Running back Gabe Manzanares rushed for 208 yards, Ron Gould won his first game as a head coach and quarterback Randy Wright — yes, that Randy Wright — was effective off the bench as UC Davis stopped visiting Idaho State, 30-13, in Saturday’s Big Sky Conference football opener for both schools.
After the Aggies started 0-4 under Gould, a former Cal assistant, the win before 7,194 fans was a pleasant tonic for everyone concerned.
UCD opened up a 16-0 lead that it took into the final period before the Bengals (2-2) came back to close things to 16-13.
“I was thinking to myself ‘We don’t do anything easy,’ ” Gould told the assembled media afterward.
But with Wright orchestrating two late touchdown drives, it was all’s well that ends well for Aggie Nation.
UCD couldn’t take advantage of early chances — missing another chip-shot field goal when starting QB Jimmy Laughrea couldn’t keep a drive going — opportunities that Gould thought could have been 21 points.
The Aggies had a terrific first-quarter opportunity when Tom Hemmingsen’s 51-yard punt return set his team up with a first down at the Idaho State 31.
Despite the field position leading to a 34-yard Brady Stuart field goal — and a lead that the Aggies would never relinquish — it was the last series of the night for sophomore signal-caller Laughrea.
“Jimmy was a little anxious early on,” Gould said. “We missed a couple of opportunities and we just wanted to settle him down.
“I was real pleased with how Randy came in, real poised. He did a fabulous job.”
Wright entered the game after UCD recovered a fumble by ISU quarterback Justin Arias at its own 48, igniting a 13-0 Aggie burst that gave the locals a 16-0 halftime bulge.
Wright — who started 32 of 33 games coming into 2013 — had given way to Laughrea after the season-opening loss to South Dakota.
“I was told to start warming up,” Wright said of getting that first-quarter message. “You don’t have to tell me twice. I’m always ready to play. I got the chance. We got the win.”
Wright said the smiles had returned to the locker room.
On this night, Wright showed mobility (keeping a drive alive with a scramble for a first down), patience and accuracy as the senior hit Hemmingsen with a 20-yard TD pass on his first drive upon replacing Laughrea.
After that score, Wright led UCD to a couple of more first-half Stuart field goals.
En route to Stuart’s 20-yard field goal, Wright’s 17-yard pass to Chris Martin put him over 100 yards throwing and Manzanares went over 100 yards rushing with a seven-yard pickup deep inside Bengal territory.
Those numbers got better as the night progressed.
Wright would finish with 201 yards passing, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Manzanares’ 208 yards made him the first Aggie to go over the century mark since Colton Silveria (121) and Marquis Nicolis (105) both turned the trick against these same Bengals in a 52-45 UCD win at Pocatello last Oct. 13.
Manzanares ties Phil Wintz (1952 vs. Southern Oregon) for 10th on the all-time UCD single-game rushing list. The all-time Aggie mark is 309 by Mike Ichiyama, who went for 309 against Chico State in 1994.
As Saturday’s game settled into a defensive mode in the third period, UCD safety Aaryn Jones and cornerback Dre Allen broke up an important third-down pass intended for Cam Richmond. Arias was hounded by Aggie defenders Anthony Kaspar, Nick King, Kyle DeVaughn and Steven Pitts. ISU receivers — who have been averaging 337 yards in receptions — were dogged by safety Charles Boyett (seven tackles) and his pals in the secondary.
However, both offenses awakened in the fourth quarter.
A broken-tackle catch-and-run of 47 yards by Broc Malcom near the end of the third quarter pumped life into the Bengals.
After that grab — with Idaho State now third-and-eight at the UCD 8-yard line — Arias’ pass to Luke Austin was dropped, setting up Garcia’s 24-yard field goal.
A few minutes later, the Bengals drove 64 yards in 11 plays with Luke Austin catching a five-yard scoring toss from Arias.
On three separate occasions it looked like the Aggies had stopped Idaho State, but pass interference and roughing penalties continued the drive. An 11-yard pass to Josh Cook converted a fourth-down play from the UCD 24.
Just seconds later, disaster struck …
Vai Peko recovered a Shamawn Wright muff on the ensuring kickoff, putting ISU in business at the UCD 6.
The Aggies wanted nothing to do with a loss in front of their biggest and most frisky home crowd of the season.
On first down, Aaron Prier was stopped for a 1-yard loss by linebackers Ryan Dimino and Pitts. Allen defended a second-down incomplete pass and Arias was hurried into throwing the ball away on third down. Garcia’s 24-yard field was ISU’s last look at the game.
From there, a seven-play, 74-yard Aggie drive culminated with an eight-yard TD pass from Wright to fullback Dalton Turay.
After holding the Bengals on a three-and-out, Manzanares punctuated his big night with a 50-yard scamper that set up his own 1-yard TD run with 50 seconds left.
UCD travels to Southern Utah (4-1, 1-0) for a noon game next Saturday.
Notes: T.J. King caught two passes for 40 yards on the Aggies’ next-to-last scoring drive. He finished with four grabs for 70 yards. … Laughrea was 4-for-9 passing for 30 yards in his brief stint. … Dalton Turay caught three passes for 54 yards and Hemmingsen had three for 38. Chris Martin, filling in for the injured Alex Cannon (knee) caught two passes for 33 yards. … Averaging 27 completions a game coming in to Saturday, Arias went 19-of-45 for only 214 yards. Xavier Finney led Idaho State with 94 yards rushing. … ISU has now lost an FCS-record 41 straight road games.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.