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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Aggies want a winning season

By
November 4, 2010 |

Enterprise sports editor

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While posting 37 consecutive winning seasons through 2006, the UC Davis football team took that goal for granted. Now, just four years later, posting a record above .500 is the biggest thing the Aggies (3-5, 1-1 Great West) have to play for in 2010.

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The quest — which will require UCD to win its final three games — begins Saturday with a 10 a.m. contest at North Dakota.

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“The rest of the season is (about character),” 18th-year Aggie head coach Bob Biggs said. “This is not where we wanted to be when the season started, but we are here. We still have a chance to have a winning season.”

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While the UCD players understandably were disappointed in their play last week — a 55-24 loss to Southern Utah that allowed the Thunderbirds to clinch the Great West title — their will to win the final three games is strong. Because of the streak, playing for a winning season means a little more around these parts.

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Biggs is confident that losing out on a chance to repeat as Great West champions will not dampen the Aggies\’ resolve:

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“I was a little concerned that we would be a little down (after the loss to SUU) but we have good senior leadership. We have had great practices and this is a team of fighters; that is what we have been all year. That\’s what I see when I look at the film. We may not always make the plays we need to, but the effort is always there.”

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The last time UCD played at the Alerus Center — North Dakota\’s home stadium — it was a 2001 Division II national semifinal game. Not as much is on the line on when the Aggies make their return trip, but one thing will be the same: The Aggies had better bring some ear plugs.

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While the up to 10,000 Fighting Sioux fans expected to be in attendance certainly are able to yell loudly, the dome stadium makes the noise nearly deafening. Biggs remembers it well, as his high-powered offense led by future NFL quarterback J.T. O\’Sullivan was held scoreless in a 14-2 loss to the eventual 2001 D-II champions.

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“It was one of the loudest, if not the loudest, place if ever been in,” Biggs said. “We practiced with music blaring all that week and we still had a lot of (penalties due to the noise).”

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There was no loud music going at the UCD practices this week, but having played games in the past two seasons at the DakotaDome in South Dakota, Grizzly Stadium in Montana, Bulldog Stadium at Fresno State and Cal\’s Memorial Stadium, Biggs says this year\’s squad is pretty well-equipped for the noise.

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Though this the Aggies\’ longest road trip of the season, they will be taking a charter flight, which will ease some of the travel burden. In fact, the biggest problem with playing so far away may be the time difference as the UCD players will have to wake up at 6 a.m. — by their body clocks — to be ready for a game scheduled for 10 a.m. Pacific time.

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Along with a few off-the-field challenges to overcome, the Aggies will face on-the-field opposition from a North Dakota squad that also is 3-5 overall — though 0-3 in Great West play.

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One of UCD\’s biggest problems this season has been running the ball effectively.

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But despite being hit hard by injuries to several of its running backs — DHS graduate Josh Reese is one of three tailbacks who won\’t play against the Sioux — the rushing attack was one of the bright spots of last week\’s loss. Corbin Cutshaw\’s second-best performance as an Aggie, 79 yards on 14 carries, provided a good compliment to the running of Nick Aprile (59 yards and two touchdowns), who gets most of his touches in the Aggies\’ version of the Wildcat formation.

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“We ran well out of the Gator and the Dolphin, and that helps the rest of the rushing offense,” Biggs said on Monday during the Great West\’s weekly conference call. “We are making progress; Cutshaw gave us a little spark and that was balanced with Nick Aprile\’s power running.”

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Another strong running game will help open things up for UCD\’s redshirt freshman quarterback Randy Wright, who is coming off of career-best 278-yard passing performance against SUU.

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North Dakota knows what Wright can do when given time to throw, so getting pressure on the Aggie QB is one of its goals.

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“You have to get after him a little bit, (though) he is athletic enough to get away and he has a strong arm,” Fighting Sioux head coach Chris Mussman said on the conference call. “Like all quarterbacks, he doesn\’t like having a lot of people at his feet, so we will try to get after him.”

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But Biggs has seen a bit more of Wright this season, and knows that UND could be playing with fire:

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“They like to throw a lot of different biltzes at you and if Randy is not on his game that could be trouble. But at the same time, if he plays like we know he can and takes advantage of those blitzes, we should be able to get some big plays down the field.”

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— Reach Chris Saur at csaur@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8056. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com

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