Teams: UC Davis vs. North Dakota
Records: Aggies 5-4 (2-1); Fighting Sioux 5-4 (2-1)
Where: Aggie Stadium
When: Saturday at 1 p.m.
Who to watch: Most teams don’t craft a game plan that deals with the opponent’s backup free safety.
This week, the Fighting Sioux better make sure they do.
Nick Aprile, a former high school quarterback, has been running a version of the Wildcat offense for the Aggies, which has proven effective over the past two weeks.
Aprile rushed for a touchdown and passed for another in a loss to Southern Utah while rushing for another score in a victory over Cal Poly.
Did you know? UC Davis has home field advantage on Saturday, a statistic that is very telling in the Great West Conference this season.
Only one team in the Great West has won a road game – a UC Davis 24-23 victory over South Dakota on Oct. 10.
Preview: If the Aggies win Saturday, they will be champions of the Great West Conference. It would be their first conference championship since 2005 and the UC Davis’ 30th overall.
With all this on the line, coach Bob Biggs likes their chances.
“If we execute, don’t turn the ball over on offense and our defense continues to play like it has, I think we have a good chance to win this game,” Biggs said.
So far this season the Aggies have relied on the strong arm of quarterback Greg Denham to carry the offense. Denham has passed for 2,341 yards this season averaging 260.1 in those games. The UC Davis passing attack ranks 14th in the FCS.
One area that the Aggies have struggled in is turnovers as they have a minus 11 turnover margin.
On defense, the Aggies will be contending with a balanced North Dakota offense that is averaging 193.1 passing yards per game and 129.7 rushing yards per game.
Overall UC Davis and North Dakota are rather evenly matched. The Aggies and Fighting Sioux are averaging 24 and 23.9 points per game, respectively, which should make the battle for the conference title that much closer.
If the Aggies are to come out with a win, the special teams unit will be key, as it has been all season.
Kicker Sean Kelley connected on a game-changing 52-yard field goal against Cal Poly and has converted 11 of his last 12 kicks after a slow start to the season. Punter Colton Schmidt has punted 40 times this season for a 39.9-yard average with 16 of those kicks pinning the opponent inside its own 20-yard line.
“I’m very pleased with our special teams play,” Biggs said. ” I think you have to win that aspect of the game when you play a team like North Dakota.”
– Richard Procter