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Monday, April 15, 2024

UC Davis ices Northern Arizona on homecoming night 

The Aggies give a spectacular performance, resulting in 56-27 victory

By GABRIEL CARABALLO — sports@theaggie.org

The sun was shining and the weather was clear as the UC Davis Aggies marched onto their home field at UC Davis Health Stadium to play against the Northern Arizona University (NAU) Lumberjacks on Saturday, October 15. 

The Aggies won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half as they claimed the rights to the opening kickoff. NAU returned the ball to their 20-yard line and began their first drive of the game. With the first quarter underway, the Lumberjacks gained first down after first down, resulting in a 14-play, 52-yard drive. However, the Aggies’ defense fought back and forced a 45-yard field goal which the Lumberjacks completed, making the score 0-3.

With under 10 minutes left in the first quarter, UC Davis began with an impressive 33-yard kickoff return by second-year running back Lan Larison. After an early penalty, the Aggies gained two quick first downs but were stopped by the Lumberjacks’ defense, who took the play to fourth down and short. Head Coach Dan Hawkins made an aggressive move and went for it on fourth down. Second-year quarterback Miles Hastings threw a six-yard pass to second-year wide-receiver Chaz Davis for a successful fourth-down conversion, setting the tone for the rest of the game.

“That’s kind of my nature, I love to be on the attack and I want us to play aggressive,” Hawkins said regarding the early fourth-down conversion. 

This play gave the Aggies energy to continue their series, powering down the field for a 67-yard drive that resulted in the first touchdown of the game — courtesy of an eight-yard carry by Larison. With the score now 7-3 Aggies, NAU repossessed the ball and began their second drive of the quarter with a little over four minutes left in the first quarter. The Aggies’ defense took the Lumberjacks to third down, but second-year quarterback RJ Martinez danced in the pocket, avoiding potential sacks, and threw an 18-yard dart to third-year wide receiver Hendrix Johnson, which extended the drive. It didn’t continue for long though, as Northern Arizona only made it to Davis’s 23-yard line and was forced to kick a 40-yard field goal at the end of the first quarter. After a successful field goal attempt, the score was 7-6 with the Aggies still in the lead. 

UC Davis had the ball to start the second quarter, but was met by an intense Northern Arizona defense, which forced them to punt. NAU gained possession and started their first drive of the second quarter. However, the Lumberjacks were forced to punt as well, due to a resilient Aggie defense. The Aggies began their next drive with a 10-yard completion from Hastings to fourth-year running back Ulonzo Gillam Jr. During the next play, Gillam Jr. rushed to gain 13 more yards. After converting two easy first-downs, Larison ran the football through the Lumberjacks’ defense and sprinted for a 47-yard touchdown, his second of the game. With the three-play 70-yard drive, the Aggies extended their lead 14-6. 

The Lumberjacks began their next drive trailing by eight points. After being stopped twice, on third-down their quarterback Martinez completed an 80-yard pass to third-year wide-receiver Jamal Glaspie, leading the Lumberjacks into scoring position at the Aggies’ three-yard line. With Northern Arizona on the verge of scoring, UCD freshman safety Rex Conners swooped in for an endzone interception and returned it for an additional 29 yards. 

“Modern football to me is keeping them out of the endzone, making them kick a field goal,” Hawkins said. 

The Aggies defense had done just that, forcing two field goals and stopping NAU’s offense with a turnover. After the pivotal interception, with 10 minutes left in the second quarter, UC Davis’s offense went to work for three consecutive first-downs. But it didn’t stop there; on a third and long, Hastings threw a pass to second-year wide-receiver CJ Hutton, who ran it into the endzone with a 24-yard drive after the catch. Hutton’s first score of the game made the score 21- 6 Aggies after an impressive seven-play 77-yard scoring drive. 

With seven minutes left in the second quarter, Northern Arizona was forced to punt again. Davis’ offense responded with another statement as they eased down the field for an impressive drive — this one eight plays for 72-yards capped off by another score for Hutton on a four-yard rushing touchdown. The Lumberjacks now trailed 28-6 to the Aggies and were forced to punt yet again, allowing the Aggies another scoring drive opportunity to end the second quarter. This one, a captivating eight-play, 68-yard drive ending with a rushing touchdown from Gillam Jr., made the score 35-6. The second quarter ended with UC Davis scoring 28 unanswered points.

UC Davis possessed the football to start the third quarter. The Aggies began their drive with a 77-yard run from Gilliam Jr. — a play later, he ran it in for a three-yard touchdown, making the score 42-6. 

Northern Arizona, still in an offensive drought, had to start the second half with a punt. UC Davis took advantage of this opportunity, with Hastings throwing a 40-yard pass to Hutton to get into better field position. Shortly after the big gain, the Aggies made an unorthodox play as Larison threw a flea-flicker for a savvy 14-yard touchdown by Hastings. This capped off a magnificent four-play 80-yard scoring drive, moving the Aggies even further ahead with a score of 49-6.

“I think they’re fun, it gives the other team a pause… and I’m an out-of-the-box guy,” Hawkins said about this unconventional play call. 

“I didn’t even know Miles [Hastings] was running a route until this morning,” Larison said of his contribution to the play.

Despite the blowout, the Lumberjacks continued to fight, putting together a solid drive of 11 plays and 79 yards, resulting in a six-yard touchdown pass from Martinez to Johnson. This play barely chipped at the Aggies’ commanding lead though, making the score 49-13. 

The Aggies quickly answered with another scoring drive as Hastings went 3-3, completing a 51-yard pass to sophomore wide-receiver Justin Poerio and two consecutive passes to sophomore tight-end Josh Gale, one of which was an 11-yard touchdown grab that put the Aggies up 56-13 with five minutes left in the third quarter. 

Even though the Aggies continued to pile on the points, the Lumberjacks stayed fighting until the end and put together a five-play, 57-yard scoring drive with a rushing touchdown from sophomore running back Draycen Hall to end the third quarter. Northern Arizona now trailed by 36 points. 

In the fourth quarter, both teams went back and forth punting the football. The Aggies’ offensive onslaught ended, but the Lumberjacks were able to squeak away another scoring drive with less than two minutes left in the game. The drive lasted 15 plays for 57 yards and ended with a touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Jeff Widener. This was the last scoring play of the game, leaving the final score at 56-27, which improved UC Davis’s record to 2-4 overall and 1-2 in conference play. 

“It’s fun to see them enjoy the fruits of their labor,” Hawkins said of the win. “It’s fun to see them smile, but we got a lot of football left.”

The Aggies ended the night with 688 total offensive yards, 278 on the ground and 410 through the air. They also scored eight total touchdowns, five on the ground and three through the air. Three of those touchdowns belong to Larison and two to Hutton. 

“The cool thing is we have a number of guys who can touch the football,” Hawkins said. “It’s an orchestration of getting everybody involved and using everybody.” 

Hastings was the passing leader of the game with an impressive 21-26 completion, 328 yards and two touchdown passes. Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. was the rushing leader with 150 yards and two rushing touchdowns. 

UC Davis’ next game is against the Northern Colorado Bears on October 22, and their next home game is against the Cal Poly Mustangs on October 29. 

Written by: Gabriel Caraballo — sports@theaggie.org