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Davis, California

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Aggies leave battered and bruised after facing the Mustangs


55-38 loss to Cal Poly drops overall record to 1-9.

A high-scoring game against Cal Poly in the Battle for the Golden Horseshoe left the UC Davis football team with yet another loss, bringing their overall record to 1-9. Though the Aggies tied up the game multiple times early on, they never claimed the lead and the Mustangs broke away for a 55-38 victory.

“You talk about the words ‘Aggie pride?’ You saw it tonight,” Head Coach Ron Gould said. “They showed a grit, showed a toughness.”

A staggering number of injuries sustained by the Aggies have led to a constantly changing defensive lineup that requires players to fill in for missing teammates, four more of which were injured and taken out during the Nov. 14 game against the Mustangs. During a postgame interview, two of the three athletes were heavily taped up, and one even had an open gash on his hand and was bleeding under the bandages on his arm.

“We have wide receiver’s playing safeties, [and] safety’s playing linebackers,” sophomore safety Darryl Graham said. “We’re all smart guys, so we can all learn positions, and we’re going to give full effort no matter what position you put us at. The injuries have definitely inhibited us, but at the same time […] we’re strong, and we’re only going to get stronger once we get everybody back.”

Less than a minute into the game, Cal Poly had scored on a 56-yard touchdown play, hinting at the strong offensive game that would follow. Barely a minute later, redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Spencer hit senior wide receiver Alex Cannon with a bullet who ran it down the left side of the field for a touchdown.

It was call and response for the football team as it retaliated to Cal Poly’s aggression. UC Davis trailed the Mustangs 21-14 at the end of the first quarter, and though they were not able to get the edge during the remainder of play, the Aggies played a great offensive game. They were ultimately outscored by Cal Poly, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

A field goal by senior kicker Brady Stuart gave the Aggies three additional points, bringing them within 17 points of Cal Poly as the clock


neared the end of the third quarter. It was the Mustang’s ball when junior Manusamoa Luuga, filling in on defense, forced a fumble. Junior cornerback Patrick Wells lept on the ball for a UC Davis recovery. Soon after, Spencer shook off a defender intent on a sack and threw a touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Nolan Tooley. With less than two minutes remaining in the third, UC Davis had put themselves within striking distance, at 41-31.

Seconds into the fourth quarter, sophomore defensive end Brandon Weaver forced another fumble during a Cal Poly possession that was recovered by sophomore defensive back Darryl Graham for an Aggie ball.

Three plays later, Spencer handed the ball to Luuga — back on offense at the running back position — who ripped through the middle of the

Mustang defense for a 39-yard rush into the end zone, the longest run by UC Davis this season. Luuga brought the score up to 41-38, and suddenly the Aggies were back in the game.

“Those two fumbles back-to-back were a real momentum shift in the game,” Graham said. “Having the crowd behind us was a real big thing, and if we could have gotten one more, maybe [the game would have had] a different outcome.”

It took less than four minutes for Cal Poly to widen its lead, squashing any thoughts of a game-tying field goal from UC Davis. The Mustangs scored a touchdown near the 10-minute mark, and then again with less than three minutes remaining.

The game ended with a final score of 55-38, Cal Poly.

“The kids put it all out there, and we came up a little short tonight,” Gould said. “I want them to understand that this is a learning lesson for us […] Life isn’t fair. Life is hard, life is complicated.”

Though the showdown for the Golden Horseshoe ended in an Aggie loss, individual victories were fairly widespread for the UC Davis athletes.

Junior quarterback Ben Scott is out due to injury, and his replacement is doing a stand-up job. In his second career start, C.J. Spencer threw for 311 yards and ran for a net total of 12. He found good openings and was smart with his throws to pass for two touchdowns.

“C.J. Spencer was absolutely exceptional,” Gould said. “He was very calm, very poised — he’s very cerebral, [and] the guy is very confident. He’s learning how to be a student of the game.”

Cannon worked in harmony with Spencer for the best game of his career, with a total of 122 yards gained, six catches and a touchdown.

“After everything it took to get to this point, I just have a great appreciation for all of my teammates — all of my brothers,” Cannon said. “It was special and I still have chills coming off of the field.”

Primarily a running back for the UC Davis offense, Luuga was one of the Aggies who had stepped in to play defense due to the rampant injuries sustained by the team over the course of the season. When not helping out on defense, Luuga made two touchdowns and gained a total of 142 yards through a combination of rushes and passes.

Small lateral passes and handoffs allowed the Mustangs to divert and pierce the patchy Aggie defense, often charging straight through it for long rushing gains.

Many of these potential gains were stopped by Graham, who had a career-high 14 tackles.

“When you’re down to the last few players, you can’t go down, no matter what,” Graham said. “We’re getting banged up out there, but at the same time, we’re doing it for the people to our left and our right. So even if I get banged up, I know I’m going to push forward for those guys on the field with me because I know they would do the same.”

With one game remaining, the football team has one more chance to tie up last season’s overall record of 2-9. If the Aggies fall in the Causeway Classic game, then the team will have broken into double digits.

UC Davis last had a winning record during the 2013 season, finishing 5-3 in their conference, though 5-7 overall. It hasn’t been since the 2010 schedule that the Aggies have had a positive overall record (6-5).

The UC Davis football team will play the final game of their season against Causeway Classic rival Sacramento State on Nov. 21 at 2:30 p.m.


Written by Bryan Sykes – sports@theaggie.org


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