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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Aggies eyeing playoffs despite slow start

The UC Davis football team almost has it all.

It has arguably the top wide receiver corps in the Football Championship Subdivision. It has an All-American who head coach Bob Biggs calls the greatest defensive tackle to ever wear an Aggies jersey. It has another All-American at guard anchoring its interior offensive line. It has a young quarterback who someday could go down as a legend. It has a blend of veterans and newcomers contributing on both sides of the ball.

The only thing missing is the win total.

Through four games, the Aggies are 1-3. Their three losses have come by a combined 11 points, and they all occurred on the road against quality opponents. In two losses, UC Davis led late in the fourth quarter. In the other, their game-winning drive fell short in the final minute of regulation.

“We’ve played well enough obviously to be in a position to win games, but we sit at 1-3,Biggs said.There’s a sense of frustration. The team knows it’s a good football team, and when you sit at 1-3 knowing that you could potentially be 4-0, that’s frustrating.

With the lowly record, the Aggies find themselves being overlooked. The team received no votes in either the CoachesPoll or The Sports Network Poll for the first time all season.

All because of three losses that the team believes could have gone either way.

UC Davisfirst loss came Aug. 30 in its season opener at San Jose State. The Spartans, who play in the Football Bowl Subdivision, hadn’t led all game until quarterback Kyle Reed completed a 17-yard touchdown pass on fourth and 13 with eight seconds remaining to deal UC Davis a 13-10 loss.

The Aggies followed up one heartbreaker with another when they traveled to Conway, Ark. to face Central Arkansas. The Bears, now ranked No. 12 in the FCS by The Sports Network, led 17-0 early in the third quarter. Making his first career start after being sidelined in Week 1 due to injury, sophomore quarterback Greg Denham almost rallied the Aggies from behind, throwing for 261 yards and three touchdowns in the second half. A potential game-winning touchdown pass was picked off in the end zone with 43 seconds left, and the team took its second straight road loss, 24-21.

After gaining 588 yards of total offense in a home-opening 38-24 win over Portland State, UC Davis faced No. 4 Montana on Saturday in front of a record-crowd of 25,209. Less than four minutes into the contest, the Aggies found themselves trailing 13-0.

The two teams traded field goals, and then UC Davis turned it on, scoring 21 of the next 28 points to lead 24-23 with less than four minutes remaining. Cole Bergquist then threw a 9-yard touchdown strike to Marc Mariana, and the Aggiespotential game-winning drive stalled for a 29-24 loss.

Before the year, when UC Davis envisioned how it would begin its playoff-hopeful season, 1-3 wasn’t it. Now, it will have to be.

“I think that the people who do the voting will certainly look at the fact that we’ve played ranked teams on the road, and I think those teams will continue to be highly ranked,Biggs said.But what we need to do now is take care of business.

UC Davis has eight games remaining on the schedule. After it faces Northeastern this Saturday in Boston, it has five straight games at Aggie Stadium. The first four are at night and the fifth is the Causeway Classic against rival Sacramento State.

The team then completes the regular season at No. 9 Cal Poly and the University of San Diego.

“I think at the end of the year, when it’s all said and done, we’ll look back and say this was a darn good team,Biggs said.And hopefully we’ll be in position to be in consideration for a playoff bid. I think we’re that quality.

The only thing missing is the win total. For now.

 

MICHAEL GEHLKEN can be reached at sports@californiaaggie.com.

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