Event: UC Davis at California
Records: Aggies, 0-0; Golden Bears, 0-0
Where: Memorial Stadium – Berkeley, Calif.
When: Saturday at 1 p.m.
Who to watch: Redshirt freshman quarterback Randy Wright made his first appearance as the Aggies’ starting quarterback in Friday’s annual Blue and Gold scrimmage. He threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns.
The Santa Rosa, Calif. native captured all-state honors at Cardinal Newman High School and was named All-North Bay League Co-MVP after leading the Cardinals to the California Division III Bowl Championship game.
“[Wright] is doing fine,” Biggs said before Friday’s scrimmage. “I have complete confidence in him, I really do.”
Preview: By September 30, 1939, the Cal Bears had competed in the Rose Bowl four times. Additionally, under then head coach Leonard “Stub” Allison, they had won the Pacific Coast Conference championship in 1937 and shared the title in 1935 and 1938.
The UC Davis Aggies, on the other hand, led by coach Vern Hickey, represented a branch of Berkeley’s College of Agriculture when they last faced the Bears 71 years ago.
Despite the contrast between the two squads in the 1939 matchup, San Francisco Chronicle sportswriter Art Rosenbaum wrote that the Aggies were not “snuffed out by this ferocious Bear.” Instead, the Aggies “rose up and took a Sunday punch right at the big Bear’s snout.”
UC Davis and Cal records say the Bears won that game 32-14. However, The California Aggie noted afterward that at the end of two hours, the time originally allotted for the game, UC Davis was ahead 14-12. It was only after playing for an extended amount of time that Cal triumphed over the upstart farm school.
“We were just a fledgling program in the 1930s,” said head coach Bob Biggs. “Our enrollment was only 1,000 or so, but we still had a football team. And it was just as important for those guys as it is for our team today.”
Over the years, UC Davis has grown to an enrollment of over 32,000 and developed a football team on the rise that competes with high-caliber opponents every season.
Since the move to the Football Championship Subdivision of Division I in 2003, clashes with Stanford, Texas Christian University, Fresno State and Boise State have been some of the highlights for the Aggie program.
“In each of those games we were able to hold our own and we competed very well,” Biggs said.
Biggs believes that the key to playing Cal on Saturday is “finding the tempo early in the game,” just like the team did when it defeated Stanford 20-17 in 2005.
“We were down 14-0, but we were able to weather the storm, settle in and say, ‘hey, we can play with these folks.’
“It’s hard to simulate the speed that a Football Bowl Subdivision school has. It’s how we adjust to that speed early in the game against Cal that will determine how we play, and that’s going to be the test.”
To help find its rhythm, UC Davis will look to the defensive side of the ball – an aspect of the Aggies’ game that Biggs feels is in pretty good shape.
“We’ll have good depth on the defensive line and a lot of players will make contributions,” he said. “Bobby Erskine, in particular, should have a good year.”
Overall, Biggs says his team sees the upcoming game against Cal as a challenge.
“It’s another opportunity,” he said, “no different than Boise last year, Texas Christian the year before and Stanford in 2005, to play up a level and compete. This is a chance to play against the most established of the UC schools, and it’ll be fun for everyone involved.”
– Grace Sprague