DAVIS — Of all the Cal Poly football players with ties to the Sacramento area, fifth-year senior wide receiver Willie Tucker made sure local fans wouldn’t forget his performance Saturday afternoon.
Tucker starred at nearby Oak Ridge High and put on an explosive show for his family and friends attending the game. The 6-foot-3, 201-pound wide receiver caught three touchdown passes for a season-high 126 yards, helping the Mustangs secure a 55-38 win against rival UC Davis.
“Everyone’s 0-0 coming into this game,” Tucker said. “It’s one of those goals at the beginning of the year that everyone says, we have to win that one. It’s the No. 1 goal.”
When UC Davis came to San Luis Obispo and knocked Cal Poly out of the FCS playoff picture last fall, Tucker could only watch from the sideline as he continued to recover from a knee injury.
Since returning to form for his final season in a Mustang uniform, Tucker has led Cal Poly with 13 receptions for 315 yards and six touchdowns.
During his 42-game career, Tucker has tallied 1,409 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns. He’s had big games before, to be sure, but Saturday’s win was particularly significant for the El Dorado Hills native.
“Couldn’t ask for anything better than that,” Tucker said. “I was blessed.”
Opportunity knocks for reserve running back
Redshirt freshman running back Malcolm Davis was given the most carries of his young career Saturday afternoon and he took advantage of it.
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Chicago native, who earned scout team offensive player of the year honors last fall, scored the first touchdown of his career on a 15-yard run late in the second quarter.
Davis, who has been competing with fellow redshirt freshman Alex Suchesk for reserve reps this season, finished the game with career highs of 25 yards on four carries. Entering Saturday’s contest, Davis had four carries on the year, the last one coming back on Oct. 10 at Eastern Washington.
Eleven Mustangs had at least one rush, and only Chris Brown (17 carries, 155 yards) and Joe Protheroe (12 carries, 75 yards) were given double-digit carries.
“It was a physical game like we knew it would be,” head coach Tim Walsh said. “We came out and responded and played as hard as we could with whoever was healthy enough to play.”
North Dakota next up for Cal Poly
When North Dakota visits Alex G. Spanos Stadium next Saturday in the final game of the regular season for both teams, two of the Big Sky Conference’s strongest units will line up opposite one another.
Cal Poly will likely cement its status as the No. 1-ranked rushing team in the FCS for the third consecutive season. To do so, the Mustangs will have to go through North Dakota and its Big Sky-leading defensive front that allows less than 94 yards rushing per game.
North Dakota true freshman running back John Santiago leads the conference and ranks fourth nationally with 1,342 yards rushing and has scored 11 touchdowns. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Santiago contributed 180 yards and two touchdowns in North Dakota’s 45-14 rout of Northern Colorado on Saturday.
“They defended the option and defended it well in the past,” Walsh said. “We’ll have our hands full next week.”