San Luis Obispo finally saw what it was missing without Andre Broadous and what had been missing from the Cal Poly football team’s offense.
The junior quarterback showed what he could do both running and passing the ball in his first start in Alex G. Spanos Stadium, and in a departure from the Mustangs’ first two games — both losing efforts — they passed for 233 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-14 victory over South Dakota State on Saturday.
The effort was bolstered by two interception returns for touchdowns, including one Asa Jackson brought out a few yards deep in the Jackrabbits’ end zone, and a defense that finally put some pressure on the opposing quarterback.
One of the bigger oddities entering the season was that Broadous had yet to start a home game. He played mop-up duty in a big win over Sacramento State in 2009 but missed out on several other chances to start at home because of injury.
Coming into the game, Broadous had started six games on the road dating back to last season, and his talents could only be witnessed from San Luis Obispo via television, streaming video or radio.
On Saturday, a standing-room-only crowd that stopped being counted after reaching an official sellout (11,075) watched Broadous account for four total touchdowns.
“I try to tell everybody that he’s an exciting player, and nobody wants to listen to me,” Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said. “If you weren’t excited with what he did today, I’d pay money to come watch him play, I’ll tell you that much. And I get to watch him play for free every day. I’d still pay to watch him play.”
Broadous hit senior Jarred Houston in the back of the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring in the first quarter, then made a 23-yard touchdown run on a rollout to the right that allowed him to cut back left and sprint to the end zone.
Broadous later hit running back Mark Rodgers wide open over the middle for a 69-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter and opened the third quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run that gave the Mustangs a 34-7 lead.
Finishing 12-of-16 passing for a career-high 213 yards, Broadous also ran 13 times for 69.
Cal Poly ran the ball effectively. Former Templeton High standout Jake Romanelli had his second career 100-yard game with exactly 100 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Fullback Akaninyene Umoh ran nine times for 51 yards.
The passing was the bigger surprise after Cal Poly ran on 80 percent of its plays in last week’s 37-23 loss at Montana, and Broadous averaged only 125 yards through the air in the first two games.
“Our coach came into this game the whole week stressing he wanted to open it up,” Broadous said. “He didn’t want to get into a dive-fest like some of the games we have done before, and he opened it up. We knew as an offense if we wanted to keep opening it up, we had to do good at it.”
Fans were similarly calling for more variety in the offense, but in actuality, it came because of the way South Dakota State was defending the base triple option.
The Jackrabbits seemed determined not to let the Mustangs beat them with runs to the outside. South Dakota State zeroed in on Rodgers, who averaged only 2 yards on eight carries.
It didn’t help Cal Poly’s perimeter game when junior slotback Deonte Williams was lost with a dislocated elbow. Williams is expected to be out for next week’s game at Northern Illinois and possibly the ensuing bye week.
But the Jackrabbits’ attention on the outside opened the middle up for the fullback, for Broadous’ cutbacks and for some big passing gains.
“They did a great job against the triple option,” Walsh said. “It’s just fortunate now that we have other things we can go to. That really did cause them some problems.
“The biggest thing we did was eliminated big plays and made big plays on the defensive side of the ball. Obviously, Asa’s interception return, Nick Dzubnar’s and Bijon Samoodi’s.”
After going sackless and without forcing a turnover in its first two games, Cal Poly tallied five sacks and three interceptions. Samoodi returned his interception 46 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Dzubnar had a 10-yard return on a fourth-quarter interception.
South Dakota State passed for 407 yards and two touchdowns as the Jackrabbits tried to claw back into the game, but the Mustangs held them to only 5 of 14 on third-down conversions.
It was an all-around effort that the entire team took pride in.
“It’s nice to go back into the locker room and see everybody smiling and happy after a win,” Jackson said.