Enterprise staff writer
The UC Davis football team rushed for 186 yards last weekend against San Diego, revealing that the Aggies can indeed run the ball effectively.
But if that game was proof that UCDÕs ground game has a pulse, SaturdayÕs contest at Weber State provides a chance to show whether itÕs truly alive or it last week was nothing more than a blip on the radar.
The Aggies head to Ogden, Utah, for a nonconference game against the Wildcats, who have made the postseason each of the last two years out of the Big Sky Ñ a conference UCD will join as early as 2012.
ÒItÕs got to be (a sign of things to come),Ó UCD head coach Bob Biggs said of the running game. ÒWeÕve got to take pressure off our quarterback because heÕs still learning and has a tendency to force some balls at times. We know we have to run the football.Ó
The Aggies were able to run against nonscholarship San Diego, but if UCD is to turn things around, it will need to continue to have success on the ground against tougher opponents. The Aggies lost their first two games for the third straight year, but avoided their first 0-3 start since the 1965 season with a 38-24 victory over the Toreros.
The Wildcats, however, are a huge jump up in talent from San Diego, and will provide a much tougher test. UCD and Weber State are both 1-2 on the year and, with visions of the 2010 playoffs on their minds, winning this contest is a must for each if their dreams have any chance of becoming reality.
Biggs knows that for his team to even its record at 2-2, the Aggies are going to have to do a lot more than just run the football.
One of the areas that must improve is turnovers, which UCD has nine of on the year including four in each of the last two games. Only six Football Championship Subdivision teams have committed more turnovers than the Aggies this year, but one of those is Weber, with 10. Neither team has been very good at forcing turnovers as UCD has only five Ñ one more than the Wildcats.
ÒWe just canÕt keep turning the ball over like we have been doing,Ó Biggs said. ÒWe arenÕt explosive enough offensively that if we give up a turnover and some points, weÕre going to come right back.Ó
Another is penalties. The Aggies were flagged only four times for 44 yards in the first two games but drew 10 flags for 100 yards against San Diego. Included in those were two personal foul penalties, as well as a roughing the passer.
Fouls like those can either kill an offensive drive or prolong that of an opponent.
ÒWe canÕt make mistakes like personal fouls,Ó said UCD linebacker Jordan Glass. Ò(The fouls) are mostly mental mistakes like lining up wrong and we canÕt do that.Ó
While Weber State isnÕt quite as pass-happy as Texas Tech under former head coach Mike Leach, itÕs no secret what the Wildcats are going to try to do offensively.
Armed with a guy in Cameron Higgins who could end his career as the most statistically prolific quarterback in program history, Weber State is going to throw the ball a lot. Higgins has attempted at least 39 passes in all three games and is averaging 45 per game on the season.
The senior has thrown for 827 yards and seven touchdowns on the season Ñ a good chunk of which has come to senior wide receivers Mike Phillips (302 yards) and Joe Collins (240).
Keeping the trio from putting up gaudy numbers is the biggest key for the UCD defense.
Ò(Higgins) makes fast decisions and he gets rid of the ball quickly and theyÕve got some really good wide receivers,Ó Glass said. ÒEveryone has to do their job and stay on their man and not get out of position.Ó
Biggs added, ÒHeÕs a crafty, experienced, four-year starter at quarterback. HeÕs very Houdini-ish with his ball-handling so you have to be alert with what he does. He doesnÕt take a lot of sacks because the ball is out of his hands so quick.Ó
Notes: UCD (-1.33 turnovers per game) ranks tied for 109th in the nation in turnover differential, while Weber (-2.0) is tied for 117th out of 125 FCS teams. Only South Dakota State and Cornell are worse than the Wildcats. … The game is the second of three against future Big Sky opponents on the year for the Aggies, who lost to Portland State 41-33 on Sept. 11 and will face rival Sacramento State on Nov. 20. … UCDÕs nine turnovers have led to 30 points for its opponents, while the six times the Aggies have taken the ball away, have produced only a single touchdown.
Ñ Reach Conor Tekautz at [email protected] or (530) 747-8049. Comment on this story or check out The Enterprise sports blog at www.davisenterprise.com. To view photo galleries and purchase prints of UCD football visit http://photos.davisenterprise.com