Andre Broadous only got a short taste of what it’s like playing in Washington-Grizzly Stadium, but the abbreviated indoctrination to No. 15 Montana’s home field was enough to discover its formidable atmosphere.
“We’ve played in some loud places,” Cal Poly’s junior quarterback said, “but I think Montana is definitely the loudest. All my games have been away games, so hopefully the crowd noise, I’ve just gotten used to it.”
Broadous leads the Mustangs (0-1) into Missoula, Mont., today a much different player than he showed in a couple of fumble-prone snaps as an injury replacement two years ago.
Not counting some mop-up duty in the previous week’s victory over Sacramento State that season, subbing in for injured Tony Smith in a close game between ranked opponents made for a hard debut for a redshirt freshman.
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“The circumstances there were unfortunate because the crowd noise was tough,” Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said. “Secondly, he was a redshirt freshman. It was also 15 degrees with the wind-chill factor. There were a lot of things that were anti-him, and we got into a situation where I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him in if he wasn’t going to have some success.”
With Smith eventually out of the game for good with a thigh bruise, Walsh bypassed Broadous for third-team quarterback Harlan Prather for the remainder of what turned out to be a 35-23 loss after Broadous had trouble getting plays off.
“I think he’s a completely different guy now,” Walsh said. “His confidence level, his command of the offense, the command of our team, all those things, that’s who Andre Broadous is today, two years later, so I’m expecting him to have a big, big game.”
Said Broadous: “The offense trusts me. The coaches trust me now. Just getting repetitions through the years has built confidence in myself.”
Cal Poly is also doing more to tailor the offense to Broadous’ strengths, putting the scrambler in the shotgun on occasion and utilizing a hand-signal based no-huddle offense that could come in handy against the high decibel levels of Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Montana has also undergone somewhat of an offensive transformation, though the Grizzlies (0-1) were overmatched in last week’s 42-16 loss to Tennessee.
Once feared for a downhill running attack behind a massive offensive line, second-year head coach Robin Pflugrad, who overlapped coaching at Oregon during Chip Kelly’s first couple years installing his spread attack, has the Grizzlies playing more fast-paced.
The line is still monstrous. Walsh said it will be bigger than the experienced San Diego State line that paved the way for 289 yards rushing in last week’s season-opening 49-21 victory.
“I think it’s going to be the same type of battle,” Mustangs senior nose guard Erich Klemme said. “It’s definitely going to be a war inside, and that’s what you expect with Montana.”
Though the word “spread” makes some think of a wide-open passing attack, Walsh said the game will go to whichever team can run more efficiently.
“Montana wants to run the ball behind those big ol’ offensive linemen,” Walsh said. “It doesn’t mean they’re not going to come out and play-action us on the first play of the game or they’re not going to do a great job in the screen game.
“We’re going to have to be able to deal with their size and strength up front. We’re going to have to stop their run game, like they’re going to have to stop our run game and not let big plays happen in the pass game.”
Though San Diego State passed for four touchdowns last week, Cal Poly’s ultimate undoing was sophomore running back Ronnie Hillman, who had 189 yards and two scores.
That led the Mustangs to pay more attention to the line of scrimmage and forced their defensive backfield to play on its heels in the passing game.
Walsh didn’t chalk up the defensive performance against Hillman and the Aztecs completely to the fact a smaller Football Championship Subdivision team was facing a bigger Bowl Subdivision counterpart.
And he’s determined not to let a repeat episode take place against a future Big Sky Conference counterpart.
“We spent a lot of time on tackling this week,” Walsh said. “Last week, a lot of the yards were after opportunities to tackle him for 2, 3, sometimes no gain. We missed tackles at the line of scrimmage or 4 yards deep that he turned into a big run.”