Cal Poly

Matchup to watch: Tu’uta Inoke vs. Manusamoa Luuga

UC Davis junior running back Manusamoa Luuga.
UC Davis junior running back Manusamoa Luuga. Davis Enterprise

If there’s been one constant within the UC Davis football team’s offense this season, it’s the steady play of junior running back Manusamoa Luuga.

While the Aggies enter Saturday’s 2 p.m. matchup against Cal Poly as one of the more statistically anemic offenses in the Big Sky Conference, Luuga has proven to be a bright spot. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound junior from Long Beach is the only player in the conference to lead his team in both rushing yards and receptions.

In nine games, Luuga has rushed for 413 yards with four touchdowns and caught 42 passes — nearly as many as the entire Cal Poly team combined (50). Yet UC Davis averages less than 20 points per game and hasn’t scored a touchdown since its Oct. 17 loss to Northern Colorado.

“It should be a physical game,” Cal Poly senior linebacker Tu’uta Inoke said. “I know they’re going to come out running the ball and we’re going to come out running the ball as well. It’s going to come down to a defensive game at the end of it.”

After sitting out against Southern Utah two weeks ago because of an injury, Inoke returned to the starting lineup during the Mustangs’ 36-14 victory over Sacramento State last week. He made a team-high 10 tackles and played a leading role in limiting the Hornets to 35 net yards rushing.

It was the fourth time in eight games Inoke has recorded double-digit tackles, including a career-high 16 tackles in the season opener against Montana. The 6-2, 248-pound Sacramento native also made 11 stops at Montana State and 10 more against Eastern Washington.

Cal Poly’s rush defense has been the strength of its defense for most of the season. The Mustangs allow fewer than 163 yards rushing per contest, which ranks in the upper third of the Big Sky Conference.

Although Luuga has played well, UC Davis averages a conference-low 113.2 yards per game on the ground.