It’s a saying heard all too often around the student section of Aggie Stadium: “My high school football team was better than UC Davis.”
This is the voice of an ill-informed fan not realizing the work done by the UC Davis football program over the last several seasons.
Many fans will be sharing these types of sentiments now that the Aggies have dropped yet another game against a high-profile opponent. While it’s easy for casual fans to focus on the 1-3 record, and even dedicated supporters may be discouraged by the underwhelming 142-42 combined score-line in UC Davis’ three losses, there is one thing that should be remembered: the football season is a marathon, not a sprint.
The trio of losses plaguing the Aggies’ early-season resume were games UC Davis was supposed to lose. No educated college football fan would have given the Aggies a chance against Football Bowl Subdivision, FBS, opponents Arizona State and Hawaii. Football Championship Subdivision, FCS, teams have won less than 20 percent of their matches against FBS squads, and both the Sun Devils and the Warriors have proven themselves to be among the NCAA’s elite teams.
The Aggies’ lone FCS loss came at the hands of Montana State, one of the top teams in the FCS. The Bobcats boast one of the best home-field advantages in the nation and won the Big Sky Conference last season on their way to becoming the fourth seed in the FCS playoffs.
These early season games weren’t meant to be wins or to build momentum, they were meant to build the program. Sure a win would be an incredible boost to the team (many still talk about UC Davis’ win over Stanford six years ago), but more than that, these games are about establishing UC Davis football as a legitimate Division I program – both through experience and recognition.
So now that these early games are out of the way, the real test for UC Davis football begins.
What happens to the Aggies over the next several weeks will define their season in the minds of the players and coaches, and it should shape the way you look at UC Davis football as well.
My guess is, it will be pretty positive.
UC Davis started its last two seasons 1-3 and rebounded to tally its 38th and 39th winning seasons in the last 40 years. There’s no reason the Aggies can’t do it again – in fact, this time around there’s even more reason for optimism.
The main reason is the improvement of sophomore quarterback Randy Wright. While the Santa Rosa, Calif. native proved his value last year by engineering comebacks against both Cal Poly and Sacramento State, he was clearly overwhelmed at the beginning of the 2010 season, and had to learn on the fly as he faced collegiate level competition for the first time.
This season, Wright is clearly much more composed and is ready to help his team make a run at the playoffs. Not only that, but Wright has a much more diverse group of weapons to throw to.
Many pundits were concerned that the Aggies’ passing game would struggle after it lost leading receiver Sean Creadick to graduation, but Wright has pulled the team through it by spreading the ball around. Last season Creadick accounted for over half of the Aggies’ total receiving yards; by contrast, this year’s top receiver – junior Anthony Soto – has just over 20 percent of the Aggies’ total passing yards.
Not only do the Aggies have stronger quarterback play this season, they have an added advantage over the remainder of the season: all of you. UC Davis will play four of its remaining seven games at home. Add to that the road match against Sacramento State, and the Aggies will have five games with significant Aggie Pack support.
UC Davis drew an attendance of 10,129 for its first home game against University of San Diego, just 700 fans short of Aggie Stadium’s capacity. If that trend continues as Fall quarter progresses, the Aggies could find themselves with an incredible edge in home games.
So for those of you who are quick to write off the UC Davis football team, slow down – I’ll even make a deal with you. The Aggies’ next two games come against Humboldt State and University of Texas-San Antonio. If UC Davis gets blown-out in those two contests, I will not only stand with you in the Aggie Pack section and make baseless claims that my high school team would kill the Aggies, I will publicly denounce the whole UC Davis football program.
But until that happens, calm down. Watch the games and keep your finger off the panic button until we lose a game we’re supposed to win.
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at email@example.com.