For this 2011 UC Davis football team, the pieces are not falling into place.
Early in the season, it was the Aggie defense that was overmatched against powerful offensive opponents. Later, as the defense began to settle, it was the offense that struggled to move the chains and put points on the board.
Then, last week against the University of Texas, San Antonio, the team started to click, earning its second win of the season. The offense was able to establish the run, providing a balanced attack that was backed up by a solid defensive effort.
This weekend at the University of South Dakota, though, a strong performance by the Aggies was undone by costly penalties and a season high five turnovers.
UC Davis was able to execute its game plan on both sides of the ball, and ultimately outplayed the Coyotes in all phases of the game.
However, the turnovers were too much to overcome, and the Aggies fell 27-24.
“We played very well defensively and got the kind of balance we wanted offensively, but the turnovers cost us,” Head Coach Bob Biggs said.
For UC Davis, the second half turnovers proved to be the most costly. With the score tied at 17-17 partway through the third quarter, sophomore quarterback Randy Wright threw an interception that was returned 66 yards for a South Dakota touchdown. It was the only score of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the hard work continued to unravel. A fumble by Wright on a South Dakota sack deep in UC Davis territory set up a quick field goal for the Coyotes, making the score 27-17.
Wright fumbled again on the following UC Davis possession, but the Aggie defense was able to hold. A quick touchdown drive orchestrated by Wright cut the deficit to three, but with only one minute remaining in the game.
The onside kick by UC Davis’ senior Sean Kelley was a good one, but the bouncing ball was recovered by the South Dakota, and time ran out on the Aggies.
When looking at the final score, Biggs lamented the third quarter, in which the Aggies failed to put any points on the board.
“At that point I really thought we were outplaying them, but we just couldn’t take advantage of some of the opportunities we had,” he said.
Asked about why the team was unable to capitalize on opportunities, the 19-year UC Davis head coach was quick to point to penalties. The Aggies were flagged 11 times for 99 yards in the game.
“They just seemed to come at untimely moments,” Biggs said of the penalties. “We got into their territory and then found ourselves backpedaling.
“Those are the kinds of things that hurt you in the long run because they take us out of opportunities to kick field goals. As it turns out, that’s the difference in the game.”
Going forward, the Aggies will need to eliminate the mistakes, but also build on what was a strong performance on both sides of the ball.
On offense, UC Davis outgained the Coyotes both in the air and on the ground, while rushing for over 100 yards for only the second time this year.
Defensively, the Aggies executed their game plan perfectly, and were unlucky to give up three touchdowns.
“I felt (the defense) played great,” Biggs said. “Our goal was to stop the run and we held them under 100 yards. We did exactly what we wanted to do.
“We have to keep fighting. We’re smart enough to realize that we can be a pretty good football team, but we have to eliminate the mistakes that are causing us not to win games.”
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