Here’s a study in football patience …
* Does anybody remember that Bill Walsh’s first 49ers team was 2-14 — with Joe Montana and Dwight Clark? That West Coast thing he was trying out? It was greeted with cat calls.
* Did you know Paul “Bear” Bryant was 1-9 in his first season at Texas A&M? In the next three seasons with the Aggies, his squad won a Southwest Conference title, a bowl game and produced the 1957 Heisman Trophy winner, John David Crow.
Remember Bryant’s mantras? Discipline. Trust your teammates.
* Speaking of crow, early critics of Dallas’ Jimmy Johnson had to eat it.
Johnson — fresh off campus at the University of Miami — took the Cowboys to a 1-15 record during his first professional season (his future Hall of Fame QB, Troy Aikman, led the NFL in times sacked).
Despite the background roar of disenchantment, Johnson stayed the course and won back-to-back Super Bowls (1992-93). What was that Johnson said about the Dallas rebirth?
“To turn things around … the number one thing is making sure everyone in the organization — the players and everybody working there — believes that they’re going to get it done. And then they work at it,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to make sure that everybody’s putting in the work and you’ve got to have the discipline to go out there and get the job done.”
Now, focus for a minute on UC Davis football …
Still wending their way through their Football Championship Subdivision early days, the Aggies turned the page last December by bringing longtime Cal assistant Ron Gould to town, replacing UCD gridiron fixture Bob Biggs, who retired after last season.
Biggs, as a quarterback, able assistant and eventually 20-year head coach, saw the glory days first-hand. Aggie Nation had a program that boasted 36 consecutive winning seasons, storied QB play, brilliant coaching stemming back to the 1970 appointment of Jim Sochor as boss man, not to mention attention to the classroom rivaled by few schools in the nation.
Whoever came in as the bearer of the new era after Biggs had a tall order to fill.
Guys like Bryant, Walsh and Johnson knew a little about pressure.
Now Gould — whose team is off to an 0-4 start — probably hears the whispers. Seeing the two worst home crowds in Aggie Stadium history (losses to Northern Arizona and Portland State) did nothing for the psyche.
And if Gould and the guys don’t post that first “W” against visiting Idaho State (2-1) on Saturday in the UCD’s Big Sky Conference opener, well … five nationally ranked league teams await.
But from the first day Gould walked into his digs off California Street on campus, he knew what the Aggies had, he felt he knew what they needed and he understood that “everyone here has to trust each other. Everyone — the Aggie players, the staff, the fans — have to have trust.”
Gould’s office shows off a big sign to visitors. It says “Trust.”
He knows it’s becoming a stock answer after each of the four losses, but Gould says “we need to continue to have trust, follow the process.”
When little things go wrong on a team looking for an identity like UCD is, they often open a floodgate of missed opportunities. In transition (not only in personnel but in a coaching era), teams cannot afford to make mistakes.
A look back at Saturday night’s 41-10 loss to Portland State magnifies how — at least right now — almost everything has to go the Aggies’ way in order to get off the floor.
The Vikings led but 14-7 at intermission.
Early on, UCD was burned by an 85-yard touchdown run and a 70-yarder on a second-and-10 from the Vikes’ 3-yard line.
The Aggies squandered two scoring chances in the first half: a missed 32-yard field goal and no offensive spark when a three-and-out followed Jonathan Perkins’ interception that set up UCD at the Viking 40.
Had the locals made two key tackles on those long runs, converted the field goal and put together a successful drive after Perkins swiped the ball, they might have been up 17-0. It isn’t that big a reach for the imagination.
But FCS football — especially now that the rugged Big Sky is at hand — is unforgiving. “Woulda, shouldas” are easy for Tuesday Afternoon Quarterbacks.
The Aggies have scored just four TDs. They are the only Big Sky squad without a win. They are getting burned on big plays and the offense has been dreadful in places. In going 16-of-61 on third down (26 percent), UCD has not sustained drives.
Gould doesn’t want to answer the same questions game after game. The players don’t want to hear “the defense played well in the first half.”
The whole school and community would like to join the staff and Aggie players in celebrating that first “W” of the Gould era.
But not unlike the Saturday storm that interrupted play in the third period (and was followed by a brilliant rainbow), maybe after this bumpy start, an Aggie pot o’ gold is somewhere nearby.
One fan remarked during the weather delay against Portland State, “It looks like that rainbow ends at our scoreboard.”
So do UCD’s fortunes.
Notes: The Vikings, who have the FCS’ No. 2 offense, rolled up 601 yards against the Aggies — just below their 612-yard average. PSU ran seven plays from scrimmage of more than 25 yards. … UCD hasn’t been 0-5 since the 1960 season and only four times in school history (football dating back to 1915) have the locals gone an entire campaign without winning a game. … Not All Storm Clouds Dept.: Defensive end Nick King led all Aggies with 11 tackles. wide receiver Tom Hemmingsen caught nine passes for 86 yards and Brady Stuart’s 47-yard field goal was the sophomore’s career best. Interceptions by Charles Boyett, Aaaryn Jones and Perkins were the Aggies’ first picks of the year. … Oktoberfest will be celebrated at Aggie Stadium (3 p.m.) Saturday before the 6 p.m. kickoff. Additional information and tickets for Oktoberfest are available at www.ucdavisaggies.com (click on “tickets”). A $30 general admission ticket includes more than 70 beers from 25 breweries. Individual game tickets are normal price. Portland State’s D.J. Adams — he of the first-period 85-yard TD (208 yards on 14 carries overall) — was named Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.