Hey, that wasn’t a fullback dive.
The Cal Poly football team came out Saturday and threw the ball. Then threw it again.
The Mustangs lined up in shotgun formations most of the time, and the triple-option offense spectators have become accustomed to seeing since former coach Rich Ellerson brought it to San Luis Obispo in 2007 was only a slice of the gameplan.
In a 41-14 season-opening victory over nonscholarship FCS program San Diego at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, the Cal Poly offense was an amnesiac who’d forgotten all about a past life in the slow lane.
“People are going to be a little bit confused,” quarterback Andre Broadous said. “A lot of the crowd was probably confused. We came out with a lot of shotgun. Normally, we come out, and first play, it’s probably going to be a dive to fullback. We came out and threw a pass play.”
Broadous accounted for four scores, running for 113 yards and two touchdowns and passed for two more on 12-of-19 passing for 135 yards, and in their fourth year, head coach Tim Walsh and offensive coordinator Bryan Cook have made the offense their own.
The yardage totals weren’t wholly unfamiliar. Cal Poly still ran more than it passed. Senior running back Deonte Williams rushed 21 times for 109 yards, and sophomore Lance Castaneda (4 catches, 60 yards) was the only Mustangs player with more than two receptions.
But the formations and play-calling forced the Toreros to respect the possibility that Cal Poly could burn them through the air.
“Coaches and defenders are going to be kind of confused about how to defend us,” Broadous said. “You can’t just focus on the triple option at practice. You have to worry about some pass plays and worry about the shotgun plays. And if we keep executing, I think it can be pretty dangerous.”
Broadous showed what he could do with a little space afforded by some respect for the pass.
He took an option keeper 56 yards for a touchdown that put Cal Poly ahead 20-7 early in the third quarter. Broadous cut through a hole in the right side of the line, juked past the last San Diego defender and outran him to the goal line.
After a Toreros touchdown drive, Broadous hit wide-open running back Akaninyene Umoh for a 7-yard touchdown pass, ran in another from 5 yards out and threw a 12-yard screen pass to Williams for the final score.
And Broadous wasn’t just wowing the crowd.
“First, honestly,” Williams said, “I just stop, and I’m like, ‘Oh, run, ’Dre, run!’ But I also try to throw a block if I can for him to spring him a little more because one block away can be a touchdown for him when he’s running.”
Broadous ran all the way into the record book last season, scoring 18 touchdowns on the ground and eclipsing a single-season school record formerly held by former Mustangs running back James Noble, who had 16 in 2005.
With his two rushing scores Saturday, Broadous is just 12 away from tying Noble’s all-time Mustangs career mark of 35 rushing scores.
Walsh said he estimates Broadous will be a 20-touchdown scorer if healthy this season. The possibility of upping scoring totals this year is not too far-fetched.
Since Walsh took over in 2009, Cal Poly has relied mainly on its fullbacks to move the ball.
Since then, the offense has remained mostly plodding, not really designed for quick scores.
One big win over a nonscholarship FCS program that kept it close for three quarters won’t dash that perception entirely, but there is reason to believe now.
“There’s a different look to it, which means the opponents have to defend different things,” Walsh said of the new-look offense. “I don’t think we were as efficient all the way through it, but I think we did some things really well.
“I think we’re going to be a balanced shotgun, under-center team, and the best is yet to come. I hope we continue to improve the shotgun.”
On defense, with only three starters back from last season, there were question marks all over the field.
After losing NFL Draft pick Asa Jackson to the Baltimore Ravens in the offseason, a completely remade secondary came up with three turnovers. Junior safeties Matt Reza and Alex Hubbard, playing their first games for Cal Poly, each had an interception, and sophomore safety Dave Douglas came up with a fumble recovery.
Junior linebacker Johnny Millard also grabbed an interception, and former Air Force transfer Chris Judge came up with the only sack of the game for either team.
The secondary did get an injury scare when junior cornerback Vante Smith-Johnson was slow to get up from a hit in the first half. His absence, along with previous season-ending injuries to cornerbacks Bijon Samoodi and Kevin Britt, severely hurt Cal Poly’s depth at corner.
After passing concussion tests, Smith-Johnson returned for the second half, and Walsh said he was OK.
Williams had an injury scare, too.
The running back was hit late after a 3-yard rush. Former Righetti High standout and PAC 7 MVP Matt Miller nailed Williams as he came to a stop on the Cal Poly sideline, and Williams came up limping and immediately sat back down.
He said it was only a cramp and returned to the game with no ill effects from the penalty to finish his best game as a Mustang.
And Williams said the team is still eager to prove it’s not the same team from years past.
“Today, we wanted to set a tone,” Williams said. “Before the game, all the team got together and said we wanted to set a tone. We’re not like the previous team. We’re the 2012 team.”