The first time Ron Gould saw UC Davis quarterback Randy Wright in a game, the coach’s team passed for 258 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-3 victory.
Today, that would sound pretty good. But there’s a problem …
Gould was the associate head coach at California and redshirt freshman Wright was being asked to start his Aggie career against the Big Boy Bears.
The first-year UCD coach doesn’t remember much about Wright that afternoon. He was busy nursing his backs to 230 total yards rushing, including two TDs by now-New England Patriot Shane Vereen.
It was just another day at the office for Gould.
After watching the film, Wright blocked the experience from his mind. Nobody wants to think back on an 8-of-22 (57 yards) performance.
But here it is, four seasons later, and No. 17 has endured.
Maybe he hasn’t enjoyed the most accomplished career, but for standing tall in the face of an ever-spinning program around him, Wright deserves some credit.
He’s played under a couple of head coaches in terrifically different systems. Wright has taken the Aggies into their first two seasons of Big Sky Conference football — a different experience from anything Aggie Nation had seen.
UCD is 18-26 with Wright on the roster. Of the five games Wright didn’t start over those years, the Aggies lost four of them.
Regardless of the outcome, Wright has ridden a high road.
I asked him about the differences between Gould and retired Aggie head coach Bob Biggs.
“I have a great deal of respect for both of them,” Wright says. “Coach Biggs, his character, always there for you. I talked to him last week … he always had your best interests in mind.
“Coach G … He’s going to push you until you’ve exceeded even your own expectations.”
Gould brought with him an alarm clock for Wright. After a lackluster outing in this season’s 10-7 opening loss at South Dakota, the 6-foot-4 signal-caller got a seat on the bench.
It wasn’t until four games later — in the Aggies’ first win of the year, 30-13, over Idaho State — that Wright again was under center.
“When I was pulled as a starter … that’s a life lesson,” Wright adds. “I’ve learned a lot and I’ve had fun doing it. I’m just glad I have one game left as a senior.”
With that Causeway Classic at hand Saturday, it must be noted that Wright is 3-0 in the Little Big Game.
Over the years, he’s led UCD over Cal Poly in heart-stopping fashion when he threw two, fourth-period TD passes to Sean Creadick for a 22-21 win in that freshman year.
Last season, against No. 2 Montana State, Wright had the Aggies ahead 34-31 in the last stanza.
An untimely turnover hurt as MSU went on to win, 48-41, but the game was microcosm of Wright’s highs and lows in Davis.
The Cardinal Newman High graduate was 23-for-37 (good) for 242 yards (OK) and three touchdowns (excellent). He also ran for a game-opening 5-yard touchdown (nice), but later threw a pick-six (bad). A fourth-period interception sealed the deal for Montana State.
Hired in December of 2012, Gould knew he’d be giving his quarterback a steep learning curve. Despite the hiccup in that first outing, Gould now loves having Wright on his side of the field.
“Randy has come so far in his maturity, his ability to manage a game,” the coach says. “His poise in the pocket this year has been phenomenal. I don’t know what we would have done without Randy.”
Regardless of what fans think of Wright, his legacy — a legacy of stick-to-itive-ness — is all over the Aggie career record books.
Blend Wright’s current 138-for-221 (good for 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns) with his other seasons under Biggs and the big guy’s name pops up in six career categories.
Wright is No. 1 on the all-time Aggie list for completions (738) and attempts (1,154). His 8,592 yards passing are second behind only J.T. O’Sullivan (10, 745). His interception percentage is 2.63 and settles him between Chris Petersen (2.53) and Jeff Bridewell (2.73). Fifty-four TD passes rank him third in the record books, 14 behind his mentor Kevin Daft and way behind O’Sullivan’s 96.
He also became No. 3 on the total-offense charts.
So, after Saturday, what’s up for Wright?
The communications major will graduate in December and wants to go into coaching. He might join prep classmate and former Sacramento State linebacker Jeff Badger in the NFL spring league. A lot depends on rehabbing a sore body and seeing about job opportunities.
“Regardless, it’s an exciting time,” Wright reports.
One thing is for sure …
Not hearing Wright’s name announced at QB for the Aggies is just, well, wrong.
— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.