Teams: UC Davis at Southern Utah
Records: Aggies, 2-5 (0-1); Thunderbirds, 4-4 (0-3)
Where: Eccles Coliseum – Cedar City, Utah
When: Saturday at noon
Who to watch: After starting the season as little-used reserve, redshirt running back Austin Edmonson was given the chance to impress in the last two games.
He made the most of it.
The Moonpark, Calif. native rushed for 135 yards on 26 carries in the last two contests, after getting only four carries in the previous five games.
Last week, the 5’6″ 185 pound Edmonson rushed for a team-high 80 yards on 14 touches. His production has likely earned him the back-up tail back position for the remainder of the season.
“Austin gives you a different dimension because he can come out of the backfield and do some things in the pass game,” Head Coach Bob Biggs said. “He’s quick and a lot stronger then he appears when you look at his body size.
“He’s a terrific player [with] great vision and [good] mobility.”
Did you know? The Aggies have not beaten Southern Utah since 2008. In the last two contests, the Thunderbirds have scored at least 55 points.
Preview: For the first time this season, this week’s contest is an absolutely must-win game for UC Davis.
Should the Aggies lose on Saturday, they would be eliminated from contention in the Great West Conference title race, a team goal at the beginning of every season.
They aren’t eliminated yet, though.
“We can still accomplish our goals,” said quarterback Randy Wright. “It’s pretty positive out here. We still have conference to play for, so we’re going to be out here getting better.”
The Aggies’ opponent this weekend is not an easy one to understand. Despite being the unanimous choice to win the Great West in the preseason coaches’ poll and starting the season 3-1, the Thunderbirds have struggled in conference play. In the last month Southern Utah has lost three straight conference games before finally bouncing back last week with a win against Weber State.
One constant for the Thunderbirds has been their explosive passing attack, led by experienced junior quarterback Brad Sorensen.
Southern Utah and Sorensen lead the conference with 278.6 passing yards per game this season.
“For [our] defense there’s a lot to do,” Biggs explained. “We are implementing some schemes that hopefully can take away [some throws] because last year they really torched us with the pass game.”
As with all passing attacks, the Aggies will need to find a way to put pressure on the quarterback, something they have struggled to do this year.
UC Davis is last in the Great West with only six sacks on the season.
Offensively, the Aggies will continue to stress the balanced attack that has been working well the last two weeks.
“It’s been nice,” Wright said of the team’s back-to-back games with over 100 yards rushing. “The balance helps the pass game, the play action keeps the defense off balance, so it’s been working.”
Wright explained that the Aggies will focus on time of possession and limiting turnovers as ways of keeping the Thunderbirds’ powerful offense on the bench.
“We need … to help our defense out [and] keep them off the field,” he said. “They’re going to give us some underneath throws and we just need to take them.”
For all football news and updates, you can follow CAELUM SHOVE on twitter @CaAggieFootball. He can be reached at email@example.com