UC Davis walked into Hornet Stadium Saturday looking to avenge last year’s loss.
Vengeance for the Aggies will have to wait one more year.
Entering the fourth quarter leading 21-10, the Aggies appeared to be well on their way to winning their ninth Causeway Classic in 10 years. Then Sacramento State came alive, exploding for 21 points in the final 15 minutes.
“I give credit where credit is due,” said coach Bob Biggs. “They made plays, we didn’t make enough. Give them credit.”
After being held to a single field goal in the first half, the Hornets benched starting quarterback Jason Smith for his back-up, McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Bethel-Thompson proceeded to complete 19 of 29 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns in just two quarters of work.
“We just didn’t get very good pressure on the quarterback,” Biggs said. “It seemed like he had all day to throw.”
After blitzing several times in the third quarter in an effort to pressure Bethel-Thompson, the Aggies finally paid for their aggressiveness. The Hornets beat the blitz and scored on a 39-yard touchdown pass. After that, the Aggies settled into zone coverage and a four-man rush, setting the stage for Sacramento State’s long fourth-quarter touchdown drives.
The last Hornet scoring possession almost never took place. Leading 28-23 and facing third down with nine yards to go, UC Davis quarterback Greg Denham threw a pass to receiver Chris Carter along the sideline. Officials near the play ruled the catch, which would have given the Aggies a first down with five minutes remaining, incomplete.
“They said he was in-bounds,” Biggs said, “but when he came down, the official near us said that he thought the ball hit the ground first after [Carter] came out of bounds.”
Carter finished the day with nine catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. He collected his fourth catch of the game with 8:15 left in the second quarter, breaking the UC Davis career reception record of 207 previously held by Tony Kays. Carter ends his career as an Aggie receiver with 2,434 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Carter also owns the school record for most receptions in a single game, with 18 receptions against Montana earlier this season.
“He’s a great player,” Biggs said. “The contributions he’s made have been immeasurable.”
Biggs also said that in 32 years of coaching, Carter is the best receiver he’s had.
“When you combine his work ethic and his character with his natural ability, he’s the best,” Biggs said. “Tony was a great player in his own right, but Chris can really make people miss and that’s probably the difference between the two.”
Despite the loss UC Davis finishes the season with a 6-5 record and the Great West Conference Championship.
RICHARD PROCTER can be reached at email@example.com.