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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Column: The Toy Space Rangers

As UC Davis athletics conclude their fall season, each sport with its own standout performers, there are undoubtedly some awards to be distributed.

UC Davis has a very unique bunch of student-athletes capable of things beyond their sport. Without further ado, a couple of titles I’m assigning to people for things that they aren’t. Think of Buzz Lightyear, the Space Ranger who wasn’t one. It’s quite an honor.

Best kicker who’s not a soccer player

Senior Colton Schmidt never has to worry about catching or throwing the ball, but he has some of the best touch on the UC Davis football team.

The placekicker and punter has been keeping opposing teams hugging the goal line for a couple years now. Schmidt has grabbed All-Great West Conference honors for the past two years, and even in the new strong conference, I would be shocked if he didn’t earn a few more conference accolades.

The Bakersfield, Calif. native consistently blasts kickoffs through the opponents’ end zones and keeps punts right at the goal line. Almost half of his punts have stayed inside the 20-yard line this year and he averages over 63 yards per kick on kickoffs.

Schmidt’s boot has possibly been UC Davis’ greatest asset over the past couple of years, all at a position that doesn’t get enough recognition or appreciation.

Best arm that does not belong to a quarterback

Freshman Ryan Gross can throw the ball about 25 yards. Nothing special, right? Did I mention we’re talking about a soccer ball?

In one of the only sports where your ability to throw a ball is discounted, Gross has figured out a way to turn the throw-in into a weapon. That is, chuck the ball into the goal box from anywhere on the same half of the field.

Gross’s ability to turn every throw-in into a corner-kick-like opportunity provided the Aggies with many chances to score and left many defenses perplexed. This will certainly force every team to adjust to this new element in the upcoming years.

Imagine that. A player’s throwing ability useful in soccer.

Best coach who’s not a coach

Now, this is only valid because Bob Biggs, the head coach of UC Davis for the past 20 years, is retiring.

In recent years, the Aggies haven’t had as impressive of a win-loss record as they would hope, but Biggs’ effect on the program has been immeasurable.

The 144 career wins as head coach includes Biggs’ 16-4 record in the Causeway Classic at the helm of the program, as he truly has a place in UC Davis history.

Bob Biggs leaving UC Davis is kind of like Michael Scott leaving The Office. If you don’t know much about him, you’re complaining and really unsatisfied with his performance.

Then, when it’s time for him to leave, you miss him terribly and you see how much he did for the show/company. Once Will Ferrell started as Regional Manager of the Scranton Branch, we really saw how much we appreciated Michael Scott.

It was only fitting that Biggs closed out his career with a victory over Sacramento State. UC Davis was 3-7 overall entering the game and 2-5 in conference, and weren’t really counted on to be competitive in the game.

Yet, Biggs’ program seemed to pull out some magic that earned them the Causeway Classic Trophy. It was one of those moments like in the first Harry Potter book. Slytherin (Sac State — after all, they’re both green) is up over Gryffindor (Aggies) by 160 points at the end of the year. But wait, Harry (Bob Biggs) has done some good things and he’s earned this. I’m just going to give Gryffindor 170 points to assert their dominance over you and to taunt you because I’m Albus Dumbledore (football gods?) and I do as I please.

That analogy may have gotten a bit outlandish, but still, Biggs has done a lot for the program that would have earned a lot of house points if he went to Hogwarts.

He is currently the best UC Davis coach for a team, whose 4-7 overall record and 3-5 conference ledger should be nothing but a source of pride. This year, the Aggies’ victory over Sac State was one that marked the beginning of a new era, but also cemented the Aggies’ dominance over the Hornets under the man who is more like a father than a coach.

MATTHEW YUEN is going into hibernation mode for the winter season. Contact him at sports@theaggie.org and he’ll respond in March.

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