Enterprise staff writer
The UC Davis school year doesnÕt begin until late September and because of that, the Aggie football team tends to have an early-season schedule riddled with road contests.
And as UCD suffers through the often tough first month, filled with airplanes, hotels and buses, the team knows that friendly confines await when the calendar turns to October.
The Aggies return from their road swing at 2-3 Ñ including a split of four away games thus far Ñ and wonÕt play outside of Aggie Stadium again until November. It all starts with Homecoming on Saturday as UCD welcomes South Dakota to Aggie Stadium for its Great West opener.
The Aggies will be hoping to keep up the momentum they built from a 14-13 upset of Football Bowl Subdivision San Jose State last weekend.
ÒEveryone is really excited to see the turnout,Ó said UCD safety Danny Hart. ÒIt will be nice to not be on a plane (today) and in a hotel.Ó
After a sluggish first two quarters, UCD (2-3, 0-0) played some of its best football of the year after halftime against the Spartans. But now that the Aggies have showed their potential, head coach Bob Biggs wants to see his team play at that level consistently.
ÒThe second half against San Jose State was as complete of a (performance as we have had) all year,Ó said Biggs, who will be coaching his 203rd game at UCD, passing Jim Sochor for most all-time. ÒI hope we can continue to play at that level against South Dakota.Ó
The biggest challenge the Aggies face against the Coyotes (3-2, 1-0) will be slowing down quarterback Dante Warren.
Warren has stepped in splendidly for the graduated Noah Shepard. The junior is a dual threat who has completed 83-of-133 passes for 1,037 yards and 10 touchdowns to go along with 252 yards rushing on 51 carries for five more scores.
Biggs said South Dakota has an open offense and runs a lot of bootlegs, screens and play-action to keep opposing defenses guessing as to whatÕs coming. But even if the defense seems to have a play stopped, Warren can take off and make things happen with his legs.
ÒTheir quarterback is a good athlete and makes a lot of plays and everything goes through him,Ó Hart said. ÒWe know heÕs going to make some plays but we need to limit what he can do and we have the capability of doing that.Ó
Removing the two games against FBS opponents, the Aggies have run the ball fairly well to the tune of 120.1 yards per game. Facing a South Dakota defense that has allowed 199.6 yards per game this year, UCDÕs rushing attack should be a focal point.
Quarterback Randy Wright played well in the second half against San Jose State Ñ completing 10-of-15 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown Ñ but heÕs still a work-in-progress.
ÒThey have given up some yardage in the run game Ñ itÕs the nature of the defense they play,Ó Biggs said. ÒThey play kind of soft in their coverage and that lends itself to be able to run the football. But we have to show we can do that on a consistent basis.Ó
Notes: UCD edged South Dakota, 24-23, a year ago at the DakotaDome, in a game that saw the hosts miss field goals of 20 and 31 yards and an extra point in overtime that proved to be the difference. Had South Dakota won that game, it would have finished 3-1 in the Great West and won the conference crown, which eventually went to the Aggies. … The Coyotes are in the second year of a four-year transition to Division I. … South Dakota knocked off rival North Dakota, 27-17, a week ago in the Great West opener for both teams. … UCD defensive end Bobby Erskine is expected to return after a three-game injury absence. … ItÕs the third straight week UCD has played in a Homecoming game, following contests at Weber State and San Jose State.
Ñ Reach Conor Tekautz at firstname.lastname@example.org 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