Teams: UC Davis vs. Cal Poly
Records: Aggies, 2-6 (0-2); Mustangs, 5-3 (3-0)
Where: Aggie Stadium
When: Saturday at 2 p.m.
Who to watch: Senior safety Patrick Shelton has made a tremendous return to the field this year.
After playing in only two games the last two seasons due to injury, Shelton is now second on the team in tackles with 33.5 on the year.
Last week at Southern Utah the Canoga Park, Calif. native had his best game of the season, leading the team with 11 tackles.
“He really wanted to make an impact this year,” Head Coach Bob Biggs said of Shelton. “Last week he played like a man possessed and that’s what we need.
“We need a safety that’s going to run downhill and make plays and sacrifice his body and be good in the open field.”
Junior captain Bobby Erskine is also happy to see Shelton making a big impact this year, but he’s not surprised.
“Everyone knew [Shelton] had that potential,” he said. “To see him doing as well as he is; he deserves all of that.”
Did you know? Cal Poly has already secured at least a share of the Great West Conference title with a perfect conference record so far this season. With a win on Saturday, the Aggies can end the Mustang’s four-game win streak and also deal a potentially fatal blow to their playoff aspirations.
Preview: Rivalries are always played on a level field.
History has repeatedly shown that in games like this Saturday’s “Battle for the Golden Horseshoe”, rankings, records and statistics do not matter.
“Anybody that’s ever competed at any level of any sport knows that rivalries bring out the best in teams,” Biggs explained. “We’re dealing with 18 to 22 year old men, so emotion plays a big part of it.”
While the intensity will be high, the Aggies still know that they must play 60 minutes of quality football to get a win against a Cal Poly team that hasn’t lost in over a month.
The Mustangs have beaten three nationally ranked (FCS) teams in the past three weeks, including Southern Utah and South Dakota — Great West teams that beat the Aggies earlier this season.
For the UC Davis offense, avoiding the slow starts that have plagued them in recent weeks will be essential.
The Aggies have scored first in only two contests this year, and have found themselves trailing at halftime in five out of eight games.
To that end, the team has switched up its practice schedule this week, moving into team-oriented drills before getting into the slower individual exercises.
“There’s been a great emphasis this week on up-tempo,” Biggs said. “We’ve got to find a way to get a jump start on the games. We’re going [to] come out with the mindset that we’re going to move the football and score points.”
The pressure of needing a strong start also falls to the defense, which was back-peddling early in last week’s contest at Southern Utah.
The Cal Poly offense will not make it easy on them.
The Mustangs rank first in the Great West in total offense and rushing offense, averaging 378.6 and 249.8 yards per game, respectively.
In the end, the Aggies’ ability to win this football game will come down to grit and determination. On paper, it’s a tough task, but don’t bother telling quarterback Randy Wright that.
“We want to blow them out and send them home,” he said. “It’s a long bus ride [back to Cal Poly].”
For Aggie fans, redshirt freshman linebacker Ryan Dimino captured it perfectly via twitter, the team’s favorite way of communicating.
“It’s Cal Poly week,” he said. “If that doesn’t pump you up I don’t know what will.”
— Caelum Shove