It was a rough start to the season after great anticipation for the Cal-UC Davis matchup in the beginning of September.
So, the Aggies looked to rebound during the home opener against the Vikings of Portland State and on the road a week later against the Toreros of the University of San Diego.
Sept. 11 – Portland State 41, UC Davis 33
One week after the Golden Bears held the Aggies to just 81 yards, UC Davis picked up 331 against Portland State. Redshirt freshman quarterback Randy Wright contributed 261 yards through the air.
Despite the improvement in UC Davis’ stats from the previous week, Portland State was able to snap a three-game losing streak to the Aggies with a 41-33 nonconference victory.
“We just couldn’t stop them,” said coach Bob Biggs. “We still had lots of opportunities, but we just couldn’t take advantage.”
The Aggies jumped ahead early for their only lead with a 39-yard field goal from kicker Sean Kelley.
UC Davis was down 21-16 at halftime and shortened the gap to 35-30 late in the third quarter when junior running back Josh Reese caught a 15-yard pass from Wright.
That wasn’t enough to scare Portland State, however, who didn’t punt at all in the game. The Vikings finished the match with 435 yards of total offense, including 257 on the ground.
“They just kept moving the chains,” Biggs said. “It wasn’t always big plays, other than the fourth down play that they ran for a touchdown.
“I thought their quarterback did a great job nickel-and-diming his way down the field picking up first downs and scrambles.”
Aggie linebacker Dozie Amajoyi attributed the frustration to too many mental errors and a zippy opposing quarterback.
“We didn’t do a good job of tackling the quarterback on the quarterback scramble,” he said. “He was a pretty quick guy. We knew he was going to be quick and we thought we were prepared for it, but he was able to get loose and break free on a couple of third downs.
“That was one of the main things that hurt us – third down conversions and not being able to get off the field on defense.”
Defensive end Bobby Erskine, linebacker Marshall Congdon, safety Danny Hart and Amajoyi each had six tackles, while Amajoyi also posted a 12-yard interception return.
Additionally, six different receivers caught passes from Wright.
“We got better protection tonight, so [Wright] had more time to throw the ball.” Biggs said. “Every game, every snap is a new experience for him. He did some good things, but there is certainly room for improvement.”
“This was a tough loss,” Wright said. “I’m sure that we will rebound hard. We have to have each other’s backs, so hopefully we can get a win next week and get this thing on track.”
Sept. 18 – UC Davis 38, San Diego 24
When asked about the game against the Vikings, Wright said he hoped to rebound and get a win at San Diego.
The Aggies did both.
Junior running back Josh Reese rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns and Kelley hit his 12th straight field goal. The UCD defense held San Diego to just 31 rushing yards as the Aggies picked up their first win of the season.
Tight end Dean Rogers caught two touchdowns passes, the first a 38-yarder from Wright midway through the first quarter, and the second coming from sophomore Nick Aprile in the fourth.
Aprile also rushed for 85 rushing yards on 10 carries while Sean Creadick led the Aggie receivers with five catches for 67 yards.
UC Davis, who led by as much as 38-17 in the second half, improved to 1-2 on the year while San Diego lost for the third straight game to fall to 0-3.
The Aggies did however turn the ball over four times with two fumbles and two interceptions and also committed 10 penalties for 100 yards – a season-high mark.
A win is a win, nonetheless.
“It’s good to get a win,” Biggs said. “The effort was there but it was a sloppy game. We needed to get a win and start to get some momentum going now as we prepare for Weber State.”
The last time the Aggies faced the Wildcats was in 2004, when UC Davis posted a 31-29 victory on the road.
In that game, the Aggies led 28-10 at the end of the first half, but then allowed 19 straight points to fall behind 29-28 in the fourth quarter.
Aggie kicker Emmanuel Benjamin delivered a 22-yard field goal for UC Davis’ winning points.
Once again, the Aggies will take on the Wildcats Saturday at 5 p.m. in Ogden, Utah.
GRACE SPRAGUE can be reached at email@example.com.