The Cal Poly defense nearly did something it hadn’t accomplished all season in the first half of the Mustangs’ 22-21 loss to UC Davis on Saturday.
When Aggies kicker Sean Kelley hit a 39-yard field goal, it snapped the first-half shutout Cal Poly had going with just 1:14 left to go before the half.
Allowing 25.8 points per game, the Mustangs haven’t held an opponent scoreless in the first two quarters all season, but after giving up just six first downs to the Aggies in the first half, Cal Poly was on track to make it happen.
UC Davis quarterback Randy Wright completed just half of his 16 pass attempts for 101 first-half yards, and the Aggies had a total of minus-4 rushing yards thanks to three sacks.
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Safety Scottie Cordier and cornerback Bijon Samoodi combined for one on a blitz. Gavin Cooper and Max Shultz came together to rack up another one, and senior linebacker Marty Mohamed had a solo sack.
Missing safety Greg Francis for the second straight week, the Cal Poly secondary was one of the biggest question marks against UC Davis and leading receiver Sean Creadick, who came into the game with four straight 100-yard receiving games.
But the pressure forced Wright into some inaccurate passes, and Francis’ replacement — redshirt freshman safety Xavier Ramos — almost came up with his first career interception, instead settling for a pass break-up in the second quarter.
AN IDEAL OPTION DRIVE
Cal Poly probably hasn’t had a more ideal drive for its triple-option offense all season than it did on the Mustangs’ first possession.
After UC Davis opened the game with a three-and-out and punted, Cal Poly took over and promptly marched the most methodical 82 yards of the year.
Relying mainly on a dose of fullback dives — but sprinkling in a few rushes and passes to the outside, too — the Mustangs’ option attack took 7:13 off the clock in 15 plays and capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Jake Romanelli.
Mark Rodgers caught a 10-yard pass, and Dominique Johnson caught two for 11. Rodgers also ran twice for 13 yards, and Gabriel Umoh had a 10-yard run.
Romanelli and senior fullback Jordan Yocum combined for 33 yards on seven carries.
Using deception and forcing defenses to remain assignment oriented, the triple option is designed to eat up ground in 3- to 5-yard chunks every play. In the first half alone, the Mustangs averaged 6.4 yards per snap.
First downs came fast and furious. Cal Poly had five on the first drive alone, and long gains were common on first down, leaving only short third-down conversions on the first drive.
Cal Poly was 3 for 3 converting on third down, with fullbacks picking up two up the middle.
Earlier this season, Cal Poly recognized the 50-year anniversary of the plane crash that rocked the program and the university in 1960.
This year is also the 30th anniversary of the Mustangs’ 1980 NCAA Division II national championship.
Cal Poly honored the members of the championship team in a ceremony on the field at halftime.
Former players and coaches lined up across midfield as a video showed pictures and highlights from the Mustangs’ 21-13 win over Eastern Illinois in the championship game.
The 1980 team was also there to motivate this year’s crop of Mustangs, whose playoff hopes hinged on the result of Saturday’s game.
Had Cal Poly won to go to 8-3, it would have had the necessary wins to be considered for an at-large berth to the 20-team Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. The 1980 team also went into the playoffs with an 8-3 record, before running off three straight playoff wins.