The winning streak is dead. The rivalry is reborn.
Sparked by a quick start and fueled by a flux of missed UC Davis opportunities, Sacramento State brought the fire back into what had become a lukewarm football rivalry, upsetting the Aggies 29-19 on Saturday in the Causeway Classic.
It was the Hornets‘ first win over the Aggies since 1999.
“I’m sure they’re going to come back next year thinking of this as a little more of a rivalry than the last few years,” said Sac State head coach Marshall Sperbeck. “They had won eight in a row, and all of the sudden, you win that many times and start to look at the game differently, I imagine. But I think us winning today woke them up.“
The wake up call began early in the first quarter when Tony Washington caught touchdown passes of 29 and 35 yards in Sac State’s first two offensive possessions.
A botched extra point attempt after the first score was salvaged by a bootleg run, putting the Hornets (5-5) up 15-0 less than nine minutes into the first quarter.
UC Davis spent all game putting itself in position to recover from the slow start but kept falling short, especially when in Hornets territory.
The Aggies converted just one of five fourth-down conversion attempts. All attempts came inside the Sac State’s 39-yard line, including one on the 5-yard line early in the fourth quarter.
Factor in three Aggie turnovers and two failed two-point conversions, and UC Davis (5-5) was left with its most frustrating offensive game of the season.
“We were just beating ourselves the whole night,” said Greg Denham, who threw for 307 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. “When it was time for big plays or time to convert … we just didn’t execute.“
UC Davis held a 451-301 advantage in total yards of offense. Joe Trombetta made his return to the Aggies‘ lineup after missing two games with a knee injury. He had 19 carries for 114 yards with a fumble.
Sophomore Jason Smith led the Sac State offense, completing 13 of 24 passes for 209 yards with three touchdown strikes to Washington. The Hornets were held to 92 yards on the ground while averaging 2.4 yards per carry.
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak and six-game home winning streak for UC Davis dating back to last season. It was first time the Causeway Classic had been played at Aggie Stadium in the annual rivalry game’s 55-year history.
For the Hornets, that means a new beginning to a rivalry they trail 39-17.
“It’s the start of a new tradition,“ said Hornets senior linebacker Cyrus Mulital. “The first game at Aggie Stadium, their senior day, the Causeway Classic – it doesn’t get any better than to spoil their moment. Definitely, this is a turning point for the Sac State program and Sac State tradition. We’re getting it turned around.“
UC Davis fell short against one rival. On Saturday, it will get its crack at another.
The Aggies travel to San Luis Obispo to face No. 3 Cal Poly in the Battle for the Golden Horseshoe. Both teams are 2-0 in the Great West Conference.
With a win, UC Davis would become conference champion and avenge last year’s 63-28 home loss.
“Conference champs has always been a goal of ours as a team, so we look forward to the opportunity to play Cal Poly to attain that goal,” said junior linebacker Mike Morales. “After this loss settles in and we start playing for Cal Poly, I think we’ll use the hunger we have from this loss to play as well as we possibly can.
“That loss last year at home still sits in my heart, too, so we’re going to be able to bring a lot to the table there.”
MICHAEL GEHLKEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.