LAFAYETTE, Colo. – San Diego State bounced back from last week’s loss to No. 1 Saint Mary’s by putting up over 90 points in a blowout win over Santa Clara, while UC Santa Barbara upset No. 20 Cal Poly, 27-22.
#11 San Diego State 92 – 28 Santa Clara
An honest assessment of their 52-point loss to the top-ranked Gaels made for a productive week of training for the Aztecs. Diligent work at practice in the scrum, lineout and basic skills helped to spark a first half against the Broncos that saw eight different San Diego State players score tries in the first half alone, including a pair by eight man Kevin McGlone.
“We failed to execute on both sides of the ball and in the set piece,” Head Coach Alex Lichtig said of last week’s defeat to Saint Mary’s. “So, we adjusted our training for the following week to focus on doing the small things right. I think it worked a bit as our set piece improved and our skill execution was better this weekend.”
Leading, 61-0, at halftime, five substitutions made by San Diego State at the break and adjustments made by Santa Clara led to tries by Broncos Alex Pinon and Joe McKenna to make the score 64-14.
The Aztecs eventually went back to work on attack. Although they emptied their bench by the 65th minute, Esmat Wardak and Jacob Jorstad matched first-half tries by adding second scores in the second period, and McGlone completed a hat trick in the 76th minute.
Playing without danger man and February Player of the Month Asad Braswell, the Broncos scored two more tries and winger Jack O’Hara was a perfect 4-for-4 on conversions, but the improved second-half performance was far too little and too late. San Diego State totaled 14 tries on its way to the dominant, 92-28, victory.
“We were able to control the contact zone on attack to play behind the defense with support,” Lichtig added. “I think that led to a handful of breaks that our guys were able to convert.”
UC Santa Barbara 27 – 22 #19 Cal Poly
The Gauchos earned their best win in several years when it dropped Cal Poly, 27-22, after a back-and-forth contest in Santa Barbara.
The Mustangs cracked the scoreboard first when tight head prop Nathan Sylvia went in for an unconverted try 10 minutes into the match. UC Santa Barbara, as it was forced to do time and time again, answered back with one of its own props. Ki Wan Sung notched his first conference try of the season and fly half Cameron Gerlach made the conversion for the team’s first lead.
After regaining the lead through Corey McGrillen’s penalty kick, Cal Poly relinquished the lead for a second time when scrum half David Jenkins scored. Mustang All-American prop Connor Cudeback was credited with a penalty try and McGrillen’s successful conversion swapped the lead for a fourth time. Just when Cal Poly thought it would head into halftime leading, 15-14, Gerlach knocked over a three-pointer to give his side a 17-15 advantage at the break.
Gerlach, who has “helped build a positive team culture,” according to Head Coach Tim Lewis, started the second half in similar fashion to the way he closed the opening half by connecting on another penalty to push the Gauchos’ lead to five points.
Determined to return to San Luis Obispo with a win, Cal Poly eight man Dustin Mollard dotted down to tie the game and McGrillen’s conversion brought the Mustangs back up by two points.
After going 40 minutes without a try, UC Santa Barbara wing Osvaldo Ordonez found the try zone for what would be the game-winning score after the Gauchos kept Cal Poly from adding to its point total over the final 15 minutes of the game.
“UC Santa Barbara has been working hard for five years to step up to that second level [of the California Conference],” said Lewis. “By beating Cal Poly we proved to ourselves we can do it.”
Nearly lost in the seven lead changes and 12 points scored by Gerlach was the gritty work done by senior flankers Logan Ahlf and David Cota, who were both spectacular on the day.
Cal Poly will make up its previously-postponed match against Sacramento State March 18 before a crucial April 8 contest at San Diego State. For UC Santa Barbara, the surprise win makes for a satisfying end to its 2017 season, and the team will be able to draw positives from its improved California Conference record of 2-3.
“We will build off this win and look to bring more consistency to our game next year,” Lewis added.