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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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UCD knows Cal Poly\’s offense

By
November 10, 2010 |

Enterprise sports editor

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For No. 19/18 Cal Poly, UC Davis\’ next opponent, offensive football is a formula: Quick offensive linemen + a shifty running quarterback + a couple of speedy wingbacks + one big-play receiver = success.

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The Mustangs\’ formula has them in position to possibly make the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs in 2010, which would be the third time in five years for the program. To do that, Cal Poly (7-3, 1-1 Great West) would probably have to win its final two contests, including Saturday\’s 6 p.m. home contest against the Aggies (4-5, 2-1), The Battle for the Golden Horseshoe.

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Last season, UCD won the annual rivalry matchup, 23-10 at Aggie Stadium, to go ahead in the all-time series 17-16-2. For the past decade, the contest has pitted the Aggies\’ high-octane passing attack against the Mustangs\’ triple-option offense.

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Rich Ellerson guided Cal Poly from 2001-08 before leaving to become the head coach at Army, and now the Mustangs are led by Tim Walsh, a familiar face to UCD coaches and longtime fans. Walsh, who battled the Aggies when he coached at Sonoma (from 1989-92) and then at Portland State (1993-2006) has kept Ellerson\’s option offense alive at Cal Poly, albeit with a few additions.

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“They added a shotgun look so now they have that, along with the zone read with the quarterback and the tailback,” said UCD\’s 18th-year head coach Bob Biggs. “Tim has added a few wrinkles to what Rich did, but it is still the same basic offense, the triple-option. That\’s their bread and butter.”

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And the Mustangs\’ bread has been buttered with a rushing attack that averages 255.4 yards per game, good enough for fourth in the country. Last week, Cal Poly rumbled for 379 yards on the ground in a 38-24 victory over South Dakota.

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The bulk of that yardage came from Mustang running back Mark Rogers, who picked up 238 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries. For the season, Rogers sports a nifty 7.1 yards per carry average and has run for team bests of 780 yards and eight TDs. Rogers is joined in the backfield by two other productive runners, fullbacks Jake Romanelli (408 yds, 6 TDs) and Jordan Yocum (432-4).

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“Against the option, you have to play assignment football, everybody has to trust that everybody else is going to do their job,” Biggs said. “You have to take away the fullback dive and force the quarterback to keep the ball.”

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Of course in the option attack, the quarterback\’s legs cannot be overlooked and Cal Poly seems to have settled on senior Tony Smith, as its starting signal-caller. Smith has rushed for 441 yards on the season with 2 TDs and, though he passed for just 34 yards last week, he showed that he can put up numbers through the air two weeks ago against St. Francis. In that contest, Smith completed 19-of-24 pass for 231 yards, finding Cal Poly\’s top receiver Dominique Johnson eight times for 115 yards and a touchdown.

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Johnson, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound transfer from UCLA — where he started nine games in two years — has caught 41 pass for 521 yards on the season, accounting for nearly half of the Mustangs\’ 1,150 total passing yards.

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“They keep recruiting guys that are good for their system, so when somebody graduates there is another guy their to step in,” Biggs said. “Because they can\’t get the big huge lineman, they get the quick guys who are really good at (cut blocking). Then they get a quarterback that can run and a couple of quick wing backs and they always seem to get that one big receiver. And they have success because you can\’t duplicate their speed and execution in practice.”

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The offense is designed to sustain long drives which allow Cal Poly to control the clock. This season on the average, the Mustangs have held the ball nearly five minutes more than their opponents.

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On defense, Biggs expects Cal Poly to keep its safeties back trying to force everything underneath and avoid the big play. It\’s a strategy that South Dakota tried to employ on Oct. 9, but UCD redshirt freshman quarterback Randy Wright burned the Coyotes for 260 yards on 25-of-34 passing in a 17-13 victory.

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— Reach Chris Saur at [email protected] or (530) 747-8049. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com

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