For the Cal Poly football team, the success of its newly renovated no-huddle offense relies on more than just quarterback Andre Broadous. With a new ream of pages added to the playbook based on quick decisions and a fast tempo, the success of the new offense will depend on the men up front — now more than ever.
“What the linemen need to realize is that their conditioning is going to make it work,” head coach Tim Walsh said. “It’s going to help us or hurt us.”
That’s why for Walsh, the emphasis of full-contact scrimmage Saturday at Alex G. Spanos Stadium was one thing — seeing if his linemen could sustain a long-winded drive without coming up gasping for air.
“Even if you are a fifth-year senior, you haven’t had to work as an offensive lineman like this. And a lot of the things we are asking them to do is different,” Walsh said. “That’s part of the nature of making the transition to what we were to where we are.”
On the stat sheet, the Mustangs answered the challenge. With a team-effort up front, the Mustangs amassed 468 yards of total offense and, more specifically, 302 yards and three touchdowns through the air.
“We moved the ball well,” Broadous said. “I think we just kinda wanted to establish our offense and get the fast tempo going. As time went on, we started opening it up a little more. People got their feet wet and I think it really helped our passing game.”
Broadous, who went 6 for 8 for 37 yards, said the lineman have come a long way this offseason. He remembers in April’s spring game seeing guys bent over with hands on their hips, out of breath.
That wasn’t the case Saturday.
“Today, they felt good,” Broadous said. “I mean we have obviously been working on it in the summer, so they’re getting used to the fast tempo. If we keep doing it for the next two weeks, hopefully we’ll be in tip-top shape.”
Scott Winnewisser says the line is already there. With all five expected starters up having starting experience, he said most of the players on the line were able to keep up with the no-huddle scheme.
“We were running at the refs’ pace,” Winnewisser said. “We were running as fast as he could get the ball on the line. We seemed to have our wind under us pretty much the whole time. I didn’t see too many guys complaining.”
That’s because of all the conditioning drills the Mustangs have been doing in practice, Winnewisser said. The Mustangs are working twice as hard at the Upper Sports Complex as they would in a game situation.
“Our coach is doing a great job, after every practice we’re doing a lot of running. If we screw up, we’re doing extra running,” Winnewisser said. “All practice our tempo is double our speed in games. We’re going at like lightspeed.”
It’s showing. In the scrimmage, the line gave second-string quarterback Doug Shumway enough time to go 5 for 9 with 45 yards and an interception. They helped the Mustangs on the ground as well, letting Shumway strike paydirt on 40-yard touchdown run.
The Mustangs also got help through the air from some unfamiliar faces. Slotback David Mahr lined up under center on two drives and went 3 for 3, one completion being a 67-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman wide receiver Chris Nicholls up the sideline.
Freshman quarterback Chris Brown finished 4 for 5 with 79 yards and a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Josh Swaney.
Even running back Mark Rodgers got into the action. He took a pitch, rolled right and threw a 35-yard touchdown strike to a wide-open Nicholls. But despite the Mustangs’ successful air raid, Walsh still saw a few flaws in the effort his players put forth in the trenches. However those are problems Walsh expects the Mustangs to iron out before they open the season at San Diego State on Sept. 3.
“Well, I thought they played well, but we had one holding penalty that I thought was a tired penalty,” Walsh said. “There were a lot of good things. Do I think we are in shape to play a game? Probably not. But hopefully in two weeks we will be.”