In one of the most exciting games in recent UC Davis football memory, the Aggies came back from a 31-14 deficit at halftime to take the lead late in the third quarter before falling short 48-41 to second-ranked Montana State.
The Montana State Bobcats came into the game at 5-0 and as the highest-ranked FCS team to enter Aggie Stadium, yet the Aggies were able to hang with the Bobcats until the very last drive of the game.
“If we have an identity, it’s that we play hard all the time,” said head coach Bob Biggs. “Regardless of what the score is we just fight and keep swinging.”
The Aggies went into halftime after junior quarterback Randy Wright threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown to put the Bobcats up 31-14 at the half. Coming out of the half, Wright quickly redeemed himself with a 26-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Anthony Soto.
“The defense started getting turnovers and the crowd started getting into it and that is all it took. This place was rocking for a while,” Wright said.
The UC Davis defense was exceptional at causing turnovers, recovering three Montana State fumbles while also picking off Bobcat’s quarterback DeNarius McGhee once as well.
“The first half, we had a couple mental mistakes and then our defensive coordinator Mark Johnson fired us up at halftime,” said senior linebacker Jordan Glass. “We came out in the second half and made some big plays to help the offense turn the game around.”
Glass had one of the most crucial plays of the game as he detected a screen pass and returned the interception seven yards for the touchdown that knotted the two teams at 31 points apiece.
“We saw that formation on film and we saw it in the game earlier. Coach had man coverage on him and I felt a screen and I don’t even know if he [McGhee] saw me but I just went down and grabbed it,” Glass said.
After the interception return, the Aggies scored again on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Wright to sophomore wide receiver Corey Galindo to put the Aggies ahead 38-31.
“It ended up being a game of turnovers and whoever capitalized on those turnovers was going to win this game. And oftentimes that happens when you have two teams slugging it out. There was some hard hitting out there and we just kept fighting,” Biggs said .
The Aggies took a 41-38 lead into the middle of the fourth quarter until Bobcats defensive tackle Zach Minter made a similar play to that of Glass, intercepting Wright’s screen pass near the Aggies goal line.
This set up Tray Robinson’s second one-yard touchdown run of the game to put Montana State up for good. The Bobcats later tacked on one more field goal, which gave the Aggies one more chance for a touchdown, but the Aggies turned it over on downs.
This loss drops the Aggies to a record of 2-4 and 1-2 in Big Sky conference play.
“It sucks to lose this close one, especially trying to upset the No. 2 team, but we’re not going to stop fighting. We have a lot of seniors on this team and we’re going to come out to work hard every day with a blue-collar attitude and keep fighting,” Glass said.
Bobcats quarterback DeNarius McGhee had a big game, throwing for 334 yards with a touchdown as well as a running touchdown. McGhee also used his feet throughout the game, escaping near sacks to keep plays alive.
“That quarterback is Houdini. There were numerous times that I thought we had him,” Biggs said. “A key play was when they were deep in their territory after [they] had gone up by seven and I thought we had him down twice for a safety but next thing you know he runs for a first down for 20 yards.”
Glass also talked about McGhee’s athletic prowess that gave UC Davis fits.
“He’s a very good athlete. We tried to keep him contained in the pocket and not let him get out and make plays with his feet,” Glass said. “We struggled with that in the first half and we came out and did a much better job in the second.”