The UC Davis Aggies go from facing a program they’ve had no answer for to a rival that has presented few problems for them in recent years.
The FCS No. 21-ranked Aggies will visit Cal Poly at 5 p.m. Saturday in San Luis Obispo in the 49th football meeting between the schools. It’s the 19th encounter for the Golden Horseshoe, which signifies the agricultural influence at both universities with fitting mascots of Aggies and Mustangs.
The status of star running back Lan Larison is very much in doubt for UC Davis, which is 6-0 against Cal Poly since Dan Hawkins became the Aggies coach before the 2017 season. UCD leads the series 26-20-2. The first game was in 1939 and the schools have met every season since 1978.
“It’s always a good battle with them,” Hawkins said Monday during his weekly media conference.
Both teams seek their first Big Sky Conference victory and both sport 2-2 records. UC Davis is coming off a 27-24 home loss to Eastern Washington, which pounced on four Aggies turnovers to move to 11-0 all time against UCD, all since 2005.
“They definitely have our number,” said Hawkins, who was otherwise in good spirits.
The coach was asked for an update on Larison, the leading rusher in the Big Sky with with 479 yards. Larison tore up Eastern Washington for 255 yards on 22 carries in three-plus quarters before missing the rest of the game with a knee injury.
Larison was the last to leave Jim Sochor Field after scores of teammates hugged him, his bulky knee brace and ice pack impossible to ignore. The fear for the Aggies is that Larison will miss the rest of the season, but UC Davis has yet to disclose the nature or extent of the injury.
“A lot of therapy (for Larison),” Hawkins said with a smile. “That’s my update.”
Big blow for UC Davis
Larison’s loss is a blow, beyond his average of 6.8 yards per carry and 151.3 yards per game. He is a popular teammate and a team captain. Against Eastern Washington, he posted the third-highest rushing total in UCD history behind two 300-yard efforts by Mike Ichiyama in 1994.
Larison, a junior from Idaho, is a pro prospect because of his speed and versatility.
“He’s super talented,” Hawkins said. “Heart of a lion. He’s as good of a receiver as we have, has the best arm, great return guy.”
UCD rolled Cal Poly 59-17 last season as Miles Hastings passed for 425 yards and four touchdowns, including a 67-yarder to Matteo Perez. Teddye Buchanan had two interceptions, including a 65-yard return for a score. C.J. Hutton, a receiver, ran for an 8-yard touchdown. All of those players return and figure to play prominent roles for the Aggies.
Cal Poly is coming off a 59-21 Big Sky loss to Portland State, which rushed for 404 yards. The Mustangs are coached by Davis High School graduate Paul Wulff, a one-time UCD assistant in his first season with Cal Poly. He coached Eastern Washington to three FCS playoff berths in the mid 2000s, twice being named Big Sky Coach of the Year. He was the head coach at Washington State, his alma mater, from 2008-11.
UCD has played Sacramento State annually in the Causeway Classic since 1954, and the series with Cal Poly often evokes the same sort of intensity. UCD is in its 108th season of football and Cal Poly its 105th.
“We’ve had really good games (against Cal Poly),” Hawkins said. “They have a tremendous program. They won a national championship (in 1980 in Division II). I thought it was smart to retain Paul (Wulff) as coach after (Beau) Baldwin left for Arizona State).”
Cal Poly quarterback Sam Huard started fast for the Mustangs after his transfer from Washington of the Pac-12 Conference. Huard had 324 yards in a season-opening 27-10 victory over the University of San Diego to give Wulff his first win at Cal Poly. Huard had six touchdown passes in a 41-20 victory over Lincoln University of Oakland.