By David Coulson
Executive Editor/Managing Partner
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Ca. — Sometime during the second half of Saturday night's classic NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision encounter where Cal Poly beat No. 1-ranked Montana 35-33, I received an inspired message on my computer from, of all sources, a Delaware alumnus.
"This Doug Shumway kid reminds me of Ricky Santos," the Blue Hen fan moaned.
For those among you who are not FCS historians, my friend was referring to a 2004 season-opening game when Santos, a redshirt freshman who had been the fifth-string quarterback at New Hampshire that spring, replaced an injured Mike Granieri at quarterback and led the Wildcats to a stunning victory over top-ranked and defending national champion Delaware in his first college game.
Santos went on to become one of the greatest passers in FCS history, finishing as the runner-up for the Walter Payton Award in 2005 and the winner of the honor in 2006.
No one knows yet how Shumway's history will play out, but this baby-faced assassin had a similar start to his career on Saturday. He completed all three of his passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns and added 22 yards on the ground to engineer Cal Poly's first win over a No. 1-ranked team.
The Mustangs were unranked in the AGS and Sports Network polls and were just 25th in the Coaches poll.
"It kind of hit me when the game was over," Shumway said of his accomplishment.
Shumway's game action as a redshirt sophomore had previously consisted of running five plays at quarterback during the end of last week's season-opening 23-17 victory over Division II Humbolt State and taking a few snaps as a place holder.
He also had completed 4-of-8 passes for 16 yards in the 2010 Cal Poly spring game.
That's not exactly the resume you would want for a quarterback battling the two-time national runner-up, Montana (1-1).
But Shumway was forced into action when backup quarterback Andre Broadous suffered a sprained ankle in practice and starter Tony Smith (6-of-12 passing, 50 yards, 13 carries, 40 yards, one TD rushing) was sidelined during the game after a shot to the head by Montana cornerback Jimmy Wilson with just over nine minutes left in the second quarter.
"We should have taken Tony out of the game after that hit," said Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh, "but he is such a competitor, he wanted to stay in the game."
After Smith experienced a few shaky moments in the third quarter, coaches and team doctors decided to pull the plug on the senior's night.
Walsh said Smith was suffering from a head or neck injury.
It was time for Shumway.
"Someday Shumway is his nickname," Walsh said. "We've always said he is one of the best athletes on the team. He certainly took advantage of his opportunity."
With 3:05 remaining in the third period and Montana ahead 20-14, Shumway entered the game. On his third play, a second and eight situation, the rookie caught the Grizzly safeties cheating up on the option and fired his first pass, a high-arching, deep ball to slotback David Mahr.
Mahr ran under the ball in the middle of the field, caught it in stride and angled toward the corner of the end zone, looking back and starring down a Montana defender as he slowed and finally jogged the final 10 yards across the goal line.
James Langford's extra point gave Cal Poly a 21-20 lead with 1:44 left on the third-quarter clock and the Mustangs never trailed again.
"You come in and make a play like that and you tell yourself you are capable of doing this," Shumway said of that confidence-building pass. "It's hard to prepare for the game when you know you are not the guy, but I try to prepare as much as I can every week."
On the next play from scrimmage, safety Scottie Cordier read a pass from Montana's Andrew Selle (13-of-23 passing, 187 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions), picked it off and wiggled his way 45 yards through traffic for another score and a 28-20 Cal Poly advantage.
Shumway wasn't done yet and another perfectly placed throw to Domonique Johnson resulted into a 25-yard touchdown at the goal line flag. In a battle of two All-Americans, Montana cornerback Trumaine Johnson pushed Domonique to the ground for pass interference before the ball arrived, but it didn't prevent Domonique from hauling it in for a touchdown that made it 35-20 at the 10:40 mark of the fourth quarter.
Montana appeared on death's doorstep during its next drive when a false start left the Grizzlies with a third-and-15 situation from its own 19. But after Cal Poly was forced to take a time-out with just 10 men on the field, Justin Roper made a brilliant completion to Antwon Moutra for 21 yards and a huge first down.
Roper (18-of-26 passing, 229 yards, two TDs and one interception) then scampered 14 yards for another first down to get the Grizzlies into Cal Poly territory and it took just five more plays for them to find the end zone on Roper's five-yard, touchdown hook-up to Chase Reynolds (10 carries, 32 yards, one rushing TD).
Even super heroes have their Kriptonite moments and Shumway's occurred on the next Mustang possession when he was sacked by Tyler Hobbs, lost the ball and watched Montana's Bryan Waldhauser recover at the Mustang 13.
Hobbs appeared to grab Shumway's face mask on the play and referee Jim Farmer seemed to reach for his penalty flag, but didn't pull it out of his pocket.
Cal Poly almost got out of that trouble without a touchdown being scored, but on third and 16 from the 19, Roper came through in the clutch again, hitting Sam Gratton for a touchdown to make it a two-point game with 5:34 left.
But Roper's two-point conversion pass to Jabin Sambrano (eight catches, 158 yards, one TD for 72 yards) sailed out of the back of the end zone.
The Grizzlies would have two more chances on offense, but the Mustang defense stopped both of them with turnovers.
Kyle Murphy batted the ball out of Roper's right hand and pounced on the ball at the Montana 35 with 1:55 left. After a 28-yard pooch punt by Chris Pinto to the Grizzly two, the Cal Poly defense made things tough again and Roper's final pass from the Montana 26 was intercepted by Marty Mohammed (game-high 15 tackles, one quarterback hurry) to kill the top-ranked team's final hope.
Facing a five-game road swing that takes them to Texas State, McNeese State, Fresno State, Old Dominion and Southern Utah, it's too early to predict what Cal Poly's fate will be this season, just as it is hard to figure out Shumway's future.
"It's hard to do it tonight, but at some point, we're going to have to put (the Montana win) in perspective," Walsh said. "But it would have been tough to head into the next five weeks if we had lost to Montana."