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Friday, November 26, 2021

UC Davis Football celebrates homecoming with a blowout win against Northern Colorado

The Aggies spectacular defensive effort allowed 3 points in their homecoming win while improving their record to 6-1

By MARLON ROLON — sports@theaggie.org

After suffering their first loss of the season last week, UC Davis rebounded with their stout defense leading the way, securing the homecoming victory 32-3 over Northern Colorado. It was not all smooth sailing however, as the Aggies offensive line had four sacks while junior quarterback Hunter Rodrigues threw two interceptions.

Prior to homecoming, Rodrigues struggled in the last two games completing less than 50% of his passes, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.

“In this league, guys just show us different looks every single week so we [have] got to be ready to adjust on the fly,” Rodrigues said. “We weren’t really expecting that much pressure. They weren’t a high pressure team going into this week.”

 The Bears aggressive defense had Rodrigues scrambling early. Northern Colorado’s defense forced Rodrigues into making bad decisions. With 9:28 remaining in the first quarter, Rodrigues snapped the ball and under threw his receiver, Carson Crawford. 

The following play, Rodrigues operated from the shotgun, but Northern Colorado’s defensive pressure led Rodrigues to scramble out the pocket causing a poor throw behind his receiver’s shoulder. With 9:17 left to play in the first quarter, Rodrigues started the play from the shotgun formation. He immediately scrambled out of the pocket trying to evade the sack while uncharacteristically throwing it into traffic and was easily picked off by the Bears linebacker Jace Bobo.

“It’s very interesting in this league you don’t always get exactly maybe what you thought you were going to coming in,” Coach Dan Hawkins said. “They did a few extra things there that gave us some issues. They got some good edge players there.”

 The Bears looked to be in control during the first quarter, however, on 4th & 2UC Davis stopped the Bears running back Gene Sledge Jr., converting a turnover on downs. That particular play swung the momentum in favor of the home team, the Aggies offense suddenly looked alive. 

Rodrigues, once again operating in the pistol formation, motioned to freshman running back Lan Larison, threw him a short pass in which he ran for 49 yards after the catch. Larison was elusive in evading defenders left and right, nearly scoring a touchdown. However, a late tackle inside the 25 yard line stopped him from scoring.

Northern Colorado’s defense kept breaking through to once again sack Rodrigues for a five yard loss. Eventually the Aggies settled for a 34 yard field goal attempt, kicker Isaiah Gomez missed the three point attempt, turning the ball over on downs. 

In the second quarter, UCD made adjustments on offense. As Rodrigues kept feeling the pressure from the Bears ferocious defense, the Aggies turned to their run game with star running back Ulonzo Gilliam Jr., leading the charge. 

“Obviously we got some guys banged up on the o-line, so some guys stepped up allowing us to run the ball.” Rodrigues said. “When we get the run game going, I think everything kind of opens up.”

The game clock read 10:12 during the second quarter, with Rodrigues handing the ball off to Gilliam Jr., as he sped across the field running through defenders for a 17 yard gain. The power run jolted the home crowd as UC Davis Health Stadium was as loud as ever. Gilliam Jr., rushed two more times for a combined 21 yards. The rushing attack led to Rodrigues throwing a touchdown to Jared Harrell off a quick slant at the goal line that was good for six points. 

Instead of going for the extra point, the Aggies opted to go for the two point conversion with Trent Thompkins, also known as the “Magic Man.” Thompkins indeed showed off his magic as he effortlessly ran into the endzone putting the Aggies up 8-0. 

Northern Colorado was looking to answer back on 3rd & 2 as they lined up on the power formation making it obvious they were going to run the ball. The Bears quarterback, Dyla McCaffrey had a miscommunication with the offense when he attempted to hand the ball off and fumbled in the process. The 360-pound redshirt freshmen Chubba Maae recovered the ball for the Aggies eliciting loud cheers from the crowd.

UC Davis continued to feed Gilliam Jr. the ball as he rushed in three consecutive plays gaining 23 yards to put the Aggies in successful field goal range. The score was 11-0 with six minutes remaining in the second quarter.

