The Aggies had their work cut out for them.
They had to stop a potent Thunderbird offense.
They had to move the ball on the ground.
Ultimately, they had to beat Southern Utah to remain in the picture to defend the Great West Conference title.
Unfortunately for the Aggies, the Thunderbirds outmatched them, taking a 55-24 victory Saturday night at Aggie Stadium.
“We obviously could not stop [Southern Utah],” said head coach Bob Biggs. “We knew it was going to be a tough matchup.”
Wide receiver Tyson Poots was the offensive leader for the Thunderbirds, catching 12 passes for 191 yards, including a final 42-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
The Aggies knew Poots would be tough to defend.
“Poots is an amazing guy,” Biggs said. “He’s a great player and has been since his sophomore year. We had two guys on him and he’d still come up with the catch.”
Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorensen was nothing short of impressive, either.
Sorensen completed 30 of his 36 passes for a total of 397 yards, and contributed to each of the Thunderbirds’ five touchdown plays.
Biggs said it’s necessary to give credit where credit is deserved.
This time, he meant the opposing offense.
“[Southern Utah] has a lot of gifted receivers and their quarterback was on,” Biggs said. “Sorensen was extremely accurate. He played very well, and he put the ball in some great spots.”
Offensively for UC Davis, Biggs was pleased with the effort in the running game.
The Aggies have made a conscious effort throughout this season to get creative on the ground and become more than a one-dimensional offense.
They managed to post 154 total rushing yards, allowing quarterback Randy Wright some freedom to throw for a career-high 278 yards on the game.
Still, Southern Utah was stronger.
“We didn’t make plays when we had to and they did,” Biggs said. “We got behind and we couldn’t catch up.”
UC Davis got off to a solid start offensively on the opening drive, moving the ball up the field for three first downs.
Thunderbird linebacker Blake Feen interrupted the momentum with an interception, returning the ball for 73 yards and a touchdown with 11:20 left in the quarter.
Southern Utah scored again on its next possession with a 38-yard field goal to go ahead 10-0.
Aggie safety Danny Hart believed the game got out of hand fast for UC Davis.
“It snowballed on us at some point,” Hart said. “I’m not sure when it started.”
UC Davis tried to get back in the game with a 44-yard touchdown pass from Wright to wide receiver Sean Creadick later in the first to make the score 10-7 – the closest the game will ever get.
The Aggies scored in every quarter, scattering two more touchdowns and a Sean Kelley field goal, but still couldn’t manage to close the gap against Southern Utah.
After the loss, UC Davis won’t have a shot at a conference title, but that doesn’t mean the Aggies will give up.
“There’s no championship to play for,” Biggs said. “Now we’re playing for pride.”
The team is currently 3-5 on the season and has made its goal to finish the campaign with a positive record.
“We have to try to get a winning season,” Biggs said. “I know [the Aggies] will come back and play hard. That’s who they are.”
UC Davis will attempt to break its two game skid next Saturday when it travels to North Dakota to take on the Fighting Sioux in a Great West matchup.
GRACE SPRAGUE can be reached at email@example.com.