47.4 F

Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

No. 4 UC Davis falls in ranked matchup with No. 8 Eastern Washington

The Aggies could not contain Eric Barriere’s offensive onslaught as Davis falls 38-20 in foggy Saturday night matchup

By MARLON ROLON — sports@theaggie.org

Prior to kick off, UC Davis were ranked No. 4 while their opponent, Eastern Washington, were ranked No. 8 in the FCS rankings. Two top 10 ranked teams in the nation going head to head surely guaranteed to produce a spectacle, and it did. 

The Aggies had lost nine straight games to the Eagles heading into the much anticipated match-up. The signal caller for the Eagles, quarterback Eric Barriere, made sure to extend the streak to 10 consecutive games after his dominant performance as Eastern Washington defeated UC Davis 38-20.  

The fifth-year quarterback for the Eagles made a statement throwing for 411 yards and three touchdowns. He is the front-runner to win the Walter Payton Award in FCS football for best offensive player as he continues to separate himself from the pack. 

“I’ve had the unpleasant or pleasant experience playing against a number of Heisman trophy quarterbacks or Heisman Trophy finalists,” UC Davis head coach Dan Hawkins said after the game. “I would put Eric Berriere right in there with any of them. He’s super talented and not only can he run he’s got a tremendous arm he’s tremendously accurate.”

“I tip my hats to those guys. They lost two games, they got on the road and [came] down here and [won] so you got to tip your cap to those guys,” he added.

The 8-2 Eagles broke their two game losing streak in front of 7,344 fans at Health Stadium in Davis. Meanwhile UC Davis falls to 8-2 and remains winless against an opponent ranked in the top 10 and winless against the Eagles. 

The score doesn’t reflect what happened in the gridiron, with the Aggies keeping the game competitive until the fourth-quarter. There were four lead changes throughout the game with pivotal turnovers and missed opportunities that sinked UC Davis. 

“Our kids didn’t back down. We played great, battled, gave some blows, took some blows,” Hawkins said regarding his team’s effort.

Eastern Washington’s offense was on the field to start the game, however, their offense went three and out rather quickly against a stingy Davis defense. The Aggies wasted no time marching down the field while showcasing their running and passing abilities with freshman quarterback Miles Hastings and Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. leading the way. 

10 plays and 49-yards later, the Aggies were first to put up points on the scoreboard with Hastings connecting with Jared Harrell for a one-yard touchdown pass that elicited loud cheers from the roaring home crowd. 

Still in the first quarter, standout signal caller Barriere and company began to operate on the Aggie defense at the 27 yard-line. His pocket presence and running abilities led the Eagles down the field to the UCD seven yard-line. Once again, the UC Davis defense was exceptional and blocked a field goal attempt, courtesy of defensive-lineman Bryce Rodgers. 

With the momentum clearly riding with the home team, UC Davis did not take advantage of it as Hastings was not able to generate any yardage in the air. They turned to Gilliam Jr. and attempted to run the ball, however the defensive effort by the visiting team prevented the Aggies from gaining any traction as the offense stalled and eventually punted the ball back to the Eagles.

Giving the ball back to Barriere was inevitable as he got his hands on the pig skin; the offense was fluid. Eventually, on third and 15 Barriere lasered a pass to wide receiver Andrew Boston for a gain of 12 yards. The Eagles were three yards shy of the first down with the home team expecting a punt. Punter Nick Kokich for Eastern Washington faked a punt and completed a pass to Dylan Ingram for the first down to end the first quarter.

To begin the second quarter, Barriere completed two consecutive passes for 52 yards. The game seemed to slow down for the Eagles quarterback with his pocket awareness and his poise began to show with his decision making. He dissected the Aggie defense effortlessly by throwing a touchdown pass to Fredd Roberson, however the visiting team missed the extra point, continuing their kicking woes. Eastern Washington capped off a 12 play drive for 84 yards within three minutes while trailing 6-7.

With the momentum swinging in favor of the Eagles, the Davis defense began to break down and their offense seemed to be lifeless. Again, UCD punted the ball back to the opposing team. Barriere seemed to be in full control of the game picking apart the Aggies’ secondary and leading his team down to the third yard line. On fourth and goal, Eastern Washington elected to go for it with their star quarterback displaying his magic, as the defense blitzed him, which led him to run backwards while he twirled and eluded a defender to then throw a spiral into the end zone for the touchdown. Instead of the field goal, they opted for the two point conversion and with success the Eagles led 14-7. 

