HUNTSVILLE, Texas — There was a time when Cal Poly receiver Ryan Taylor was being seriously considered as the Mustangs’ quarterback of the future.
Before former Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson left for Army after the 2008 season, he said Taylor, who had just wrapped up his redshirt freshman season, could be the starter going into spring camp.
Though Taylor’s career hasn’t exactly panned out as a star quarterback, the fifth-year senior and former dual-threat passer from Oakmont High showed why he held such promise in his final collegiate game, Saturday’s 18-16 second-round FCS playoff loss at Sam Houston State.
With Cal Poly trailing by nine points with less than 2 minutes remaining, Taylor took a reverse on the left side of the field, planted and launched a picture-perfect 50-yard bomb to sophomore receiver Willie Tucker for a touchdown.
It was the biggest highlight of the game for either team and gave the Mustangs a chance to win. The ensuing onside kick was recovered by the Bearkats, who knelt to run the clock out.
The play also served as a fitting end for Taylor, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound receiver and sometimes tight end with two career catches.
Taylor epitomizes utility. Long considered a backup kicker, he has one punt to his credit and made a PAT this season.
In 2009, Taylor blocked a punt against Dixie State and recovered it for a 2-yard touchdown. He also recovered a special teams fumble against Montana that year.
Though Taylor’s role on offense has evolved mainly as a blocker, he even spent a stint as a defensive back when safety depth was iffy one spring.
Now, he’s the only Cal Poly quarterback to end his career with a perfect passer rating.
“We’ve been practicing that since the beginning of the season, waiting for the right time to make that move,” Taylor said. “Coach called it. My number was up. So, I had to make the play. Willie Tucker made a great catch. The linemen held them up perfect. I had all the time in the world to throw the ball. It was definitely a good way to end my season here and my career here. I wish we had the win, but the fellas played great.”
WILLIAMS CAN’T TRACK DOWN NOBLE
Averaging 333 rushing yards coming into Saturday’s loss, the Cal Poly offense had an overall subpar day, finishing with a season-low 224 rushing yards against the third-stingiest run defense in the FCS.
Senior running back Deonte Williams was held under 100 yards for just the second time this season, and it kept him from ascending to the top of the Mustangs’ all-time single-season rushing list.
Williams had 48 yards on 13 carries and finished the year with 1,506 yards, good for second place and 72 shy of tying James Noble’s program-record mark from 2005. That season, Noble led the Mustangs to appearances in two playoff games, playing one more contest than this year’s team.
DEFENSIVE STREAK BROKEN
Though the Sam Houston State offense was essentially stymied by the Cal Poly defense — ending up with the Bearkats gaining 141 fewer yards than their previous season low for total yardage — the Mustangs lost an impressive distinction in defeat.
Sam Houston State junior running back Tim Flanders gained 101 yards on 17 carries, breaking a streak of 18 games in which
Cal Poly hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher.
The trend dated back to the third game of last season when Northern Illinois had two players break the century mark, running back Jasmin Hopkins with 143 yards and quarterback Chandler Harnish with 118.