The first half of Cal Poly’s 28-20 win over UC Davis on Saturday was characterized by a couple of misdirection plays that either scored or directly led to touchdowns.
The Aggies struck first with a fake end-around that drew in Mustangs safety Alex Hubbard and allowed quarterback Randy Wright to throw over the top to receiver Corey Galindo.
Hubbard chased down Galindo from behind and poked the ball loose, but not before Galindo crossed the plane of the end zone for a 67-yard touchdown.
It was the longest pass of the season for UC Davis, the longest pass of Wright’s career — which includes victories over Cal Poly in each of the past two seasons — and gave the Aggies a 10-0 lead with 1:53 left in the first quarter.
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The Mustangs responded with a 51-yard touchdown run by Akaninyene Umoh on a fairly straightforward option run, but Cal Poly got creative on the drive that helped it take its first lead of the game.
On first-and-10 at the UC Davis 46-yard line, sophomore running back Kristaan Ivory took a pitch in the backfield and dropped back for a pass to senior receiver Brandon Michalkiewicz.
Ivory took a mean hit after he released the ball, a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty against the Aggies, and the play to Michalkiewicz went for 30 yards.
Three plays later, Deonte Williams ran in for a 5-yard touchdown that gave Cal Poly a 14-10 lead with less than eight minutes left in the second quarter, a lead that would hold through the half.
Zalud has first misses as a Mustang
Cal Poly’s halftime lead might have been another six points, but kicker Bobby Zalud, a transfer from Arkansas State, missed two short field goals.
After making a 51-yarder that proved to the game-winner in last week’s 24-22 victory at Wyoming, Zalud was questionable to start Saturday with back spasms.
He came out for the opening kickoff and handled every kicking and punting duty for Cal Poly in the first half, but he had his first misses in a Mustangs uniform.
Zalud had been 3 for 3 on field goals in Cal Poly’s first two games, hitting from 26, 30 and 51.
But with UC Davis leading 10-0 in the first quarter, Zalud missed wide left from the left hash on a 28-yarder and ended the half missing wide right from 30 yards.
Nicholls contributing on punt returns
Sophomore slotback Chris Nicholls has quietly put together a strong start to the season on punt returns.
Nicholls had a 22-yarder to set up the go-ahead score at Wyoming last week and came into Saturday averaging 13.3 yards on three punt returns.
Against UC Davis, Nicholls took his first return 19 yards to midfield, giving the Mustangs the field position that set up Umoh’s career-long 51-yard touchdown run.
Millard not able to start
Junior linebacker Johnny Millard suffered a knee sprain in the first half of the Wyoming game and was doubtful to start Saturday, but Millard practiced during the week and dressed for pregame warmups.
Cal Poly started Wisconsin transfer Cameron Ontko in Millard’s place.
Ontko, who had nine tackles in relief against the Cowboys, had two first-half tackles, including an assist for lost yardage and nearly came away with a diving interception.