Cal Poly football's fall training camp kicked off this week. | Mustang News File Photo

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Despite the number of injuries the team has dealt with, they still aim to finish off the season with high rankings.

As it preps for the game against UC Davis, the Cal Poly football team has to deal with the challenges of gameplay as well as setbacks from player injuries.

So far this season, the Mustangs have suffered eight injuries: Starting players Kyle Zottneck, Lefi Letuligaseno, Kristaan Ivory, Dano Graves, Vince Moraga, Cam Akins, Willie Tucker and Matt Reza have all missed one or more games due to injury.

“I got hurt against Yale in the beginning of the second quarter,” Tucker said. “I was engaged blocking and one of our slots rolled into my knee and bent it completely inward. I tore my MCL in two areas, as well as tearing my medial and lateral meniscus.”

Tucker, who was hurt during the fourth season game, will not return this season.

Finding replacements is next on head coach Tim Walsh’s to-do list. Though the team has other players to step up and fill the starter’s the shoes, their inexperience is proving to be a challenge.

“In football, you expect that your second guys can come up and play, but the guys that are starters are starters for a reason,” Walsh said. “The biggest challenge is the lack of experience. The inexperience does hurt, but at this point we have to live up to the challenges we are faced with.”

Nonetheless, players are ready to step onto the field and take their new positions. Following the injury of slotback Ivory, Kori Garcia and Chris Nicholls prepared to fill his shoes.

“I think Garcia and Nicholls are doing a good job,” Ivory said. “They are like a combination — they both have certain packaging plays that they run. Last game was the first game they played. They weren’t sure if I was going to play until game time, and I wasn’t able to, so they stepped in.”

The chance for second-string players to engage in games is an opportunity to show they are ready for the challenge. They might not be in the starting line-up now, but they get to prove they can match the standard of playing the coaches want.

“I think it’s a great challenge for the guys that get to play, because they have the opportunity to, number one, show what they can do when they get the opportunity to play; and, number two, to help make up for the loss of the other guys and prove they are the quality of players we thought they were when we recruited them,” Walsh said.

Despite the number of injuries the team has dealt with, they still aim to finish the season highly ranked in the Big Sky.

“If we continue to win, we can probably get a piece of second place which, considering the injuries and where we are right now, would be a tremendous accomplishment for our season,” Walsh said. “But there’s one thing we really want to accomplish: We want to win the Golden Horseshoe at UC Davis and bring it back to San Luis Obispo.”

The Mustangs travel to UC Davis on Saturday, where they will take on the Aggies for possession of the Golden Horseshoe.

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