After the Aggies’ stunning 34-7 domination of Sacramento State in the 60th annual Causeway Classic, UC Davis coach Ron Gould is going to have to order some new footballs for 2014.
Apparently there weren’t any left Saturday after game balls were handed out.
A look back shows UCD’s best performance of the season as Gould’s team ended his first year in Davis with grand style.
“This win was a testament to (the players’) character, to who they are,” Gould explained following the win that gave the Aggies a fourth-place tie in the Big Sky Conference. “I’m so blessed to have had the opportunity to coach these guys.”
After a handful of Classics in which the largest margin of victory was seven points, the Aggie O-line helped start this rout early. It made mincemeat of the Hornet front while offensive coordinator Kevin Daft had just the right play in mind … call after call.
Twice on Sac State blitzes, Daft went to screen plays. The results made Aggie Nation swoon.
The first was a 14-yard completion (Randy Wright to Tom Hemmingsen) for a first down en route a field goal. Brady Stuart’s kick made things 24-7 just before intermission.
Later, on a drive to its final touchdown, UCD faced a third-and-eight deep in its own territory, Wright found Tavior Mowry for those precious eight yards — continuing the drive.
The Aggies didn’t turn the ball over, controlled time of possession and allowed running back Gabe Manzanares to gain 217 combined yards rushing and receiving.
Certainly the former UCD quarterback, Daft, gets one of those game balls.
But let’s hand out the others…
Jimmy Kunkel and Friends — The senior guard gets to accept this ball on behalf of that offensive line.
Blocks from Jay Luchetti and Kunkel helped Manzanares score the first of his two touchdowns, then sophomore Parker Smith laid waste to a Hornet as Manzanares went 33 yards for his second score. A 32:41-27:19 possession advantage tells the rest of the story as UCD had 400 yards of total offense.
Tom Hemmingsen — The senior wideout bade farewell to Aggie Nation with seven receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown. Hemmingsen can say the last time he touched the ball at UCD, it went for a TD — a diving grab from six yards out.
Steven Pitts — On a night that UCD often went with just two linebackers (in front of nickel defenses), Pitts led all tacklers with 13 stops. He also recorded a sack and plastered Sacramento State QB Jahid Vercher for a three-yard loss on Vercher’s first carry in replacement of Garrett Safron.
Bert Watts — The first-year defensive coordinator had a perfect game plan. The Hornets, who racked up more than 600 yards against Portland State, had nowhere to run Saturday. Sac State gained 75 yards on the ground (2.6 ypc).
“Our coaching staff put us in the right positions and when you’re in the right positions, you have no choice but to make the play,” Pitts explained.
Give linebackers/special teams coach Jeff Copp a share of Watts’ gameball. The two-man linebacker lineups combined for 21 tackles.
Jonathan Perkins and the secondary — The Gardena High product went out with a bang as he recorded nine tackles. But Perkins was only one-seventh of the solution as teammates Aarynn Jones, Charles Boyett, Tre Sayles III, Dre Allen, Shamawn Wright and Patrick Wells doused a once-sizzling-hot Sac State receiving corps.
When Wright broke up a late pass that was intercepted by Sayles, it put a bow on the package. Three-time league conference Player of the Week Safron was stifled. Coming off a 554-yard, four-towndown passing performance in beating Portland State the week before, Safron threw for only 221 yards and no TDs.
Gabe Manzanares — His big day Saturday put his season rushing total at 1,285 yards, the fifth-best mark in UCD history. He scored 10 touchdowns on the ground and one through the air after catching 27 passes for 385 more yards.
He has five straight 100-yard games and Saturday’s 217 yards in total offense should get anyone a free ball, regardless of performances around him.
Nick King — The Aggie sack leader (eight) got two more on Saturday. One stopped Safron on third down, forcing a punt that eventually led to UCD’s last touchdown of 2013. King, a senior, had five tackles in all as Sacramento State tried to work the ball away from his side of the field.
Colin Kelly — There was a traffic jam on the other end of the line as the Hornets tried Kelly Avenue to no avail. The senior DE accounted for nine tackles — twice ending Sacramento State drives.
Randy Wright — Sure, 17-of-22 for 212 yards and a late TD don’t make for headline statistics. But this was Wright’s swan song. He started all but four games in four seasons as an Aggie — and the Hornets never got his number.
Wright — No. 17 for the few Sac State fans who don’t already know — went 4-0 in the Causeway Classic.
“Give Davis the credit,” Sacramento State coach Marshall Sperbeck said of the one-sided Classic. “They had a good game plan, they executed well on offense. Defensively they kept us in check.
“They established the game right away … on both sides of the ball.”
Yep. Aggie fans noticed.
Notes: Four Big Sky schools are in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, with Eastern Washington (10-2) getting the third seed and Montana taking a No. 8 placement. Both teams get first-round byes. On Saturday, Southern Utah (8-4) plays Sam Houston State (8-4) while Northern Arizona (9-2) meets 8-4 South Dakota State. UCD beat Southern Utah, 21-3, and had a 10-7 fourth-quarter lead on NAU before two late Jimmy Laughrea passes were returned for Lumberjack touchdowns. Two-time defending champion North Dakota State (11-0) is the No. 1 seed.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-320-4456.