“We have an identity.”
That’s what head coach Bob Biggs said after his UC Davis football team nearly knocked off the No. 2 ranked team in the Football Championship Subdivision on Saturday at Aggie Stadium.
Looking at how the Aggies played in the 48-41 loss to Montana State — particularly on defense — it’s easy to see what he meant.
UCD (2-4, 1-2 Big Sky Conference) was as scrappy as it could be while remaining within the rules against the Bobcats, pushing them around and getting in their faces throughout the contest. For Biggs, the physical way his team played was especially encouraging.
The performance proved what Biggs told the media after the Aggies defeated Weber State, 37-13, on Sept. 29.
“We don’t have all these tremendously gifted players who are going to run around and make plays all over the field, but we play hard and we play together,” the coach said after the program won its first ever Big West contest.
Naysayers might be quick to cite the high number of points allowed to MSU as evidence that the defense didn’t perform well, but in doing so, they would be overlooking some important details.
First, the defense actually gave up 41 points — the Bobcats returned an interception for a touchdown in the second quarter.
In addition, the UCD offense turned the ball over on two occasions inside its own 30-yard line, leaving the defense with little room to breathe. The Bobcats took full advantage of the giveaways, scoring touchdowns on both of the ensuing possessions.
Factor out the three turnovers and consider the fact that MSU entered the game averaging 37.2 points per contest and the Aggies’ defense performance looks a lot better. And there are certainly stats to back that up.
UCD forced four turnovers — which set up 24 points — posted 9.5 tackles for a loss and held the Bobcats to 67 yards rushing, more than 100 below their season average.
“We got a lot of turnovers in the third quarter (during which the Aggies outscored MSU 24-0) and capitalized on them,” Biggs said. “It ended up being a game of turnovers. That often happens (when) you get two teams that are slugging it out and neither team runs the ball particularly well.
“We were hard-hitting out there and we just kept fighting.”
The defense’s performance was another step in the right direction for the Aggies who, during the preseason, envisioned themselves as a team founded on a physical defense and a downhill running game.
With the defense doing its part, the rushing attack — which managed just 3.1 yards per carry on Saturday — now must step up. But this week’s opponent — Idaho State (1-4), which is giving up an astonishing 329.8 rushing yards per contest — should be just what the doctor ordered.
— Reach Will Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org