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Friday, April 19, 2024

Column: Spring forward

The Spring Football Game is in the books and now fans can only look forward to summer practice and the season opener Aug 30.

So with an eye on the future here are the five keys to the 2012 football season.

1. Run, run, run — One of the main story lines this offseason has been the quarterback controversy between junior Randy Wright and sophomore London Lacey, but no matter who is under center, the Aggies should rely on their running game throughout the season.

UC Davis won three of the four games last year when they rushed for over 100 yard and the team needs to focus on riding its running backs this season.

Sophomores Colton Silveria and Austin Edmonson proved last season that they could be effective on the ground and with senior Marquis Nocolis and freshman Tavior Mowry looking to break into the fold, the Aggies should have a deep backfield this season.

2. Stop the ground game — UC Davis allowed over 100 yards rushing in eight of last years 12 games and over 200 yards on three occasions.

While the rushing onslaught was partially due to the Aggies’ opponents’ propensity to keep the ball on the ground (for example Cal Poly attempted 66 rushing plays compared to just 23 passes), the Aggies need to do a better job of keeping opponent’s running games in check.

In order to stand tough against the ground game UC Davis will need the support of senior leaders like linebackers Jordan Glass and Byron Gruendl and defensive end Bobby Erskine.

3. The schedule — One of the most underplayed story lines of this offseason is the radical difference in this year’s football schedule compared to what UC Davis fans have become used to. Over the past three seasons UC Davis has faced off against some solid Division I Football Bowl Subdivision opponents (Fresno State and Boise State in 2009, California in 2010 and Arizona State and Hawaii last season).

These games all ended in blowout losses and while they have been excellent fundraisers for UC Davis football, it’s hard to enter every season with one to two losses already penciled in.

This season, however, UC Davis faces just one FBS school: San Jose State — a team UC Davis should have a reasonable chance to beat.

Beyond that, for the first time in recent memory, the Aggies’ opening day opponent is not only a team that they can beat, but a team that they should beat.

UC Davis will kick off its season at home on Thursday, Aug 30 against NAIA program Azuza Pacific, in a game that should provide the Aggies with some momentum to carry forward into a tough Big Sky Conference schedule.

4. Special teams — It’s an underestimated aspect of the game, but over the past several seasons UC Davis’ kicking game has been one of the program’s highlights.

With senior Colton Schmidt punting, UC Davis has a major advantage in the field position game, but with Sean Kelley no longer part of the program, the Aggie kicking game could be something to watch this year.

The return game might be something for the Aggies to work on as well; UC Davis has not returned a kickoff or punt for touchdown since 2009.

5. Go Biggs or go home — It’s easy to overestimate the value of emotion in sports and commentators often overstate the importance of having a little extra motivation, but the upcoming football season presents a special case.

It’s not every year that your head football coach retires and it’s even more rare that the coach announces his retirement prior to the start of the season.

Add to that the fact that Bob Biggs has been a member of the UC Davis coaching staff since before his players were born and you have a team that should be willing to lay it all on the line for their coach in his final season.

The last time an Aggie team had motivation like this was Sandy Simpson’s final year atop the women’s basketball program in 2010 to 2011 — a year that ended with a historic Big West Conference title and an NCAA appearance.

While it’s a stretch to expect UC Davis to win the Big Sky this season, or even to make the playoffs, if the Aggies rally around their head coach like you’d expect them to then UC Davis fans should see a marked improvement this season.

TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.

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