Cal Poly got well-acquainted with a new college football rule in Saturday’s 41-14 win against visiting San Diego.
Mustangs quarterback Andre Broadous twice lost his helmet in the first half, forcing officials to remove him from the game for a single play each time in the season opener at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
After helmets came off an average of twice per game last season, according to an ESPN report on the new rule, the NCAA is extremely limiting the chances for helmet-less players to get hurt.
If a ball carrier’s helmet comes off, the play is dead. If anyone else’s comes off, they must stop playing or face a 15-yard penalty. The only exception is if the helmet is removed as the result of a facemask or other penalty.
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Broadous had to leave drives in the hands of a backup two separate times after his came off.
In each case, junior Vince Moraga entered and handed the ball of to a running back. The second time, after Broadous scrambled for first-down yardage on an option keeper, he met with equipment manager Steve Kracher.
Fortunately for the Mustangs, they didn’t lose Broadous for a third-down play and neither time did Broadous’ absence kill a drive.
And another thing appears to have cleared up in that Moraga beat out redshirt freshman Chris Brown for the backup quarterback role.
Zalud like salad
It was a rough offseason for the Cal Poly kicking game. First, kicker James Langford transferred to Cal. His potential replacement, redshirt freshman Stephen Pyle has been hurt in fall camp, and sophomore punter Paul Hundley was ruled ineligible to start the season.
But Arkansas State transfer Bobby Zalud stepped in capably in all aspects Saturday. Zalud — pronounced to rhyme with salad — handled all kickoff, punting and place-kicking duties.
The junior from Carlsbad hit a 26-yard field goal from the left hash to open the scoring on Cal Poly’s first drive and gave the Mustangs a 13-7 halftime lead with a 30-yarder in the second quarter.
He was perfect on PATs, kicked a touchback on the opening kickoff and unleashed a 39-yard punt that was downed at the San Diego 9-yard line.
Injury scare at corner
Another position where the Mustangs have been hit hard is cornerback.
Before fall camp started, senior Bijon Samoodi was ruled out for the season with a hip injury. Last week, news broke that former Nipomo High standout and sophomore cornerback Kevin Britt would likely miss the year with an injured back.
Another key reserve, Jordan Williams, suffered a sprained ankle in camp and has been spotted at practice on crutches.
In the first half Saturday, Cal Poly saw another corner go down when junior starter Vante Smith-Johnson was slow to get up after helping on run support.
Smith-Johnson walked off the field on his own and did not appear to be limping. He was replaced by redshirt freshman Karlton Dennis and later returned to the game, but Cal Poly definitely dodged a bullet.
With Williams questionable and Smith-Johnson on the sideline, starter Nico Molino and Dennis were the only healthy cornerbacks.
The Mustangs might get some relief when rosters expand in September, but they are likely to be thin at corner.
While Cal Poly experienced some cause for concern at cornerback, a few Mustangs safeties had immediate impactful debuts.
In his first season as a starter, sophomore Dave Douglas had three first-half tackles and recovered a fumble that Cal Poly turned into a Zalud field goal.
Junior college transfer Alex Hubbard was the other starter at safety, and redshirt junior Matt Reza came in as a third safety in passing situations.
In his Cal Poly debut, Reza, a former junior college transfer, had a diving interception to prevent San Diego from cutting into the Mustangs’ lead with less than a minute left in the second quarter.