SACRAMENTO — Players and coaches from UC Davis and Sacramento State sang their final verses of “Kumbaya” at Thursday’s Causeway Classic Kickoff Luncheon as supporters of both gridiron programs gathered at the Doubletree Inn in Sacramento.
When event emcee and Aggie play-by-play radio voice Scott Marsh introduced retiring Bob Biggs, the more than 300 people in attendance rose to their feet in a 30-second shower of appreciation.
Marsh had brought the 20-year UCD head coach to the podium by declaring: “No one has had more impact as a player and a coach (in UCD football history). No one.”
Biggs, who will be on the sidelines one last time for the 59th annual contest between the Aggies and Hornets at 3:08 p.m. Saturday at Aggie Stadium, was moved.
After thanking his wife Diane, mentor and former UCD coach Jim Sochor and ex-Aggie Athletic Director Greg Warzecka for all their support, guidance and understanding, Biggs continued down a long list of contributors and memorable events that wrote the coach’s 39-season story as a player and coach in Davis.
Hornet chief Marshall Sperbeck spoke highly of his rival’s efforts this past season. Despite a 3-7 mark (2-5 in Big Sky Conference), Sperbeck cautioned fans that the local record is misleading:
“They could have easily won six, seven, eight games had some things gone right for them.”
In his sixth season in Sacramento, Sperbeck said over the years he had grown to know Biggs well, respected him as a coach and man and added, “I wish he was playing his last game against someone else … then I’d be able to root for him.”
Sperbeck presented Biggs with a retirement gift certificate for fly-fishing gear and Aggie players in attendance gave their coach a montage of photos from previous Causeway Classics.
The love was palpable — until Sperbeck broached the topic of that one last matchup with the former Vacaville High standout Biggs.
“I hate to use the word ‘hate,’” Sperbeck said to a laughing audience, further explaining that once a year these two programs don’t like each other. “But on Saturday … yeah, it is hate between (the teams).”
Sacramento State comes to town with a 6-4 record and a 4-3 league campaign. A victory keeps the Hornets alive for Football Championship Subdivision postseason consideration.
Sperbeck said the playoffs were something “he has no control over. Playing the Aggies is motivation enough” to do well in the regular-season finale.
Biggs, whose running game has been much improved this fall, would love nothing better than to unleash Colton Silveria (503 yards and three scores) and Marquis Nicolis (486 yards and a score) on UCD’s guests.
Rain is expected (remember 2010’s torrential downpour?) and an aerial game could be difficult.
In five consecutive games, the Aggies have gone over the century mark on the ground. Only once since 2004 has UCD gone over the 1,360 rushing yards it has now.
Aggie junior signal-caller Randy Wright (2,229 yards and 12 scores) has struggled at times this year.
Conversely, the Hornets feature quarterback Garrett Safron, who has completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,216 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Safron also can tuck the ball and run. His 345 ground yards are second only to teammate Ezekial Graham (753 and four scores).
Both coaches say throw out the records. Don’t over-analyze team statistics. Just hunker down and get ready to play smash-mouth football.
“This is where the fun is,” Biggs said at a pre-luncheon press conference. “Playing in rivalry games.
“We came into the season optimistically about how things would go. … (I’m) not one to make an excuse, (but) five of our six (division) losses were against top 25 teams — and (Football Bowl Subdivision) San Jose State looks like it’s bowl-bound.”
Biggs told both the press and, later, the throng gathered at the kickoff event that he’s had teams that have won more games in the past, “but I’ve never been more proud … and respectful of any football team I’ve ever had.”
UCD leads the series with Sacramento, 41-18. The rivalry dates back to 1954.
The game will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet California with Marsh and Doug Kelly doing radio (KHTK 1140 pregame starts at 2:30 p.m.). The game also will be on KDVS (90.3 FM).
Notes: Biggs praised Sperbeck for his guidance in leading the Hornets through some early tough games and the death of player John Bloomfield. In turn, Sperbeck praised his captains and “senior element” that provided leadership during those dark days. … Wright, who has thrown for 558 yards and three TDs in his past two outings, had this to say about his departing coach: “He’s great … he’s a stand-up guy. You can go to him for anything. He’s just a man you want in your life who will make an impact on anyone he talks to.” … Biggs — a former Aggie QB — is 15-4 as a head coach in Causeway Classics. … The 1982 Aggie team that played for the Division II National Championship will be honored Saturday. … Sac State linebacker Jeff Badger was a prep teammate of Wright’s at Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa). “He’d been my quarterback since I was 8,” Badger explained. “I asked (Randy), ‘Couldn’t you just throw me one pick? I won’t score.’ ” Insiders know Wright won’t go for that, but that won’t stop Badger and his linebacking buddies from trying to disrupt the Aggies’ game plan. Badger, whose dad Jeff played for Davis, is a player to watch on defense.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-747-8047.