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If Aggies answer questions, Big Sky run could be at hand

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UCD quarterback Randy Wright buys time while looking downfield in the Aggies' 30-13 win over Idaho State on Saturday. The senior signal-caller, who opened the season as the starter, came off the bench to throw for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

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From page B1 | October 01, 2013 |

Try as they might, members of the Fourth Estate couldn’t bring UC Davis football coach Ron Gould to focus on himself after the Aggies topped Idaho State on Saturday night.

Asked what it meant to him — winning his first game as a head coach anywhere — Gould repeatedly turned attention to his staff and players …

“This is a culmination of all (of the team’s) hard work,” Gould told the assembled press after his guys vanquished the Bengals, 30-13. “We wear wristbands that say ‘Focus on the Process’ and that’s what I told the guys (Saturday). I told them about faith — believing in things you do not see — and asked the guys to keep working. That’s what this is all about.

“The victory is for these young men.”

Safety Charles Boyett said his UCD teammates have “totally bought in” to what their first-year mentor is offering.

Running back Gabe Manzanares — he of the 208-yard rushing game — said he appreciated the faith Gould had in him and that the team wanted the ISU win for their coach as much as for each other.

But Gould and all who dwell in Aggie Nation know there is much work yet to be done.

A quick glance of the Big Sky Conference standings might elicit a double-take from Aggie followers.

After an 0-4 start, there sits, bold as you please, UCD in a first-place tie with five other schools.

A handful of questions will determine how long the locals can remain on top:

* Which quarterback gives the Aggies the best chance to win? Longtime starter Randy Wright came off the bench Saturday to ignite UCD and once again might get the call when the team travels this week to Southern Utah (4-1).

Gould said sometime this week would come the call: sophomore Jimmy Laughrea or senior Wright.

* With two late touchdowns to secure the ISU win, are the Aggies over their second-half doldrums?

* We know cornerbacks Dre Allen and Jonathan Perkins have joined with safeties Aaryn Jones and Boyett to create one of the top secondaries among Big Sky squads. Are they — with help from Patrick Wells and Shamawn Wright — becoming one of the best units in the Football Championship Subdivision?

* Has place kicker Brady Stuart shaken his 2-for-7 struggles in field-goal tries? His three consecutive three-pointers on Saturday not only provided the Aggies with new-found confidence inside enemy territory, it earned the sophomore from Newhall the Big Sky Special Teams Player of the Week award.

* If vintage Dalton Turay has returned to the Aggie scheme, UCD should continue to get game-changing yardage from Manzanares and Company. The FB not only scored seven touchdowns in 2012, he was responsible for convoys for other running backs.

In the first four games, Turay seemed to be missing — especially inside the 20.

Against the Bengals, Turay was his old self, catching three passes for 54 yards. Included in his grabs were a 40-yarder and an eight-yard TD. Manzanares tipped his cap to Turay, the offensive line and the receivers for “great blocking” all night.

Gould hinted two weeks ago that the preseason All-Big Sky fullback Turay would have an increased role as the season progressed. His performance Saturday bore that out.

Now, all eyes turn to practice as Gould and offensive coordinator Kevin Daft work both Wright and Laughrea in a continuing competition.

Wright went 14-of-22 for 201 yards, no interceptions and touchdown tosses to wide receiver Tom Hemmingsen and Turay. Laughrea was 4-for-9 for 30 yards before leaving late in the first period.

Gould said his Aggies had missed several scoring opportunities with the sophomore Boise State transfer at the helm and he wanted “to calm him down a little.” With Wright’s renewed touch in moving UCD at Aggie Stadium, Laughrea didn’t return.

Gould said the decision on who will start against the Thunderbirds should come before the plane leaves the Sacramento tarmac Friday.

Game time is 12:05 p.m. in Cedar City, Utah.

Notes: “I’m happy for coach Gould,” Wright told the press Saturday. “I wanted to get coach his first win in South Dakota. I am just glad we were able to win (Saturday’s) game. I am happy for my teammates because we kept fighting throughout the game.” … UCD had a season-high 455 yards in offense and held ISU to 4-of-20 on third downs. Meanwhile, the Aggies converted 7-of-17 third downs (an improvement on its 26 percent conversion rate through its first four games).

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.

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