UC Davis senior running back Gabe Manzanares ran for a career-best 230 yards and three touchdowns and the Aggies finally found their second victory of the season, winning 48-35 Saturday night over Cal Poly at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
The win means the Aggies take back the Golden Horseshoe from their Big Sky Conference rival after conceding it to Cal Poly the previous two years.
“Tonight was great for the team, especially for the seniors,” Manzanares said. “You know, it’s been a tough season but tonight just shows we’re going to fight through anything, we’re going to keep going through adversity, and it was a great win.”
Manzanares recorded 190 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. The strong start by the 5-foot-9, 195-pound senior helped the Aggies’ attack shake a trend of sluggish starts on offense.
“Phenomenal,” UC Davis coach Ron Gould said of Manzanares’ performance. “I told him, ‘We’re going to ride you. We’re going to run you until there’s no tomorrow,’ and he said to me, ‘Coach, I got you.’
“And that’s just a testament to all these young men. The offensive line did a phenomenal job blocking; our wide receivers did a great job on the perimeter. It was a great team win.”
UC Davis took its first lead after forcing Cal Poly to punt at the end of the first quarter with back-to-back sacks on defense.
The offense then went 60 yards on 10 plays, capping off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ben Scott to junior Ramon Vargas.
The touchdown was Vargas’ seventh in three games and his eighth on the year.
Sophomore Scott led the Aggies’ aerial attack, finishing the night with 298 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Cal Poly’s triple option, which has blown up the defensive plans of several teams this year, was unable to repeat that success Saturday as a disciplined Aggies defense also turned in its best performance of the year.
The Aggies’ defense was able to settle down after allowing touchdowns on the first two Mustangs drives. They did not allow another score until the third quarter.
“We keyed on some of the mistakes we made last year,” senior linebacker Steven Pitts said. “We had a year to go back in, watch some film, and the coaches came in with a great game plan.
“It was pretty neat coming out here and being able to do what we know we’re capable of.”
The defense held Cal Poly to a 42 percent third-down efficiency and kept the triple-option attack off the field for most of the game, allowing only 26 minutes of possession.
The defense held on in the second half for the team’s first conference win, first road win and first win in over two months.
The Aggies will close out the season at home against crosstown rival Sacramento State next Saturday at 1 p.m. in the 61st annual Causeway Classic.