Cal Poly lost to rival UC Davis 24-13 on Saturday, Oct. 23 inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium in the annual matchup of the Battle for the Golden Horseshoe, extending their losing streak to five against the Aggies. 

Cal Poly (1-6, 0-4 Big Sky) dropped their sixth straight game, but this was their smallest margin of defeat all season. Meanwhile, UC Davis (7-1, 4-1 Big Sky) continued their strong season in the Big Sky conference.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Spencer Brasch returned from injury and completed 23-44 passes for 291 yards with one touchdown and one interception to go along with 26 rushing yards. Redshirt senior linebacker Matt Shotwell recorded 14 total tackles, 10 solo, in the game to lead the defense. 

The first quarter was slow paced, with both defenses playing well and not allowing the opposing offense to make much traction. Cal Poly’s first drive was a three and out resulting in zero total yards gained, while Davis’s first drive went for just six yards over five plays. 

Both teams ended with three drives in the first quarter, and neither team was able to turn their opportunities into points. UC Davis was in the middle of a drive at the end of the quarter, so they opened the second quarter with possession. 

The Aggies eventually capitalized early in the second quarter, adding the first points to the scoreboard off of a field goal with 12:40 remaining in the half. 

Cal Poly’s next drive looked promising until a few penalties had the Mustangs facing a third and long, which they were unable to convert. After a Cal Poly punt, the Aggies went on a nine play, 5:34 drive to move the ball to midfield.

The Mustang defense stepped up when it mattered and got a stop on third and long to force a Davis punt. The Mustangs got on the scoreboard for the first time on their next drive. 

Starting at their own twenty yard line, the Mustangs had a lot of field to cover, so Brasch went to one of his go-to targets, graduate wide receiver Chris Coleman. Brasch found Coleman three times for 48 yards on that drive alone. Coleman finished with six catches for 81 yards in the game. The Mustangs capped off the drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman wide receiver Evan Burkhart to give Cal Poly the 7-3 lead. 

That lead didn’t last long as the Aggies blazed down the field for a nine play, 75-yard drive in just one minute and 14 seconds. Aggie quarterback Miles Hastings completed all eight of his pass attempts on the drive, including a nine yard touchdown to C.J. Hutton; Hastings also completed an impressive 28-34 of his passes overall in the game. After the quick drive, the Aggies took a 10-7 lead into halftime.

Cal Poly started off the second half with an attempted, but unsuccessful, onside kick. UC Davis would take advantage of the good field position and score on a 30 rushing touchdown just 30 seconds into the quarter, extending their lead to 17-7. 

The Mustangs responded right away and marched down the field on a 12-play, 71-yard drive to set up redshirt sophomore kicker Matt Hoffman for a 26-yard field goal. Hoffman’s field goal cut the Davis lead to seven at 17-10.

On the ensuing drive, the Cal Poly defense recorded the first turnover of the game. On the first play of the drive, redshirt freshman defensive lineman Elijah Ponder tipped the pass from Hastings into the air and redshirt senior defensive end Myles Cecil intercepted the ball on the UC Davis 17 yard line. Cecil also recorded a sack and two tackles for loss in the game, while Ponder led all defensive linemen on both sides in both sacks with two and tackles for loss with four.

After a first down the extra possession stalled, but the Mustangs still walked away with three points after a field goal by Hoffman, making the score 17-13 in favor of the Aggies.  

UC Davis extended their lead on the next drive on another touchdown pass from Hastings, this time on a one-yard pass. The nine-play drive was mainly on the ground, as 65 of the 74 yards came on run plays. This gave the Aggies a 24-13 lead, which ended up being the final score.. The game was still exciting down the stretch, but it turned into a defensive matchup with neither team allowing another score. 

There were still opportunities available, which gives the  Mustangs optimism as they move forward in the season. In the fourth quarter, the four Cal Poly drives ended, in order, with an incomplete pass on fourth down at the Aggie 17 yard line, a missed 36 yard field goal, another incomplete pass on fourth down at the Aggie 28 yard line and finally an interception with less than thirty seconds remaining. 

After the game Coleman spoke about what the return of Brasch does for the offense. 

“We [got] Spencer back at quarterback and that was good to see because he knows the offense, and we’re able to expand the playbook a little bit more,” Coleman said. “And it’s really good to see him out there, he just kept a good flow, a good steady flow of consistency on offense.”

Although the teams had nearly identical box scores, UC Davis took home the Golden Horseshoe trophy until these two teams face off again next year.

Despite the loss, head coach Beau Baldwin had a lot of positive takeaways after the game. 

“I was just really happy that we got into a dogfight,” Baldwin said. “We took a step today, we took a really good step. It hurts to lose, but we took a really good step. I’m just excited about the way our guys competed, hurting from the loss, but excited going forward.”

Cal Poly has a chance to bounce back in a Halloween weekend matchup on Saturday, Oct. 30 at 2:05 p.m. against Portland State inside Hillsboro Stadium.

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