UC Davis has two football rivalries that still resonate: Sacramento State in the annual Causeway Classic that dates back to 1954 and the Cal Poly series that started in 1939.
Both games matter a ton this season for the No. 10 Aggies beyond bragging rights or possession of a perpetual trophy. UCD aims to add its 6-1 overall record and 3-1 showing in the Big Sky Conference with a victory on Saturday night over Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, and the Aggies conclude the regular season on Nov. 20 against Sac State with the potential of the Big Sky Conference championship, or, at the least, one of the 24 FCS playoff berths, on the line.
Cal Poly looms as a trap game, a team trying to find its footing and eager to bounce a powerhouse. That was the storyline on Oct. 9 when UCD visited winless Idaho State and lost 27-17.
UCD coach Dan Hawkins said the measure of a good team is not letting losses stick, of not losing two in a row. UCD bounced back last week with a 32-3 rout of Northern Colorado and expects to face a fired-up Mustangs team this time, never mind Poly’s 5-game losing streak and 1-5 record.
“You have to have the ability to get back up after a loss, to pull up your pants, to put your boots on, put your hard hat on and don’t let it stick with you,” Hawkins said. “Going to Cal Poly, there are a lot of sentimental feelings, the Battle for the Horseshoe, the rivalry over the years. That’s a fun environment to be in.”
This is the 47th meeting between UCD and Cal Poly. The programs have met each season that didn’t include a pandemic since 1978. UCD leads the series 24-20-2, the last of them the most lopsided. The Battle of the Golden Horseshoe was established in 2004 when student-run spirit clubs from both schools came up with the idea of a trophy to honor schools with agricultural influence.
UCD blasted Cal Poly 73-24 in a spring game in Davis as the Aggies played the 1,000th game in their 102-year history. The Aggies piled up a program-record 768 yards of offense and 10 touchdowns. Hunter Rodrigyes passed for 265 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another, Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. rushed for 105 yards and a score and Trent Tomkins scored two dazzling touchdowns.
All of those playmakers are back for UCD.
Hawkins went 1-1 against the Mustangs when he played fullback for UCD in 1981 and ‘82, and he is 4-0 against Cal Poly as Aggies head coach. Beau Baldwin is in his second season with Cal Poly, changing the triple-option running program into a spread team. The other hurdles and challenges included a rash of COVID issues in the spring.
Hawkins said Baldwin is a good coach with a good staff who has achieved success before in the Big Sky, including championship seasons while at Eastern Washington. Baldwin is 3-1 against UCD, all while head coach at Eastern Washington.
“Beau is a really good coach,” Hawkins said. “He has Paul Wulff on staff, who worked with us for a year, and he’s an old Davis Blue Devil.”
Wulff was a Davis High lineman star in the early 1980s who was inspired to excel in college and beyond while anguished by the 1979 disappearance of his mother, Dorothy. That missing person case was solved last fall, 40 years after her disappearance.
Wulff is in his second season with Cal Poly, which has a strong football tradition. The Mustangs won the NCAA Division II national championship in 1980, 20 seasons after 16 Cal Poly players died in a plane crash after a game at Bowling Green. Cal Poly won four Great West Conference championships in the eight-year history of that league, in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2011, and it won the Big Sky in its first season in that conference in 2012.
No. 10 UC Davis (6-1) at Cal Poly (1-5)
When: Saturday, 5:05 p.m.
On air: Sports 1140 KHTK, ESPN+
On topic: Cal Poly has averaged just 14 points in its 5-game losing skid as injuries have ravaged the offense…Spencer Brasch will return to the starting lineup at quarterback for Cal Poly. He beat out five others to win the job in camp…UCD tops all FCS schools with 12 interceptions and is third in first downs (16) and fifth in kickoff returns (26.85 return)…UCD has four players with two interceptions each in Teddye Buchanan, Chris Venable, Erron Duncan and Jaylin White….UCD is averaging 197 yards rushing and 228 passing in its quest to be balanced…Cal Poly is 12-10 against UCD at home.
This story was originally published October 22, 2021 12:30 PM.