In head coach Ron Gould’s second year at UC Davis, the Aggies finished a disappointing 2-8. The Aggies’ defense struggled significantly throughout the season, allowing opposing offenses to run rampant. Still, sophomore quarterback Ben Scott, junior receiver Ramon Vargas and senior running back Gabe Manzanares all made their season debuts several games into the season and led an offensive resurgence.
The California Aggie was able to catch up with Gould after the 2014 season ended to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the team, the emergence of Scott and his plans for the team going forward.
The Aggie: Overall, where do you think the strong points and weak points were for the team this season?
Ron Gould: Some of the strong points: the way our offense finished up with Ben Scott coming back and Ramon Vargas. Those guys did a great job hooking up; I think the last half of the season we averaged about 31 points per game and about 500 yards of offense (after 19 points per game over the first half). That is super encouraging from my standpoint. I like the resiliency from the team — we battled through all of the way from start to finish so I am very, very pleased with that.
The disappointing things: we have to get better from a defensive standpoint. We obviously gave up too many points per game; we have to get healthy. We were decimated with injuries, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Some of our defensive players need to emerge and get better. From a special teams standpoint, we have to get better. Guys have to continue to make plays throughout; they have to step up and emerge as a viable guy. We need more consistent play in regards to that.
And I know that Ben Scott was dealing with injuries during training camp. When did you decide that you were going to start him?
[Senior quarterback] London Lacy earned that spot. We talk about how you have to earn the right to say that you are a starter at every position; London had earned that so we started him. We weren’t moving the ball as consistently as we would have hoped so we decided to make that change at the quarterback spot right after the Portland State game.
After that, we had Ben (Scott) come in and he gave the team a little bit more of a lift and a little more energy out there. Not to say that he played perfectly, because he didn’t, but he played very well — the command of the offense, getting guys in the right checks, and then putting the ball where the ball needed to be. He was able to run for first downs, so he was able to do it with his legs and his arms. I think that, all in all, gave our team a lift and a lot of energy.
You started only six offensive linemen, pretty consistent there. (Senior offensive lineman) Ian Joseph had an amazing year, what did that do for the team?
Yes, Ian had an amazing year. He is a young man who had 47 consecutive starts. He and (senior offensive lineman) Jay Luschetti were two of our leaders on the team. [We gave up] the least amount of sacks that we have had around here in many, many years so that was something that was very positive.
The ability to be able to run the football was something that was exceptional; we have been good at that for the last couple of years. I think the thing that highlights [our play] is the big plays that we were able to make. That means that the offensive lineman had to hold up so we could take advantage of throwing the ball deep. To say that I was pleased with how those
guys played would be an understatement.
The team seemed to struggle a lot against the long pass. There were multiple times when defensive backs were in good positions to make plays, but their receivers just made plays over them. How do you look to improve upon that for next season?
The biggest thing is that we have some young players that had to come in and play significant amounts for us. With every setback, adversity and even [success], there are opportunities for growth and development. Because these young men have had an opportunity to take a lot of reps this year, they are going to be significantly better a year from there. There are definitely some technique things that we need to improve as a coaching staff, [to] where the kids can feel comfortable being in a good position like they were a majority of the time. I feel really good about those guys being able to achieve that next year.
It seemed like the team lost a few close games, with a few miscommunications at the end. How do you work on that as a team?
You hit the nail on the head when you talk about the miscommunication. We need to do a better job communicating, making sure that we are all on the same page. We had about six or seven plays that [could have easily put us at] 7-4 by the end of the year. That is the thing with great teams, and we played great teams every week — we had to capitalize on those.
Against Sac State, we had five turnovers. You know, you aren’t going to beat Jones Jr. High turning the ball over five times. Our opponents made one or two more plays than we made and we are disappointed about that, but in a lot of ways there is a lot of room for growth and development there.
So you are recruiting now, do you ever use your connections to NFL guys and the fact that you have developed NFL talents in your recruiting pitch?
No, no. A lot of these kids, they watch a lot of TV so they know that I was at UC Berkeley for 16 football seasons. They know from guys that I have recruited that those guys have had a lot of success. I don’t really need to use that, we talk about the product that we have here at UC Davis because we feel like we have something special from the academic standpoint and from the athletic standpoint. The focus and energy is what UC Davis has to bring.
What are your plans for the summer and what do you hope to accomplish for next year?
First of all, I’m going to go out and meet with several head coaches. My goal is to get out and talk to other successful coaches. I have to continue to grow and get better. If I am no longer growing, then I will have failed as a coach. My job this summer is to continue to cultivate relationships, to grow as a coach and to continue to move the program forward.
Finally, this is your first full year living in Davis. How do you like the city so far?
I’ll tell you what man, I have fallen in love with Davis. I miss all of the people at Berkeley, but I love this town. My wife and I have really fallen in love with it, with the community. I love the support, I love being able to walk downtown and see everybody on my bikes. As you can see I have my bike right here in my office, but I just love it.