The first play of the second quarter against San Jose State started out like any other for the Rainbow Warrior football team.
Quarterback Dru Brown snapped the ball, surveyed his options and found his go-to receiver, John Ursua, crossing the middle of the field. Up until that play, it was a normal sight to see a Brown-Ursua connection result in Ursua evading defenders to break into the open field.
And for a brief moment, it looked as if Ursua would break free to the sideline for a big play. But after gaining 14 yards on the play, Ursua went down, clutching his right knee.
In an instant, the air was taken out of Aloha Stadium.
When it was revealed last week that Ursua tore his ACL, there was only one direction the Warriors could go: Forward.
“(We) expect somebody else to make plays for us. We’re not going to change the whole offense because of John,” said Warriors head coach Nick Rolovich earlier this week after practice. “He was a very good player for us and I think he’ll continue to be when he gets healthy, but right now, it’s an opportunity for somebody else.”
The next man up mantra is not unfamiliar to the Warriors, who have grown accustomed to changing lineups due to injuries or disciplinary problems.
But losing a wide receiver like Ursua, who was in the upper echelon of receivers this season in college football in terms of receptions, receiving yards per game and total receiving yards, won’t be easy to replace. Fortunately, the ‘Bows feel that they have enough talent on their depth chart to make up for the loss of Ursua’s production.
“We have guys like Keelan (Ewaliko),” Brown said. “Keelan almost broke like a 60-yard touchdown, we got Marcus (Armstrong-Brown) who’s making plays, we got Dylan (Collie) who’s always making plays, so I think maybe you won’t see as much like explosive, just catch and run plays, but I think our guys will be able to step up because we have plenty of playmakers.”
For Brown, losing his No. 1 target in the passing game will take some adjusting to and the bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for the Warriors after their victory over San Jose State, as they take on the San Diego State Aztecs this Saturday at home.
Practice reps are being divided and dispersed among the Warriors receiving corp, but the game plan doesn’t change because of one player.
“I don’t think it’s going to change like play calling or anything, or schematically,” Brown said. “John’s obviously a special guy, similar to Diocemy (Saint Juste); you just give him the ball in space and he can make plays.”
Running back Diocemy Saint Juste will continue to carry the load of the team’s offense, particularly in the run game.
Coming off a record-setting performance against the Spartans where he set the record for most carries in a game in program history (39), Saint Juste is willing to take on more responsibility not just carrying the ball, but also in the passing game.
Although, he believes that some of his teammates are being overlooked due to the season Ursua was having before his injury.
“John was a very spectacular player, but there’s plenty of guys behind him who can step up to produce as well, but I don’t mind the workload. I don’t,” Saint Juste said.
The Warriors will take on the Aztecs this Saturday, October 28 at Aloha Stadium. Kickoff is set for 5:15 p.m. HT.
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