It was a massive win — a victory in a football rivalry game to keep the Golden Horseshoe in Davis for the third year in a row.
But UC Davis’ 24-17 win on Saturday could prove to have a much more long-lasting effect than simple bragging-rights over our rival to the south over the next 12 months — it could prove to be the win that saves head coach Bob Biggs’ job.
Entering the weekend, UC Davis was 2-6, coming off a pair of tough losses and an incredibly underwhelming season to that point. Fans and media alike seemed to be bracing themselves for an embarrassing defeat on their home field at the hands of the hated Cal Poly.
Indeed even the Mustang fans that made the five-hour drive to Aggie Stadium entered the game with confidence and boldness rarely seen by supporters heavily outnumbered by home-town fans.
And while no one seemed willing to take an outright public stance on the issue, the general rumbling around the UC Davis campus was that this might be the last year for Biggs.
Some argued that the UC Davis graduate did not have what it took to lead a program at the Division I level. They pointed out that since narrowly missing the FCS playoffs in 2009, the Aggies have taken huge steps backward over the last two seasons.
With a new athletic director set to take over in the 2012-13 school year, it seemed like the perfect time to make a fresh start atop UC Davis’ biggest sports program.
All of that may have changed on Saturday.
The Aggies came out of the gates hot, and dominated the first-half against Mustangs.
UC Davis may have been outplayed in the second frame, but that would soon be forgotten as the team ran across the field to celebrate in front of the Aggie Pack.
The win over Cal Poly was a huge step in the right direction, and while even a win over a rival is only enough to keep Biggs off the hot-seat until UC Davis’ next loss, it could spark the Aggies to play well over the final two weeks of the season.
With a winnable home game against North Dakota next week and another rivalry match on the road at Sacramento State, it seems reasonable that UC Davis could ride this momentum to a 5-6 record.
True it would still be a losing season, and the Aggies can finish no higher than second in the mediocre Great West Conference, but a 5-6 finish is hardly worth firing a coach, especially when you consider that two losses came against FBS opponents (and strong ones at that).
Further, aside from the loss to Humboldt State (admittedly a horrendous defeat), this season has gone about the way most fans would have expected so far.
The Aggies have won their other three home-games, and while a road-win over either South Dakota or Southern Utah would have been nice, it certainly was not a lock.
And looking at the big picture, the future seems to be bright.
Quarterback Randy Wright is in just his sophomore season, and is continuing to improve, while young receivers like sophomore Tom Hemmingsen and freshman Coery Galindo are emerging as playmakers in this offense.
More importantly, however, is that over the past few games Biggs has developed something UC Davis hasn’t had in past seasons: a running game.
Saturday’s 149 yards on the ground marked the third time in the last four weeks that the Aggies have rushed for over 120 yards, and again, those yards are coming largely from freshmen Colton Silveria and Austin Edmondson.
With that said, all of these improvements could still be a mirage.
After all, a short string of games is just one chapter in the course of a college football season, and things could easily fall apart over the next few weeks.
But if the season does continue positively from here, it seems only fitting that the win over Cal Poly was the turning point.
Saturday’s game was the 40-year celebration of Biggs’ greatest game as a player — UC Davis’ 30-29 win over Cal State Hayward.
The so-called “Miracle Game” featured then-quarterback Biggs making several big plays down the stretch to lead UC Davis to 16-points in the final 20-seconds as the Aggies won the game.
Now it’s time for Biggs to complete a different kind of comeback — and this time his job may be on the line.
A quick word for the UC Davis students wearing Cal Poly shirts in the Aggie Pack sections: SCOREBOARD! TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.