Ismael Bamba streaked 50 yards downfield for one North Dakota touchdown. Josh Murray took a pitch 46 yards to set up another.
By halftime, it looked like yet another shootout was on tap for a homestand that had already seen its share of high-octane offense.
Clearly, the UC Davis defense had other plans.
The Aggies came out of the break with arguably their best defensive effort of the season, holding the Fighting Sioux to 120 yards of second-half offense for a 34-21 Great West Conference win Saturday night at Aggie Stadium.
Fifty-eight of North Dakota’s 120 yards came on a touchdown drive put together in garbage time of an otherwise dominant half highlighted by four UC Davis sacks, an interception and negative 27 rushing yards allowed.
“I really thought North Dakota’s offense was as good as any offense we’ve seen all year,” said Aggies head coach Bob Biggs. “They’re well-coached, well-coordinated. They do a lot of stuff that can confuse defenses.… That’s why I think the effort is even more impressive – because it was against a good offense.“
Entering the game, North Dakota (5-2, 0-1) averaged 438.0 yards of total offense per game, but UC Davis held it to only 245 yards.
Defensive pressure had Fighting Sioux quarterback Danny Freund struggling to find comfort in the pocket. After completing his first pass to Bamba for a 50-yard touchdown, the senior was held to 20-of-29 passing for 127 yards and a pick the rest of the night.
“We adjusted, came back and went after them,” said defensive tackle John Faletoese, who had a sack and a blocked field goal in the third quarter. “We played everything real well, mixed up the blitzes, got some pressure and had the quarterback scrambling around making some bad throws. I was pretty happy with our defensive play.“
The Aggies offense was nothing to scoff at, either.
Greg Denham had his second straight 300-yard game, going 31-of-41 for 320 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Both strikes came in the first quarter, one to Bakari Grant from four yards out and the second to Brandon Rice on an 11-yard connection.
Making his second straight start at running back, Corbin Cutshaw led all players with 128 total yards (81 receiving). Tight end Dean Rogers had six carries for 15 yards and a pair of one-yard touchdowns.
“It was a complete effort,” Biggs said. “Sometimes you feel really good about a win, and sometimes you feel just good about it. I feel really good about this one because I think that was a quality football team.“
The win was UC Davis‘ fourth straight, improving the team to 5-4 (2-0) heading into a bye. The Aggies return to action on Nov. 8 for Senior Day against Sacramento State.
“We got a bye now, so we can really focus for [Sac State],” Faletoese said. “We’re just getting better and better, and I don’t see that letting up.“
MICHAEL GEHLKEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.