Coach Hawkins spoke about Gilliam Jr’s., production. 

“He gets banged up a lot and he always has shoulder or ribs, he always has something but he never misses, never says anything he just keeps producing,” Hawkins said. “He doesn’t care if you give it to him 50 times, five times, he does what he can do and it’s really great having a guy like that. He loves to win, he loves to compete and he works at it.” 

The Bears offense was no match to UCD’s defense, gaining only 10 yards in seven plays. Ultimately, Northern Colorado punted the ball back with the second quarter coming to a close.

Rodrigues finished the half with 122 yards, passing on 15 attempts. completing nine passes with one touchdown and one interception. Gilliam Jr., who added 63 yards on the ground with nine attempts, averaging seven yards per carry. Larison caught three passes for 63 yards and Crawford caught two passes for 51 yards. 

To start the third quarter, UCD was intercepted off a tipped pass, making that the second interception Rodrigues threw for the night. However, Northern Colorado could not generate anything on offense, punting the ball back after three plays and only gaining six yards. 

UC Davis focused on the run game utilizing Gilliam Jr., Thompkins, Larison and Crawford. Eventually, Tompkins swapped in as quarterback, playing off the shotgun formation. The “magic man” easily ran into the endzone for a five yard touchdown putting the Aggies up 18-0 with 2:44 remaining in the third quarter. 

Northern Colorado could not find any sort of rhythm as they were forced to take more shots down the field by throwing the ball. The Bears quarterback McCaffrey attempted a short pass on first down as he darted a pass the ball was deflected and ultimately picked off by Erron Duncan for the Aggies.

When asked about the defensive effort Rodrigues said, “They played lights out, they got us good field position almost every single drive.”

UC Davis fed off the crowd’s roaring cheers as the defense sucked the life out of Northern Colorado’s offense. The third quarter came to a close, with the Aggies ground game eating up the clock with 19 rushing attempts that was good for 81 yards. UC Davis dominated the time of possession with 10:33, meanwhile the Bears only had the ball for 4:33 during that span.

UC Davis opened the fourth quarter rushing the ball and mixing in throws to eventually land on the four-yard line. Once again, Tompkins was swapped in as quarterback. He bulldozed his talents into the endzone putting UCD up 25-0. Northern Colorado looked defeated and exhausted on the field making the game look too easy for a hungry UC Davis team. 

The Bears looked like they wanted to leave UC Davis Health Stadium by running the ball to let the clock continue to run down. They scored a field goal on a 44-yard attempt to avoid a shutout making it 25-3. The game turned into an all out rushing attack by both teams in an attempt to run out the clock. 

The Aggies running back, redshirt freshman, Larison gained valuable game time experience by rushing six times in a row gaining 33 yards in the process and a touchdown to put the game away 32-3. 

UC Davis’ defense allowed 11 first downs throughout the game while Northern Colorado allowed 24. UC Davis outgained the Bears with 398 total offense yards while allowing 254 yards. 

“We have a good football team. I do think our defense played pretty well,” Hawkins said. “We were not being as productive as we wanted to offensively but our defense continued to play great.”

Rodrigues finished the game with 187 passing yards, completing 16 of 26 of his passes with one touchdown and two interceptions. He was also sacked four times and pressured throughout the game. Running back Gilliam Jr. rushed 22 times with 107 yards and 4.7 yards per carry. 

The game came to a conclusion as the Aggies turned in a dominating performance in front of their home crowd. 

“There’s a lot of ways you can measure a football team in the season. One of the ways I particularly measure a team is not losing two games in a row and I think that’s a credit to the staff and credit to the kids to pick themselves up,” Hawkins said. “That’s part of life, that’s part of football too. It’s okay if you got knocked down, you got skinned up, pick yourself up and keep going. Let’s not feel sorry for ourselves, so it was a good life lesson and a good football lesson.”

With the win, UCD improved their record to 6-1 after a disappointing loss last week to Idaho State. UC Davis hopes to ride the momentum into next week when they face off against the 1-5 Cal Poly. 

Written by: Marlon Rolon — sports@theaggie.org

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