Before taking it 81 yards for a touchdown Saturday, Kristaan Ivory had known since the previous Monday he would be getting the first carry in the Cal Poly football team’s season opener against San Diego.
“I’ve been thinking about scoring the first play,” said Ivory, who took a pitch to the left on the Mustangs’ first play from scrimmage and broke up the sideline for the opening score in a 38-16 victory over the Toreros. “I’ve dreamed about it happening so many different ways. And I was happy that it did.”
Coaches told the junior slotback that he would get the first touch at Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Then Ivory, who moved into the starting lineup after rushing for 728 yards and eight touchdowns backing up Deonte Williams last season, told his teammates well in advance that he was going to turn that first touch into a score.
“I told everybody on the team I was scoring the first play,” Ivory said. “I just felt it. It’s been looking good in practice. I felt confident with the blocking, that it was going to be there, and I knew I could do my part.”
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Said junior receiver Willie Tucker: “And he really did it. It was awesome.
“I just thought, this is a new year. Here come the 2013 Mustangs.”
After San Diego went three-and-out on its first possession, the Toreros punted away. Safety Alex Hubbard, who averaged 9.8 yards returning four punts in his first action as a return man, took the ball 13 yards to the Cal Poly 19-yard line.
Ivory, also a former track and field standout from Los Angeles Cathedral High, used a terrific block to get to the outside and outrun the San Diego defenders once he got into the open field.
“Right when I saw our receiver Chris Nicholls get a good cut block on the edge,” Ivory said, “he set the edge for me perfectly; I’m like, ‘OK, I can get it.’ ”
Ivory added a similar 61-yard touchdown run down the opposite sideline in the second half, and punched in a pivotal score from 2 yards out just before the end of the second quarter.
He finished with a career-high 185 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries.
Other Mustangs got into the big-play spirit as well. Tucker had a 75-yard catch and run but was caught at the 5-yard line and finished with a career-high seven catches for 113 yards.
And senior fullback Akaninyene Umoh had a 45-yard touchdown run down the right sideline, where he not only outpaced the Toreros defense but shed a couple tackles along the way, too.
To set up Ivory’s 2-yard touchdown, which gave the Mustangs a 17-10 lead before receiving the second-half kickoff, Cal Poly executed the 2-minute drill to near perfection.
Following a San Diego punt, the Mustangs received the ball at their own 35-yard line with 1:31 left in the second quarter.
Junior quarterback Vince Moraga, making his first career start, completed three straight passes for first downs.
Nicholls caught a 19-yarder. Tucker grabbed one for 11 yards, and Cole Stanford made a 21-yard catch to go with another reception he had for 31 yards.
Later in the drive, the Toreros were flagged for pass interference on 4th-and-1 at the San Diego 5-yard line, and Ivory punched it in with 9 seconds left before the half.
Though inconsistent at times, the Cal Poly offense showed it has some explosiveness.
“It turns the game around,” Ivory said. “It deflates the defense, takes their morale.
“That’s what we expect to be part of our offense. Everyone thinks the triple option is just 3 or 4 yards here and there, move the ball. We’re trying to be an explosive, big-play team.”