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UCD notebook: Aggie defense served notice early in the game

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UCD linebacker Steven Pitts takes down Sacramento State QB Garrett Safron in the Aggies' 34-7 win over the Hornets in Saturday's Causeway Classic. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

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From page B2 | November 24, 2013 |

SACRAMENTO — On the third play of the game, Sacramento State quarterback Garrett Safron broke loose on a 25-yard scramble into Aggie territory.

Safron was coming off a 600-yard total offense game against Portland State last week and UC Davis fans collectively thought, “Uh, oh. Here we go again.”

But at the end of Safron’s first carry, UCD safety Charles Boyett knocked the reigning Big Sky Conference Player of the Week out of bounds with a resounding “not-today” body block.

Four plays later, the Hornets failed on a fourth-down play at the Aggie 27.

By the time Sac State was done getting bounced around during the next 20 minutes, it was 21-0 in UCD’s favor and the 60th annual Causeway Classic was quickly sliding to the Aggie side of the ledger.

Safron, who threw for 554 yards and four touchdowns last week against Portland State, was held to 221 yards and no scores in Saturday’s 34-7 loss to a reborn UCD. After that first jaunt, Safron gained but nine more rushing yards (before coming out in the game’s waning moments).

For the night, the Aggies (5-7, 5-3) outgained the Hornets, 400-315, It marked the largest margin of victory since the locals stopped Azusa-Pacific, 41-3, on Aug. 30, 2012.

UCD linebacker Steven Pitts helped set the tone for the lopsided Classic, recording a game-high 13 tackles (3.5 for losses) and a sack.

As solid as Pitts’ game was, he would take none of the credit for his gaudy numbers.

“I don’t really think it’s anything I did,” Pitts told The Enterprise. “Our coaching staff puts us in the right positions, and when you’re in the right position, you have no choice but to make a play.”

Pitts said senior Nick King and his defensive-line colleagues were doing “a terrific job penetrating, so the gaps were wide open and I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. The play was just coming to me.”

UCD head coach Ron Gould — after praising the effort of his junior linebacker from El Cajon — climbed on Pitts’ bandwagon about the coaches.

“Those guys are magical,” the former Cal assistant said of his defensive staff, adding a little story about how defensive coordinator Bert Watts and linebacker/special teams coach Jeff Copp are still in the office long after Gould has left at midnight — watching films “over and over and over … to make sure the game plan is (foolproof).”

On Saturday, Sacramento State (5-7, 4-4) had nowhere to run.

The Hornets gained 75 yards on the ground and managed one sustained drive, resulting in Jordan Robinson’s 4-yard touchdown run in the first half.

But it was the Aggies’ ability to shut down the brilliant junior Safron that drew the most attention from Hornets’ coach Marshall Sperbeck:

“Like I said earlier this week, their secondary does a good job mixing up its coverages. And I thought their front got after us a little bit, too. They bring a lot of guys.”

Tough guys to get past — Boyett ended the season with a team-high 84 tackles. Pitts was next with 71 — 12 for losses — Nick King had 61 (and eight sacks) and safety Aarynn Jones finished the year with 60 stops.

Speaking of Jones — The senior from Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley) High left Saturday’s game in the first period. He did not return. Gould says it was a knee injury and an MRI is pending.

Skies are Grey for Bakari — When Hamilton plays Saskatchewan Sunday in the Grey Cup (the Canadian Football League version of the Super Bowl), former UCD wideout Bakari Grant will be an integral piece of the Tiger-Cats offensive scheme.

Grant was a three-time All-Great West Conference performer with the Aggies (2005-09) and is best known for his last-second TD reception to beat Northern Colorado in 2008.

In three years with the Tiger-Cats, Grant has 149 receptions and 1,930 yards with nine scores. At UCD, he caught 1,925 yards in passes, good for 18 touchdowns.

Grant twice signed (2010 and 2011) with the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL, but never played before being released each time.

The Grey Cup game will be televised on NBC Sports Network (3 p.m.).

Old friends — Sacramento State and UCD have been playing every year since 1954. The Aggies, in leading the series 43-18, have winning streaks of 18 games (1970-88), eight games (2000-2007) and four games (1992-95).

Just for kicks — With his 30-yard field goal in the third period, sophomore kicker Brady Stuart established a single-season record with 17 three-pointers. Aggie all-time leading scorer Eddie Loretto (1985-88) had 16. Stuart was 2-for-3 on the night — his 42-yard miss late in the game ended his consecutive made FG streak at 10.

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Bruce Gallaudet

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