Around 4 p.m. Saturday, once UC Davis is finished going toe-to-toe with Stanford, we’ll all know a little more about where the 2014 football season is headed.
But understand something …
How the Aggies play in the opener and the game’s final score could be mutually exclusive.
UCD is trying to find its identity. It is banged up and will not have, arguably, its best player in running back Gabe Manzanares (foot).
It is starting a wealth of inexperienced guys on both sides of the ball.
Not to mention, our Football Championship Subdivision Aggies are playing the No. 11 college in the Big Boy ranks.
So what, exactly, will determine where our home boys stand?
The style of play is what we should hone in on: execution, the energy, the heart.
If they’re down 40-0 in the first half (which they won’t be), will our Aggies be playing stoic, Thank You Sir, May I Please Have Another football — or will they check out and search for the bus?
After 20 months with coach Ron Gould at the helm, the former seems likely. UCD is locked and loaded to give everything it has.
“Camp has gone extremely well,” Gould told me this week. “We know we’re playing one of (the best) teams in the nation. We’re looking forward to opportunity … but we can’t get outside ourselves. We have to stay focused. Do what we know how to do.”
Gould, a former Cal assistant remembers what it was like when his Bears squad thrashed UC Davis, 52-3, in 2010. He says his message was simple going into the Aggie game …
“We have a job to do,” he told his guys, which featured future NFLers Shane Vereen (New England) and Keenan Allen (San Diego). “We didn’t focus on our opponents. In that instance, we executed, stayed focused and got the job done.”
And how. Cal went over 500 yards in offense, Vereen and Allen each scored twice and the Aggies were held to under 100 yards of their own.
Is Stanford coach David Shaw telling his guys the same thing? Don’t look past UCD to USC. Don’t worry about them. Focus on what the Cardinal can do?
“Absolutely,” Gould says. “He wants them to play the best they can play, regardless of the opponent … and that’s what we want. I want our guys to play as well as we can.”
Not unlike the 300 Spartans in 480 B.C., as Leonidas battled more than 150,000 of the enemy at the pass in Thermopylae, even if the Aggies lose, it could be one of those afternoons that will live on — fans remembering not that the Persians (or Cardinal) eventually overwhelmed the 300 (UCD?), but that the Greeks (Aggies?) fought valiantly … The last swings of their swords living on in history.
While I Have You Here: The two-game history between these two schools features games that sit at the opposite ends of their football fortunes.
Cardinal fans view the 20-17 upset by UCD (2005) as low tide in a storied program. While many Aggie fans see that as their finest hour, it is a 59-0 loss to Stanford in 1932 that remains the worst pummeling in UCD annals.
My guess is Saturday’s results will lie somewhere in between.
Just one more thing: Our Page 2 maven Bob Dunning emailed me this week, wondering if it’s not time for the end of FBS and FCS designations?
“Now that the FBS also is a ‘championship’ division, can we go back to calling the FCS I-AA? It was so much more simple and understandable,” Dunning writes.
Well, he’s got one vote here.
“Football Bowl Subdivision Stanford will play Football Championship Subdivision UC Davis on Saturday” kills the energy in a story’s lead.
— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.