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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Successful swan song for Aggie seniors

The Aggies ended their last home game and sent their seniors off with a 34-18 win over University of North Dakota (UND) on Nov. 16. The game marked the last time playing at Aggie Stadium for 16 UC Davis seniors.

“Our focus the last couple of weeks has been superb,” said head coach Ron Gould. “We talked about attention to detail and focusing on fundamental football. I am proud of the team to see the seniors go out with a win. This group of seniors is really special. To see the way they have embraced me, see how they responded to change – not necessarily better, but different — was great to see.”

UC Davis’ win improved their record to 4-7 overall and 4-3 in the Big Sky Conference while ending UND’s season at 3-8 (2-6).

In addition to scoring three touchdowns, junior running back Gabe Manzanares ended the game with 194 total yards and 132 yards rushing, more than twice as many rushing yards than UND.  This was his fifth consecutive 100-yard game.

Manzanares carried the ball 27 times, averaging 4.9 yards per attempt with a long of 39 yards. The running back scored on runs of 17 yards, one yard and caught a 15-yard pass from senior quarterback Randy Wright.

The San Francisco, Calif. native moved up to eighth on the Aggies’ single-season rushing list with 1,163 yards while advancing six spots to fourth for single-season carries with 232. Manzanares needs only 21 yards to pass Matt Brown (1,183 in 2000) for the seventh spot, and a 125-yard game would put him past G.P. Muhammad (1,287 in 1998) for fourth all-time.

Sophomore kicker Brady Stuart was named Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time this season, due in large part to his career-best four field goals (18, 29, 32 and 35 yards). The Newhall, Calif. local is now 15 for 22 for the season with eight consecutive field goals.

Both teams got on the board in the first half with field goals, but UC Davis took a 6-3 lead with a 29-yard Stuart field goal on the first play of the second quarter.

Senior Jonathan Perkins’ 72-yard kickoff return set up Manzanares’ 17-yard TD run, which improved the Aggies’ lead to 15-3 in the first 30 seconds of the second quarter.

Despite a second 45-yard field goal from Zeb Miller and a three-yard TD from Adam Shaugabay (with a blocked PAT by UC Davis senior defensive tackle Anthony Kaspar), UND trailed 18-9 before the half.

Manzanares’ 15-yard TD reception occurred early in the fourth quarter and inflated the Aggies’ lead 24-9, while his one-yard rush halfway through the period made the score 31-12.

UND made one last push and scored on Kenny Golladay’s touchdown at the end of their 80-yard drive, but Kaspar blocked the extra point yet again. The senior from Dana Hills, Calif. also added six tackles and a sack.

Stuart’s last field goal produced the final score of the game, 34-18.

“I told my players this week to keep playing the next play, line up again, and play that play,” Gould said. “If we have to, let’s regroup, refocus and execute the next play. I told them not to look at the scoreboard and just worry about the next play.”

Although UND finished with 368 yards passing, UC Davis’ defense held UND to only one touchdown and recorded three sacks.

Senior cornerback Dre Allen finished with seven tackles and a pass breakup, while freshman defensive end Zak Petit had two sacks. On top of a 44-yard punt return, senior Charles Boyett had six tackles.

Averaging 45 yards per punt on five punts, Colby Wadman added to the special teams’ impressive performance.

Wright completed 18 of 32 passes for 263 yards while senior Tom Hemmingsen had three catches (including a 44-yard catch the first play of the game) for a team-high 66 yards.

UC Davis will play their final game of the season at the 60th annual Causeway Classic this Saturday, Nov. 23 at 3:30 p.m. at rival Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium.

The Aggies’ defense will have their work cut out for them with three-time Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week quarterback Garrett Safron. Safron threw for a Sacramento State record of 554 yards on his way to four passing touchdowns. He also led the team in rushing with 42 yards and two rushing touchdowns in a 43-42 victory against Portland State on Nov. 16.

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