The records don’t matter in a rivalry game, which Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh knows from experience as his Mustangs prepare to play Saturday at UC Davis in the annual Battle of the Golden Horseshoe.
Last year, Cal Poly still harbored hopes of landing a Football Championship Subdivision playoff berth when UC Davis came to San Luis Obispo riding a seven-game losing streak.
The Aggies left town with a 48-35 win, dropping Cal Poly to 5-3 in conference and out of playoff contention.
“We do remember last year,” Walsh said. “We were playing for everything, and they came out and they outplayed us, they out-hustled us, they out-hit us and they out-coached us. I don’t think that in my 38 or 39 years of coaching that it’s something I’ll ever forget anytime soon. It was an absolute tail-whupping.”
UCD coach Ron Gould got his introduction to the Golden Horseshoe game in 2013. Cal Poly came into Aggie Stadium and won handily 34-16 in front of a glum Aggie Pack
“We remember,” Gould said. “When you play rivalry games, you take (the results) with you everywhere you go.”
This season, there is no playoff berth at stake in the 41st meeting (UCD leads the series 20-18-2) between the two schools. UCD (1-5 Big Sky Conference) is 1-8 for the first time since 1959, and Cal Poly (3-6, 2-4) will suffer its first losing season since 2009.
But there still will be plenty to play for since both academically rigorous schools recruit from the same talent pool in Northern California.
Cal Poly has done well recruiting in Davis’ backyard. There are 11 former area high school standouts on Cal Poly’s roster, including six starters: center Steven Sippel (Folsom), wide receiver Willie Tucker (Oak Ridge), defensive lineman Marcus Paige-Allen (Sheldon), and linebackers Burton De Konig (Folsom) and Tu’uta Inoke (Burbank).
“A lot of (high school) guys will be swinging back and forth as far as whether they are going to go to Davis or Poly, and we want them to go to Cal Poly,” Walsh said. “This game will have a lot of implications.”
The Mustangs, who run the triple option and lead the FCS in rushing at 404.8 yards per game, have lost games to No. 10 Eastern Washington and No. 15 Portland State because of turnovers. But they did not commit a turnover in a 36-14 win over visiting Sacramento State last Saturday.
Walsh expects a challenge defensively from UCD. He called the Aggies’ defensive front of Walter Earnest, Zak Pettit, Brandon Weaver, Kyle DeVaughn and Inoke Raikadroka “as good as any in the Big Sky.”
Gould expects a similar challenge in trying to stop the triple option and senior quarterback Chris Brown.
“What they do offensively is totally unconventional,” Gould said. “All the things that you teach your guys throughout the regular season ... you have to throw out the window.”
Arizona bound – Sac State (2-7, 1-5) heads to Northern Arizona (6-3, 4-2 Big Sky) on Saturday to face a team that has worked its way into playoff contention by winning three games in a row, including last Saturday’s 52-30 shocker at Eastern Washington, the three-time Big Sky defending champion.
Northern Arizona freshman quarterback Case Cookus leads the FCS in passing efficiency (190.9), averaging 261.6 passing yards, a 70.4 completion percentage and 27 touchdowns with just three interceptions.
Sac State true freshman quarterback Nathan Ketteringham made his third career start against Cal Poly and completed 33 of 42 passes for a career-best 335 yards. He also had a touchdown.
Hornets wide receiver Shane Harrison had 12 catches, a career high, for 128 yards and a touchdown.