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Davis, California

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Aggies claim the Golden Horseshoe for fourth straight season

UC Davis handles Cal Poly in dominating fashion to move to 2-1 on the season

In a game originally scheduled for Feb. 27, the UC Davis Football team rolled through the Cal Poly Mustangs with a big 73-24 win. In the 1000th game in UC Davis history, the Aggies set school records for total points and total yards as they flexed their dominance on both sides of the football in their home opener.

“Nothing surprised me with our guys,” said Coach Dan Hawkins postgame. “We always talk all the time. It’s really about us trying to execute and do what we’re supposed to do and not worry too much about the other team.”

The end result was a big margin, but it did not start out looking that way. In the game’s first offensive play from scrimmage, UC Davis quarterback Hunter Rodrigues was sacked and subsequently fumbled. The Mustangs took over from inside the 10, and were in excellent position to strike first. After being unable to convert a touchdown in three plays, they eventually settled for a field goal and took the first lead of the game, 3-0. 

The Aggies and Rodrigues responded nicely after a 22-yard touchdown run by senior Jared Harell gave the Aggies their first lead. But on their next offensive possession, quarterback Miles Hastings came into the game and threw an interception on a ball that went through wide receiver Carson Crawford’s hands and into the Cal Poly defender as he took it back 55-yards for the touchdown. In just over seven minutes of game time, two Aggie turnovers turned into 10 Mustang points. 

As Rodrigues came back into the game as quarterback, the team needed to regroup. A nine-play drive that included all nine runs culminated in junior running back Ulonzo Gilliam’s first touchdown of the day to retake the lead. From there, the Aggies never looked back and after forcing a three and out, they marched right down the field again to score another touchdown, this time by true freshman Lan Larison. 

Another short drive by Cal Poly gave UC Davis the ball back, and after a 30-yard punt return by Isaiah Thomas, it only took the Aggies four plays to get the score on a 23-yard connection from Rodrigues and sophomore tight end McCallan Castles. Now, with a score of 28-10, the Mustangs were trying to get something going on offense but were just unable to penetrate the Aggie’s defense with a pass or run. With the ball back and all the rhythm in the world, Rodrigues and his offense were able to cash in on yet another long drive as Gilliam got his second touchdown of the game—this time through the air— to make it 35-10. 

In a matter of minutes, the Aggies opened the floodgates on Cal Poly. Another short three and out by the Mustangs led to a 38-yard deep shot into the endzone from Rodrigues to sophomore Lance Babb II to make it a 32 point game. Before the half ended, UC Davis scored again, making it the fourth touchdown of the quarter and went into the locker room up a stunning 49-10.

Even after his shaky start, Rodrigues was able to reset and stand at a perfect 14-14 passing with 188 yards and four total touchdowns at halftime. Not only was the offense firing on all cylinders, but the defense was keeping the Mustangs in check all game as well, only allowing 82 total yards of offense and sacking Cal Poly quarterback Jalen Hamler five times. 

“We started off rough on my part,” said Rodrigues after the game. “But I feel like we bounced back and scored on every drive after that—in the first half at least. I think we do a great job running the ball up front. The [offensive] line sets that tempo [and] gets us in the groove. I feel like once we get that first first down then we’re rolling.” 

By the time the third quarter rolled around, the Aggies were continuing their tear of the Cal Poly offense, shutting them out yet again. On offense, UC Davis slowed down a bit, but were able to punch in another touchdown as redshirt freshman Trent Tompkins ran it in from the five yard line. Entering the fourth quarter with a 59-10 lead and the game being well out of reach, Rodrigues was taken out of the game and replaced by Hastings again, who responded to Cal Poly’s first offensive touchdown with a touchdown of his own—a pass to tight end Blake Thorpe. 

In a game that saw many dazzling plays for the Aggies, none were more impressive than Tompkins’ 86-yard touchdown which came with under six minutes remaining in the game. Tompkins was able to break multiple tackles and weave his way around the Cal Poly defense to score the best touchdown of the day—one that saw a total of 10. The Mustangs scored another touchdown with 1:54 left in the game to make it a final score of 73-24.

In football, there is no such thing as a perfect game—but the Aggies sure were close to one. Amassing a school record 768 yards of total offense, they did not have to punt the ball once and the Mustangs had no answer for neither the passing or running game. Rodrigues finished 19-23 passing with 265 yards and four total touchdown passes. Gilliam finished his day running the ball 17 times for 101 yards and two total touchdowns, while Tompkins only ran it twice for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Finishing with a total of nine sacks on the Cal Poly quarterbacks, UC Davis had three different players with two apiece. The Mustangs finished with just 209 total yards and were 8 of 21 in third down situations. 

“The best thing about [being at home] for me is just having all our team here involved,” said Coach Hawkins. “You go on the road, [you have 64 players] and you’re 64 strong but there’s a lot of kids that are really important to your organization and you want to get them in. At least have them be a part of the whole thing. That’s the best part of it.”

After their loss the week prior to Weber State, the Aggies needed to see something encouraging from their offense. With their defense performing extraordinary so far this year, their offense needed to find some kind of rhythm to build on. They were able to get that and more, as they now hope to have a formula to finish off the next half of the season strong. Their next opponent will be the Idaho State Bengals (1-2) at UC Davis Health Stadium in Davis, CA on Saturday, March 27. 

Written by: Omar Navarro — sports@theaggie.org


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