DAVIS — Cal Poly football head coach Tim Walsh followed through on his threat to cut down on the passing game in Saturday’s 34-16 win at UC Davis.
Coming into the game, Walsh said the Mustangs’ offense needed to get back to the basics of its double-wing flexbone triple option, and the play selection backed that up in the first half against the Aggies.
Cal Poly passed just once in the first two quarters. Quarterback Chris Brown, making his first start and appearance since a 24-10 home loss to Yale four weeks ago, threw high for slotback Cole Stanford on the Mustangs’ first drive of the game, and didn’t pass again in the first half.
Instead, Cal Poly ran 33 times for 221 yards, averaging 6.7 yards per carry and racking up 13 first downs. The Mustangs’ 13 first-half points were as many as they had in all of last week’s four-point loss to Northern Arizona and just one fewer than they had in an overtime loss at Montana the previous week.
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In the first half, Brown had 11 rushes for 82 yards and a 29-yard touchdown, and Chris Nicholls added 73 yards and a 1-yard touchdown on eight carries.
It became clear early in the week that Cal Poly quarterback Dano Graves was unlikely to play with a leg injury after starting the past three games.
Graves — along with freshman receiver Cam Akins, who was also hurt in last week’s 17-13 loss to Northern Arizona — did not make the trip with the team.
Senior quarterback Kenny Johnston took Graves’ place and served as the third-string quarterback behind redshirt freshman backup Tanner Trosin.
Slotback Kristaan Ivory, also questionable to play with an ankle injury, started and ran three times for 14 yards before leaving the game for good after taking a hard hit and fumbling in the first quarter.
After the Ivory fumble, the teams traded turnovers in UC Davis territory.
The Aggies’ Nick King recovered the ball at the 41-yard line, but just two plays later, UC Davis quarterback Randy Wright threw into coverage, and Cal Poly cornerback Bijon Samoodi knocked the ball high in the air before diving to make the catch.
Samoodi would also leave the game with an injury later in the game but returned in the third quarter.
Trick plays, no treat
UC Davis ran two tricky misdirection plays in the first quarter that not only failed to catch Cal Poly off guard but also did the Mustangs a couple of favors by helping to slow down drives.
After picking up positive gains totaling 31 yards on their first three plays from scrimmage, the Aggies attemped a first-down flea-flicker pass that ended up being double covered by the Cal Poly secondary.
In spite of the drive’s successful start, UC Davis punted two plays later.
On the next drive, the Aggies drove into the red zone with ease, but on second-and-7 from the Cal Poly 10-yard line, UC Davis set up a hook-and-ladder-style screen-pass-and-pitch the Mustangs sniffed out for only a 2-yard gain.
The Aggies settled for a 30-yard field goal on an 11-play drive where they only faced one third-down situation before the sneaky play.