SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Senior quarterback Dano Graves ran for a pair of touchdowns and junior slot back Kyle Lewis sealed the verdict with a 91-yard scoring romp Saturday night as No. 17/18 Cal Poly defeated UC Davis 21-16 in the Battle for the Golden Horseshoe on Homecoming and Mustang Family Weekend.
The victory before 11,075, the ninth sellout in the history of Alex G. Spanos Stadium, improved Cal Poly's record to 5-2 for the season and 3-1 for fourth place in the Big Sky. UC Davis fell to 2-6 and 1-4.
Ahead 14-9 since midway through the third period, Cal Poly warded off several Aggie scoring threats over the next 14 minutes before Lewis (pictured above) took a pitch from Graves around right end and scampered 91 yards down the right sideline for the clinching score.
UC Davis quarterback Ben Scott hit Keelan Doss with a five-yard touchdown pass with 44 seconds to play, but Cal Poly wide receiver Jake Smeltzer, a member of the hands team, recovered the onside kick and the Mustangs ran out the clock.
With the win, Cal Poly evened the all-time series at 20-20-2. First game of the series was played in 1939.
Cal Poly compiled 320 yards on the ground, but needed 64 plays to do that, averaging exactly five yards per trip. Lewis earned his third career 100-yard game and second this season, finishing with 141 yards on just eight carries. Junior fullback Joe Protheroe added 95 yards on 27 tough carries.
Graves contributed 45 yards on 17 carries, scoring twice on runs of 1 and 14 yards, and completed four of seven passes for 44 yards. He threw just one pass attempt in the second half and his streak of three games with three touchdown passes each came to an end.
Scott connected on 19 of 35 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown. Doss finished with six catches for 64 yards. Manusamoa Luuga rushed for 118 yards on 15 carries, his third 100-yard game of the season.
Cal Poly collected 364 yards in total offense, well below its 506.7 average for the season, while UC Davis amassed 304 yards. The Mustangs also compiled a 36:06 to 23:54 advantage in time of possession.
Sophomore cornerback Mekai Sheffie, making his first start as Jerek Rosales sat out the game with an injury, led Cal Poly defensively with 13 tackles (10 solo). Chris Santini, Aaryn Bouzos and Joseph Gigantino III all notched sacks and rush linebacker Josh Letuligasenoa added five tackles and two pass breakups.
Cornerback Kevin Griffin notched his second career interception.
UC Davis grabbed an early 6-0 lead when Anthony Baumgart scooped up a Cal Poly fumble and raced 61 yards for a touchdown less than four minutes into the contest.
Graves scored on a one-yard run a minute into the second period and Matt Blair gave UC Davis the lead back with a 25-yard field goal midway through the second period. The Aggies led 9-7 at the break.
Graves scored on a 14-yard run with 6:28 to play in the third period, giving Cal Poly the lead for good at 14-9. Lewis made it a two-possession game with his 91-yard romp with 2:54 to play in the game.
Cal Poly won a game when trailing at halftime for the first time since overcoming a 17-14 deficit against Montana State on Nov. 1, 2014.
Cal Poly continues Big Sky play next Saturday night at Sacramento State.
Photos courtesy of Matt Aguirre