Despite team loss, kicker Brady Stuart soars to new heights.
As families and students reunited for Parent and Family Weekend, the UC Davis football team met the Southern Utah University Thunderbirds at Aggie Stadium on Oct. 24. With last week’s loss fresh on their minds and still laden with injuries, the Aggies lost 34-6 after holding the Thunderbirds close in the first half.
The Aggies won the coin toss against Southern Utah, but deferred and prepared to defend the south goal against the 4-2 team.
Failing to get a first down after three attempts to gain just one yard, Southern Utah’s Tate Lewis punted out of bounds at the UC Davis 22-yard line to begin the Aggies’ drive 38 seconds into the start of the game.
Five plays and two first downs wasn’t enough to put the Aggies past Southern Utah’s 34-yard line, resulting in a 46-yard punt by junior Colby Wadman.
While Southern Utah’s quarterback was making good passes to get two first downs, a slight miscalculation in attempt for a third nearly resulted in a UC Davis interception by junior cornerback Patrick Wells. Utah responded with a 46-yard punt, and junior wide receiver Chris Martin made a quick 40-yard return, placing the line of scrimmage on the visitor’s 40-yard line.
A persistent Southern Utah defense made first downs hard to achieve, and UC Davis set up for a field goal attempt from the 33-yard line. Senior kicker Brady Stuart took the 48-yard attempt and scored three points for the Aggies. After setting a tie in the record with Eddie Loretto (1985-88) with a 47-yard kick last week, he now sets the bar as the UC Davis all-time field goal kicker as well as his own personal best distance.
“I wasn’t trying to worry about a record or anything, I was just playing with my team, trying to get that win,” Stuart said. “I knew I could count on the guys up front to block for me and Grant [Hilton, sophomore long snapper] and Colby [Wadman, junior holder] had the operation set for me.”
The 3-0 lead in the first quarter with six minutes left in the game radiated throughout the team as senior linebacker Travon Brooks and junior linebacker Russell Reeder sacked the Thunderbirds’ quarterback in route of throwing his fourth first down during the Utah drive.
After a short UC Davis drive with a net loss of three yards, the Aggies took down the opposing quarterback yet again in the start of the Southern Utah drive for a loss of four yards, ending the first quarter on the third down with nine yards to go.
A quick first down by Southern Utah in the start of the second quarter placed them in the red zone, first and goal. After failing to get a touchdown due to a confident UC Davis defense, Utah took their first timeout just before the third attempt. The sideline scolding pushed the Thunderbirds forward as they came out and scored the first touchdown of the game, leading UC Davis 7-3.
UC Davis responded to the touchdown by putting up another field goal, bringing the score to 7-6 and setting a close game that continued until the end of the first half.
The 61-yard gain over the course of the second quarter with no lost yards made freshman running back Joshua Kelley the leading rushing yards player out of both teams by the end of the first half, shining light on the team’s “Charlie Mike” term to “continue [the] mission.”
“I want to credit the offensive line […] for creating a hole for me to run through,” Kelley said. “I just run and the coaching staff absolutely believes in me. It is tough [to see the team working hard and the scoreboard not add up], but all you can do is keep on going; Charlie Mike: Continue Mission, just keep on hammering it in and have this unwavering belief that it’s going to happen.”
There a joint performance between the UC Davis dance and cheer teams and Junior Aggies, swearing in a new class of students in the ROTC program and inviting veterans that rode in on their roaring motorcycles at the start of the game.
A change in the UC Davis atmosphere showed as the team was shut down at the beginning of the third quarter in nearly two and a half minutes, followed by a long three minute Southern Utah drive.
A holding penalty on Utah’s junior defensive end Andrew Eide made for an unrecoverable 10-yard loss. Unable to get a first down following the Southern Utah punt, the Aggies returned the ball to start a Southern Utah drive on their 41-yard line. Three first downs and a 31-yard rush later, Utah scored their second touchdown of the night, widening the score to 14-6.
UC Davis junior quarterback Ben Scott and Kelley took control of the Aggie drive. Unable to carry the team on their own, however, Wadman was forced to punt on the fourth down. Southern Utah, with the same fate, returned the ball to Davis on the home 15 yard line.
A loss of two yards in the first down and a gain of two in the second set the UC Davis drive to restart at third and 10, but resulted in one of the six sacks made during the game that totalled a loss of 51 yards overall. Scott fumbled the ball after the sack, and it was recovered by the eager Thunderbirds.
Within 21 yards of a touchdown, Southern Utah wasted no time in scoring again, but missed a kick attempt, leaving the Aggies trailing 20-6 at the end of the third quarter despite promising performances displayed by offensive players.
Merciless in the fourth quarter, Southern Utah managed another sack on Scott, putting an eight minute delay on the game while paramedics and coaches rushed to the field. The symbolic thumbs up was an uplifting moment for a team that is familiar with losing athletes to injuries.
Head Coach Ron Gould didn’t use injuries as an excuse and seemed to take these hurdles as an opportunity for all players to grow by never focusing on the “nameless-faceless” opponent and predominantly focusing on the game.
“I’ve told the team that we’ve faced a lot of adversity this season, but they’ve done a pretty good job of fighting through,” Gould said. “This is more like the Aggie team, in terms of coming out and fighting their butts off. They played very physical — played our style of football — but unfortunately we didn’t score enough points to make a difference in the game. Hats off to my team, they came out and showed the resiliency, they showed the fight and the grit I’m accustomed to seeing out of this group.”
The fourth quarter is a prime example of the loss of depth on the team while many players are out on injury, forcing the team to be ready for “the next man up” as coaches reach for second and third-string men. The majority of starters listed on Game Day programs were out due to injury, and the team constantly has to adapt to a new line up on the field.
Out of the run for a spot in the Big Sky conference, the Aggies will still put up a fight against Weber State on Nov. 7 as they travel to Utah.