of pace. For Jordan to have a great night like that — and it wasn’t just him scoring touchdowns, but he had a great block on one of our plays — that gets everybody fired up.”

Yocum started his Cal Poly career as a fullback, but former head coach Rich Ellerson intended to redshirt Yocum as a sophomore and convert the 6-foot, 220-pound graduate of Canyon High in Anaheim to linebacker. Romanelli, who was to be the primary backup to Jon Hall for the 2008 season, injured his ankle in the first week of training camp and Yocum’s time as a defender was short-lived.

Cal Poly ended up in the playoffs that season, and if Yocum wants to make another postseason appearance in his final year, the Mustangs will have to win their last two games and hope it’s enough to convince the Football Championship Subdivision playoff selection committee to hand them an at-large berth.

The victory over St. Francis kept Cal Poly on track, even if the slight eight-point differential over a one-win team might not impress a national audience.

“I hope that wouldn’t be a factor in the choice,” Yocum said. “Sure, we would have liked to kill them like we want to kill everybody, but a win’s a win. Basically, I’ll take it.”