Quarterback Greg Denham and linebacker Mike Morales spoke about the ambiance of Bulldog Stadium after the Aggies faced Fresno State.
“The atmosphere was great,” Denham said. “It’s something everybody hopes for.“
“We want our program to be at this level and go beyond this level, too,” Morales said.
On Saturday, the Aggies saw that they have some work to do to get to that level. UC Davis fell to Fresno State by a score of 51-0 in front of 37,267 members of the Bulldog faithful.
“Programs like Fresno State are a model for us,” coach Bob Biggs said, “because they made the jump to the Football Championship Subdivision level like us and later to the Football Bowl Subdivision. You see what the result can be with 30,000 to 40,000 people and a great atmosphere.“
How can UC Davis build up to that level? Biggs kept it simple.
“In order to create that kind of excitement,” he said, “you have to win.“
It became clear from the start that the Aggies would have a hard time doing that in Fresno. They believe they’ll be able to learn from their mistakes, though.
“We will hopefully regroup and come back stronger,” Denham said. “It’s humiliating, but at the same time it’s motivating.“
“We are going to steadily keep climbing,” Morales said. “We will game plan and come back with a better mindset.“
The Bulldogs proved their physicality early on, rushing the ball on all nine plays of the first drive, resulting in a one-yard plunge by quarterback Ryan Colburn.
On the next drive, Fresno State added another score on a 60-yard dash by tailback Ryan Mathews.
“They were more physical than we were,” Biggs said. “They were doing what they wanted to do and that was to establish the run early in the game.“
With the score 14-0, UC Davis had a chance to make it a contest.
Fresno State’s Chastin West muffed a punt and the Aggies recovered, giving them good field position four minutes into the second quarter.
The Aggies‘ good fortune quickly turned awry as Bulldog linebacker Nico Herron picked off a Denham pass and took it 94 yards the other way for a touchdown.
“The interception really took the wind out of our sails,” Biggs said. “It was just downhill from there on.“
“We had a game plan and they came out doing something totally different,” Denham said. “They usually blitz 20 percent of the time, but they played zone tonight. I guess their strategy was to come out and hit me.“
The game marked the first time that UC Davis has been held scoreless in the past 212 contests. Things won’t get much easier next week as the Aggies face a Montana team that advanced to the FCS title game last year.
“I always feel like the most gain you make with a team comes between the first and second game,” Biggs said. “We will try to correct some of the mistakes we made. We are going to grow from it.“
The Aggies showed they have room to grow on Saturday. The experience they gained at Bulldog Stadium, though, can be a big part of that growth for the future.
“You looked around and it was a great atmosphere,” Biggs said. “It looked like a jam-packed house. Everybody was having fun – at our expense, unfortunately.
“That’s what college football should be. That’s what UC Davis should have. That’s what we are building toward.“
MAX ROSENBLUM can be reached at email@example.com.