The scariest thing the Aggies saw on Halloween was their miscues.
UC Davis turned the ball over three times, committed 12 penalties for 115 yards and was unable to stop Southern Utah inside the red zone en route to a 56-35 loss.
The game started on a positive note for the Aggies as they scored a touchdown on their opening drive for a 7-0 lead. The game quickly went downhill from there.
“We really moved the ball well and put enough points on the board where we should be able to win,” said coach Bob Biggs, “but when you turn the ball over that many times it’s tough to win.”
The Thunderbirds scored three straight touchdowns including two rushing touchdowns by running back Major Gray. Gray finished the game with four touchdown rushes, tying a Southern Utah record.
Trailing 21-7, the Aggies battled back with touchdown drives of 92 and 66 yards, tying the game at 21.
Unfortunately for UC Davis, Southern Utah wasn’t interested in keeping the game close and scored three more touchdowns before halftime, bringing the score to 42-21 after two quarters. Biggs tried to keep his team calm at the half.
“I told them that we had to learn from the mistakes we made in the first half, take it one play at a time and not panic,” he said.
Despite allowing another Thunderbird touchdown in the third quarter, the Aggies kept fighting and scored two more touchdowns to make it 49-35. Southern Utah put a stop to UC Davis’ fourth quarter rally by intercepting a pass by quarterback Greg Denham and returning it for a touchdown.
Despite the loss, there were bright spots in the game for UC Davis. The Aggie running backs, who have struggled for most of this season, enjoyed their second consecutive game of running the ball effectively.
Running back Josh Reese had 101 rushing yards on 14 carries to lead the Aggies, who rushed for 263 yards as a team. Five Aggies averaged over six yards per rush, including free safety Nick Aprile, who had eight rushes for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Aprile represented a new facet of the Aggie offense: the Wildcat formation.
“Nick Aprile was an option quarterback in high school so the coaching staff thought it would be a good thing to work on this week,” Biggs said, noting that the defensive scheme employed by Southern Utah is susceptible to the Wildcat.
Aprile also had a touchdown pass in the game.
“Once we got into it, Nick was a lot better than I anticipated,” Biggs said. “Now we’ll expand on it more because it would be a nice wrinkle to have available.”
In addition to the Wildcat offense, the Aggies will work at reducing turnovers and penalties going into next week’s game against Cal Poly.
“We’ve got to take a good look at ourselves,” Biggs said. “We made too many mistakes. If you make those same kind of mistakes against Cal Poly, North Dakota and Sac State, you’re going to get the same kind of result as against Southern Utah.”
The Aggies play host to Cal Poly next Saturday for the Battle for the Golden Horseshoe.
RICHARD PROCTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.