Sure, the score was 45-13 and the UC Davis footballers lost.
But consider the source of the beating — and ponder what might have been without the final three of minutes of that first half at San Jose State.
The Aggies knew the Football Bowl Subdivision Spartans would be a tall order. They were coming off of a 20-17 setback to No. 21 Stanford and hadn’t really taken the wraps off of Minnesota-transfer RB De’Leon Eskridge.
A home crowd would help San Jose State, and the bad taste of losing to UCD (14-13 two years ago) was still fresh for the homestanders.
Nonetheless, the first 27 minutes belonged to the Aggies.
On just the second play of the game, UCD quarterback Randy Wright teamed with wideout Alex Cannon on a 45-yard scoring play.
Then, on the next five SJSU possessions, the local defense held the day. Three punts and two turnovers kept the hosts off the board.
However, the Aggies struggled when the Spartans switched to man coverage and began bringing pressure.
UCD had neared midfield on another march before the first of Travis Johnson’s school-record four sacks reversed the Aggie thrust. On the next play, the ball was snapped over Wright’s head and a third-down play failed, forcing another punt.
After Eskridge’s five-yard run evened the score with 1:32 left, Alex Hines’ 51-yard kickoff return set UCD in motion from the Spartan 49.
Surely, at least a field goal would provide new-found momentum for the Aggies.
But Wright’s interception gave the Western Athletic Conference squad great field position; a position that resulted in another Eskridge score with 11 seconds to go before intermission.
Wright put the collapse on his shoulders.
“When I threw the pick in the two-minute drill, it cost us big,” the junior QB told The Enterprise. “Our basic plan was real good. We were keeping them guessing with our play-action and our D-line was catching them off guard. Once we started hitting plays and moving the ball, they started to pressure us and the wheels just kind of started to fall off.
“We had a lot of three-and-outs. Our defense needed a break and we couldn’t give it to ’em. We played better than the score indicates.”
As the Aggie resistance dwindled, the Spartans were able to tack on three more third-period scores — 35 unanswered points in all — before UCD regrouped.
Head coach Bob Biggs said his squad didn’t react well to the pressure and man defense, but added that the Aggies would make “improvements after watching the film … and we’re going to come back.”
“It’s good to play a good opponent like this because you can go back and see what you’re all about: what you did well and what you didn’t do well,” Biggs explained. “One good thing about this team is we have an experienced team and, although they’re disappointed, their heads aren’t hanging down.”
Biggs said San Jose State deserved credit, too. He believes they’re a different team than the one UCD shocked on Oct. 2, 2010.
“More consistent. (They have) quality athleticism in every position,” the retiring Aggie mentor continued. “Their defensive line is pretty good; we struggled to run the ball. They play really sound football. They get the ball in their playmakers’ hands. I thought their running backs looked good (Saturday) — good quickness, good vision.”
Eskridge, who scored 17 touchdowns in his three years in Minnesota, sat out last season and was used sparingly against Stanford.
But on Saturday, his 136 rushing yards and three TDs set the comeback tone.
“We did a lot of good things. The first quarter we were rolling,” Wright reminded Aggie fans. “We were running the ball (Colton Silveria had 76 yards and a touchdown), we had play-action, everything we wanted to do. That’s a pretty good team. They lost to Stanford by three.
“We take a lot of positives, but you’re not going to beat a team like that with all those mistakes.”
Like Biggs said afterwards, without the big pick, “You go in 7-7 at the half, you’re feeling pretty good about yourself.”
Notes: UCD rushed for 118 yards on 36 tries. A hiccup over three yards a carry isn’t going to be enough to keep the wolves from Wright’s door as the season progresses. … Wright finished 14-of-23 for 194 yards and the Cannon connection. He was intercepted twice, but went over the 5,000-yard career passing mark when he hit tight end Cameron Sentance with a 21-yarder. Wright finished the night with 5,042 yards for his Aggie stay. UCD continues on the road Saturday when it travels to South Dakota State for a noon kickoff. … Phillip Thrappas came up from his safety spot to make nine tackles and linebacker Jordan Glass added nine stops and a sack for the Aggies.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-747-8047.