Any hopes the Aggies had of finishing their season at .500 diminished before their very eyes last on Nov. 2 in the Big Sky matchup against the Cal Poly Mustangs. After the loss, UC Davis’ season record falls to 3-7.
Despite playing on their home turf at Aggie Stadium, it was UC Davis’ three turnovers, inefficiency on third down and overall lack of execution on both offense and defense that cost them the win and led to a 34-16 victory for the Mustangs.
“[I am] thoroughly disgusted,” coach Ron Gould said. “We had some chances to make some plays, but we got some players that didn’t run the right route, didn’t get in the window and we throw a key interception.”
UC Davis has struggled offensively for most of the season, despite the remarkable play and efforts of junior running back Gabe Manzanares, who became the first Aggie to rush over 1,000 yards since Matt Massari rushed for 1,274 in 2002.
“That running back is legit,” Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh said. “He’s a great player.”
Manzanares rushed for 141 yards on 29 carries. The City College of San Francisco junior transfer now has 1,031 yards rushing this season.
“Obviously that’s an awesome achievement,” Manzanares said regarding the feat. “I [attribute] all the success to the O-line, my fullback Dalton Turay, the tight ends and the receivers blocking down field. It’s a team effort.”
UC Davis performed well in the first half, holding Cal Poly to zero yards passing, leading possession time, and tying the game 13-13 at the half on a 16-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Randy Wright to senior tight end Taylor Sloat.
However, the Aggies struggled to contain the Mustang running attack in the second half, which had accumulated 221 yards rushing by intermission.
It was the Mustangs’ triple-option, successfully run by substitute quarterback Chris Brown, which frustrated the Aggie defense. The sophomore Mustang ran in three touchdowns and rushed for 195 yards.
Regardless of Brown’s efforts, UC Davis was still in the game and only trailed 20-16 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
That was until Cal Poly safety Alex Hubbard intercepted a pass and ran the ball 29 yards to the Aggies’ 32-yard line. The Mustangs capitalized on the play, finishing a nine-play drive with a five-yard rushing touchdown from Brown with less than six minutes left in the game.
To add insult to injury, the Mustangs recovered a Manzanares fumble on what appeared to be the Aggies’ last chance to stay in the game. CP advanced 43 yards in eight plays, and ended the possession with yet another Brown 5-yard rushing TD.
UC Davis was outscored 21-3 in the second half.
“I wish we could go back and play it all over again,” said senior linebacker Steven Pitts. “It all came down to executing.”
UC Davis has a bye this weekend and will face North Dakota on Nov. 16.