The Aggies in search of answers decided to make a quarterback switch, inserting “the magic” man Trent Tompkins. With this switch, UC Davis was able to spark the run game with Tompkins running for 35 yards in one play and Carson Crawford following with 24 yards off a run. Their efforts led them to the nine yard-line, Tompkins off the pistol formation snapped the ball and swiftly avoided defenders running seven yards into the endzone for a touchdown. The entire Health Stadium erupted until a flag was thrown that immediately sucked the energy out of the stadium. The Aggies were called for holding and the touchdown was neglected that led to a field goal by kicker Isaiah Gomez to cut the deficit, 14-10 into the half.

Entering the third quarter, UC Davis’ offense would get an opportunity to try and get things going by receiving the kickoff. The offense never got a chance to go on the field as Davis’ own Lan Larison received the kickoff and immediately bolted down the middle, zig-zagged to evade defenders and took it all the way to the house for a 97-yard touchdown in 13 seconds to open the half. Once again, UC Health Stadium was ecstatic as the home team took the lead 17-14.

In the next series, Eastern Washington was shaken up by the suddenly re-energized Aggies’ defense as they went three-in-out. Suddenly, the Aggies seemed to regain momentum with an opportunity to put up points in an attempt to extend the lead with their offense on the field. Hastings was under center once again, and he completed a short pass for five yards to Carson Crawford. Crawford took off running full speed into traffic, as he was hit he was stripped by the defender and the ball came loose as the Eagles pounced all over the ball. The visiting team recovered the fumble in a crucial moment that changed the tide game. 

Throughout the third quarter both defenses played lights out. However, game-changing mistakes kept piling on, as UC Davis was penalized 15-yards for pass interference. Those mistakes kept the chains moving for the Eagles and eventually converted into a passing touchdown by Barriere to put Eastern Washington ahead 21-17. 

Mistakes and turnovers sunk the Aggies, with Hastings making an errant throw into traffic that was picked off by Demetrius Crosby Jr. UC Davis never recovered from the interception and it kept the Eagles’ potent offense on the field, meaning problems for the blue and gold. Eastern Washington did what they wanted to, by pounding the rock and making throws look easy against a defense that was on the field the majority of the game. Eventually, the visiting team put up three points off a field goal to bolster their lead 24-17.

UC Davis was desperate to get anything going, as they swapped quarterbacks once again with Tompkins looking to confuse the ball hawking Eagles defense. The Aggies got the run game going with Tompkins using the spread formation to his advantage. However, their pass game was misfiring and their run game could only get them so far until the opposing defense adapted. The Aggies came away with a field goal making it 24-20 with 14:08 remaining in the fourth quarter. 

By then, fog seemingly took over the field as it clustered over the game making it almost impossible to see. The bright lights beaming over onto the field was the only way to see the players’ shadows. Barriere would complete five straight passes down the field to then handing the ball off to Isaiah Lewis for a 10-yard rushing touchdown to put the game out of reach, 31-20. 

The defense for the home team became stale as the dense fog took over the game. With Eastern dominating offensively throughout the entire fourth quarter, their quarterback was unstoppable as he showcased his elite arm and even dazzled with his legs by breaking free from the pass rush and completing passes off his back foot. The Eagles ran the ball effectively with a four-yard touchdown by Tamarick Pierce as the game clock expired and put the game away for good, 38-20.

Miles Hastings finished the game with 144 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception. Tompkins finished the game with 15 yards off three pass attempts he also rushed for 65 yards. Eastern Washington finished the game with 625 offensive yards, 414 passing yards. In contrast to UCD’s 283 total yards, with 159 passing yards. The Eagles had nearly 37 minutes of possession while Davis had the ball for only 23 minutes.

“That’s part of sports that’s part of life. And if you don’t like it you gotta be able to handle defeats without being defeated, on a hero’s journey you gotta learn from your setbacks and there’s a phrase of humility before honor, that’s part of sports,” Hawkins said after the defeat. 

The Aggies look to shake off the loss when they play the last game of the regular season on Nov. 20, as cross town rival Sacramento State (8-2) comes into town in the battle for the Golden Horseshoe. This particular game will have a lot at stake with both teams looking to secure their playoff spots and possibly have home field advantage.

Written by: Marlon Rolon — sports@theaggie.org


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here