UC Davis opened the 2010 campaign on Saturday on the turf of Memorial Stadium in Berkeley to play Pac-10 cousin Cal.
An appreciative coach Bob Biggs was excited to see the amount of support from the Aggie community, who bought their entire allotment of 5,000 tickets in the Blue Zone, with others sprinkled throughout other parts of the stadium.
“The best part was when I looked up and saw all those white T-shirts where the Davis fans were,” he said.
In the Aggies’ spring and summer camps, a large emphasis was placed on simulating the speed of an opponent like the Bears, but according to Biggs, Cal’s strength was just too mighty.
Last season as a freshman, Randy Wright traveled with the team, but never played a single down.
On Saturday afternoon, the redshirt freshman opened up his Aggie football career at Cal’s Memorial Stadium before a crowd of 58,040, one of the largest crowds UC Davis has ever played in front of.
“How many people can say they started against Cal in their collegiate debut?” Wright commented, reflecting on the excitement of the game.
Despite the power and magnitude of the Cal defense and the struggle to find an offensive rhythm, UC Davis’ kicker Sean Kelley found a way to put points on the board for the Aggies in the third quarter with a 43-yard field goal – a kick that made him 5-for-5 from beyond 40 yards in his career.
Afterwards, Biggs asserted that the lessons learned from a contest against an opponent like Cal would only benefit the growing Aggie program in the long run.
“I think it’s a taste of the future for Davis football,” he said. “I have a broad perspective and I know where we’re heading. There’s going be a day when we’re going be competitive in these kinds of games.”
Biggs also credits Cal’s strength on both sides of the ball.
“I’ve been in games when I’ve been really disappointed with how we played and felt like we gave points away, we put the ball on the ground,” Biggs said. “It wasn’t that kind of game.
“They were better. They were much more physical. And I don’t mean it wasn’t effort on our part that made it not physical. They just moved us around. They controlled the [offensive] line and [defensive] line and made it very difficult, obviously, offensively for us to do anything.”
The Bears outgained the Aggies 332-31 in the first half and had 16 first downs to the Aggies’ one. UC Davis’ only first down in the opening half was on the first play of the game.
Although largely stifled by an overpowering Cal defense, Wright completed eight passes for 57 yards, and UC Davis held onto the ball well, turning the ball over just once.
Still, Biggs could see a look of confidence in Wright’s eyes.
“He showed good composure, he delivered the ball well and he took some big hits,” Biggs says. “But that’s part of the initiation at this level of football. He’ll learn from it.”
The Aggies opened up last season in a nearly identical way with a 51-0 loss to Fresno State at Bulldog Stadium. Yet, confidence remains high in the Aggies camp because of the way they finished the season, capturing a winning season and their first conference crown.
“The truth is, we have smart kids,” Biggs said. “These guys will bounce back. We’ll be ready next week, I have no doubt about that.”
UC Davis will begin its five-game home schedule on Saturday at 6 p.m. when it hosts Portland State at Aggie Stadium.
GRACE SPRAGUE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.