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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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QBs lead teams into Causeway Classic

By
November 17, 2010 |

Enterprise sports editor

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It is a classic tale of two team, and a story about two Causeway quarterbacks.

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One signal-caller, who found out in late August that he would be the first redshirt freshman to start at QB in the 18-year Bob Biggs coaching era, mans the position for UC Davis. Another, who didn\’t even set foot on campus until Aug. 29, has the reins for Sacramento State.

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The resemblances between the Aggies (5-5) and Hornets (6-4), who will square off in Saturday\’s 57th Causeway Classic are highlighted by quarterbacks Randy Wright (UCD) and Jeff Fleming (Sac State), but they certainly don\’t end there.

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“Our team is similar to Sacramento State,” Biggs said at Wednesday\’s Causeway Classic press conference. “We are a young team — somebody recently pointed out to me that about 80 percent of the guys we have playing most of the snaps are sophomores and redshirt freshmen — but we have had tremendous leadership from our seniors, especially in

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helping us bounce back after some tough losses.”

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Using a good core of seniors to keep the team together was something that Hornet coach Marshall Sperbeck also mentioned as a key, after Sac State (5-3 Big Sky) has dropped all three of its conference games by a total of 10 points. All three of the defeats came at the hands

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of teams that are ranked in the top 11 of the Football Championship Subdivision.

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“The thing that we have taken from this season is that our team is very resilient,” Sperbeck said. “We\’ve been able to focus each week, even coming back from some really tough losses.”

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Fleming\’s play has been a big reason why Sac State has been able to compete so well in the suddenly-formidable Big Sky. The junior QB started his career at Fullerton College in 2008, then transferred to New Mexico State, where he started nine game last year. When this season began, Fleming was moved to wide receiver, so he decided to transfer to the Hornets.

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Sperbeck was happy to have him as a backup to McLeod Bethel-Thompson, but when the senior QB went down with an injury, Fleming became the starter.

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“Jeff has come in and done a super job of learning the players names and how to get around campus, along with learning the playbook,” Sperbeck joked. “We\’ve found his strengths and the best way to use him and he has really performed well.”

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To say Fleming has performed well is somewhat of an understatement as the 6-foot-4 175-pounder has set a Hornet record with 21 touchdown passes this season, and has a pass-efficiency rating of 148.71. He has also picked 416 yards rushing — not including sacks — and is second on the team to running back Bryan Hilliard (883 yards and 12 TDs).

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“The key to stopping their (offense) is shutting the QB down,” said UCD defensive lineman Tommy Grillo, who added that Fleming presents a different challenge than some of the other running quarterbacks the Aggies have faced this season:

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“He\’s his own (challenge) because he is a great runner and a great passer. He can throw on the run and unlike a lot of other quarterbacks who always sprint out to the right, he can go right or left, so he is that much harder to stop.”

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The Aggie offense has also gotten pretty hard to stop as Wright gotten better and better. The UCD quarterback has wowed coaches and teammates alike with his calmness in the pocket, and his improvement has shown up in the stats as he has set a new career high in passing yards in each of the past three games. That stretch culminated with Wright throwing for 302 yards and leading the Aggies to a thrilling 22-21 comeback win over rival Cal Poly last week with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes.

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“Randy is innately a very calm person,” Biggs said. “His first game ever was against Cal and he wasn\’t (phased). He\’s unflappable.

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“He wants to get better and he really studies the game. (As the season has progressed) he\’s gotten much better at reading defenses and, as a freshman, to throw (329) times and only have seven interceptions says a lot about his maturity.”

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The recipient of those two fourth-period scoring strikes, senior wide receiver Sean Creadick, has watched his QB develop with pride:

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“The guy has stepped up big time. As a freshman, he couldn\’t have been put in a harsher situation. The amount he his improved is more than anyone —including himself — could have expected.”

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Notes: The Causeway Classic will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet Ch. 34. … The teams have met 58 times, once in the first-round of the 1988 Division II playoffs, and starting in 2011, the games will be part of the Big Sky schedule as UCD joins the conference … Fleming set the TD record on a pass to Chase Deadder, who leads the team with 36 catches for 784 yards. Creadick paces the Aggies with 64 catches for 882 yards. … Sperbeck mentioned that Bethel-Thompson will be “part of the game plan on Saturday.”

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