48.1 F

Davis, California

Monday, February 26, 2024

Aggies get mauled by nationally-ranked Grizzlies

Coming into the game with significant momentum after two straight victories, UC Davis had serious upset potential against the Montana State Grizzlies.

In the end, however, the Aggies failed to get key stops and turned the ball over twice, which led to a 42-7 victory for Montana State.

Montana State came into the Oct. 12 matchup averaging 40.6 points per game, while the Aggies had been led to their last two victories by a stingy defense. UC Davis held opposing offenses to an average of eight points per game. Still, the Aggies have struggled on offense despite the phenomenal play of junior running back Gabe Manzanares.

The game quickly turned in favor of Montana State as they capitalized on an interception with a 30-yard touchdown pass less than five minutes into the game. Four minutes later, the Grizzlies scored on an 18-yard run by running back Travon Van after having received the ball at the UC Davis 45-yard line due to a bad punt.

By halftime, Montana State had the game well in hand, leading by a score of 21-0. UC Davis senior quarterback Randy Wright threw two interceptions in the half and the defense was unable to stop the Grizzlies running game.

The second half proved to be more of the same for the Aggies as they were gashed for three touchdown runs, including a 41-yard run on fourth down.

The Aggies scored their lone points on their first drive of the second half, marching 70 yards down the field completed by a nine-yard touchdown run by Wright. In addition to his touchdown run, the senior quarterback was able to pick up two key first downs on his feet.

Despite the disheartening loss, UC Davis has a lot of lessons to take away from this game.

“I was encouraged by the way we took the ball down the field to start the second half and scored on a long drive,” head coach Ron Gould said. “That’s something I challenged my offense to do, and they did it.”

The defense also played another solid game, despite being stuck on the field as the Aggie offense failed to maintain possession. They managed to hold Montana State quarterback Jordan Johnson to only 163 yards through the air, 70 yards below his per game average.

Still, the Grizzlies were able to rush for five yards per carry as starting running back Jordan Canada ran over the Aggie defense to the tune of 126 yards and two touchdowns. The Aggies were also unable to force any turnovers, failing to pick up one Grizzlies’ fumble and having a fumble recovery called back due to a penalty in the third quarter.

“We work on a turnover drill every single day that we practice — every single day — and we have an opportunity to get a ball that we do not get,” coach Gould said. “Those are things right there that can help us as a team.”

UC Davis also continued to struggle on offense as Randy Wright threw two costly interceptions and Manzanares failed to produce to the level he had in prior weeks, rushing for only 60 yards in the game.

The focus for UC Davis now turns to next week, as they travel to Greeley, Colo. to take on the Northern Colorado Bears.

“This loss stings, but this is about the process and I can think about things I want to focus on next week,” said senior defensive end Nick King. “There is a process, and we will start over on Monday after we watch film.”

If the UC Davis defense returns to its stingy ways and the offense is able to sustain drives, they should have no problem restarting their winning streak.

RYAN REED can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.



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