UC Davis had a fitting conclusion to a season filled with frustration.
In a game that saw the Aggies defense make a goal line stand and Greg Denham have a career day, mistakes and missed opportunities proved to be insurmountable in a 28-20 loss to San Diego on Saturday at Toreros Stadium.
“It was a case of where we were our own worst enemy,“ head coach Bob Biggs said. “We had way too many penalties at critical times, a fumble in the red zone, an interception in the red zone. We just couldn’t overcome our mistakes.“
UC Davis had 11 penalties for 94 yards to go with the two turnovers in a game that began well enough.
Looking for their first road win of the season in six tries, the Aggies scored on the game’s opening possession when Denham hit Bakari Grant for a 59-yard touchdown.
The Toreros responded with Seb Trujillo’s two touchdown passes to leave the first quarter with a 14-10 lead.
Chris Miller caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from Denham midway through the second quarter to put the Aggies ahead 17-10. It was the first touchdown of the season for the senior wide receiver who has doubled as the team’s punter in seven games this year.
Miller is in sixth year with the program after missing two years due to injury.
“It was kind of a goal of ours to draw up a couple plays for Chris,” Biggs said. “He’s given so much of himself and really made a huge sacrifice to come back for his sixth year. He’s just such an unselfish player and such a team-oriented guy. I think everyone was pulling for him and was really happy for him when he got that touchdown.“
The Aggies spoiled a chance to build on their lead before halftime. On the 10th play of a drive that began at UC Davis‘ own 30-yard line, Joe Trombetta lost a fumble at the Toreros‘ five-yard line, and San Diego’s Frederick Obi recovered. It was the sixth fumble of the year for the sophomore.
San Diego then drove the ball 94 yards on 12 plays, but was turned away from the end zone when the Aggies defense made a four-down stand after the Toreros had a first-and-goal at the 2-yard line.
The stand came at the end of the second quarter, but the Aggies couldn’t sustain the momentum at the start of the third quarter.
The Toreros scored on the their first possession after the break, thanks in large part to an Aggie roughing-the-passer penalty on third down that kept the drive alive.
Down 21-17, Sean Kelley kicked a 33-yarder in the fourth quarter to bring UC Davis within one. At 5:45, Seb Trujillo hit John Matthews for a 10-yard touchdown pass that, with a failed Aggies two-minute drill to close the game, was enough to hold off UC Davis for good.
The loss gives the Aggies a final record of 5-7, the program’s second straight losing mark.
“There are a couple games in there that I felt we had a good chance to win and we didn’t, and that’s frustrating and disappointing,” head coach Bob Biggs said. “I don’t think the 5-7 record is reflective of the kind of team we had, so I think it’s something that really needs to be evaluated. Last year we didn’t think we had as good of a team, and we ended up at 5-6, and this year we ended up at 5-7, so I think it’s disappointing from that perspective.
“We’ll be disappointed right now, but there’s not a lot of time you can waste on that. You go back to the drawing board, you look at what you did poorly, you got to make some corrections and then be ready to move on.“
Miller was one of the 10 seniors playing their final game for the Aggies. The others were John Faletoese, Jonathan Compas, Mario Gonzalez, Tyler Pringle, Brandon Rice, Nero Evero, E.J. Brown, A.J. McTaggart and Brett Dickinson.
Finishing his first year as a starter, Denham was named Great West Conference Player of the Week after throwing for a career-high 434 yards and two touchdowns against San Diego.
On the season, the sophomore completed a school-record 296 passes, and his 3,478 passing yards were the fourth-highest total in program history.
MICHAEL GEHLKEN can be reached at email@example.com.