The Cal Poly football team (5-2, 3-0 Great West) will rely on redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Brennan to get the job done against conference rival UC Davis (4-3, 2-1 Great West).
After a tough loss at Montana (5-2, 2-1 Big Sky), the Mustangs will need to move on if they hope to have a successful season and make the playoffs. The loss of starting quarterback senior Anthony Garnett is ancient history, according to head coach Rich Ellerson.
“Our guys look forward to this game all year long,” Ellerson said. “It’s easier to look on after a loss last weekend because everybody on our team gets excited for this rivalry matchup.”
However, many believe that losing Garnett will greatly affect the Mustangs’ offense against the highly touted Aggies defense.
Ellerson begs to differ. He said that the offense has been practicing with Brennan since last spring and they know what he’s capable of. Ellerson feels that getting the victory will not be as black and white as Brennan being the leader and playing well.
“Matt (Brennan) needs to step in and be the quarterback,” Ellerson said. “We have all kinds of fifth year seniors and juniors that have been around a long time and they need to pick up any slack in that regard.”
Running back James Noble said there is team pressure to step up and play better in the wake of losing Garnett. Noble also said that Brennan is starting to look better at practice.
“He’s showing more confidence and the line is starting to adapt to him,” Noble said. “We’re all behind him.”
The truth is that the game at Davis promises to be a defensive battle. The Mustangs are currently ranked 17th nationally in overall defense while the Aggies defense is ranked 15th nationally in NCAA I-AA. Offensively, the Mustangs and Aggies are ranked closely at 74 and 67 respectively.
Gaining positive yardage and putting points on the board won’t be easy for the Mustangs. The Aggies defeated Stanford (4-2, 3-1 Pac 10) 20-17 on Sept. 17. The Cardinal defeated the Arizona State Sun Devils (3-4, 1-3 pac-10) last weekend, a team that was ranked in the top 25 in Division I for the first seven weeks of the season.
Ellerson said that Davis has a great defensive system, which leads them to many victories.
“They don’t reinvent themselves,” he said. “Their system and packages are not something we are unfamiliar with. We’re prepared for all that they might bring.”
Ellerson added that the personality of the Mustangs offense will not change even with Brennan at the helm. “It has more to do with how they choose to defend us,” he said. “If there are opportunities to throw we can and we will.”
Practice this week was different than normal, said Noble.
“Everybody was taking their reps at half-speed this week to try and heel their injuries,” he said. “I didn’t practice too much. I’m just trying to get my legs ready for the game.”
At this point in the season it’s more of a healing process, Noble said.
The kickoff time for “The Horseshoe Classic” is scheduled for Saturday at 1:07 p.m. at Toomey Field. This will be the 31st meeting between the two teams. The Aggies have a 15-13-2 advantage in the rivalry.