In the first two weeks of the college football season, UC Davis goes from one end of the opponent spectrum to the other as the Aggies welcome struggling Division-II Fort Lewis to town this weekend.
Coming off of a 45-0 pounding at Stanford last weekend, UCD’s home opener features the 2014 debut of the Durango, Colo., team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2006.
Fort Lewis is coming off of a 4-7 season but is just two years removed from 0-10.
Skyhawks coach John L. Smith is a well-traveled D-I veteran and a Weber State grad who has been the boss at Idaho, Utah State, Michigan State, Louisville and Arkansas before landing at the 4,090-student campus last year.
Smith has a plan for his team’s 6 p.m. matchup Saturday at Aggie Stadium.
“They’re bigger, stronger, faster than we are,” the 66-year-old coach said of the Aggies. “We’re going to play a lot of guys … just try to slow them down a little bit.”
Smith says senior Max Baiz gets the call at quarterback.
A Los Angeles Harbor College transfer, Baiz split time with Jordan Doyle in 2013, throwing for 823 yards and five touchdowns. He completed just 49.6 percent of his passes and was picked off four times.
Running back is going to be a committee effort with junior Amery Duncan (383 yards, three TDs a year ago) seeing a lion’s share of the action.
If the Skyhawks are going to move the ball, it could be on the legs of a decent set of wide receivers.
“We’re better than we were a year ago. More speed at wideout. We (could be) a little bit of a threat going down the field,” Smith said “But we’ll play a number of guys. Rotate players. (Junior college transfer Carl) Cox will line up at one end. (Sophomore Andrew) Ike at the other. After that a myriad of guys.”
Cox is a former target of Aggie backup QB Turner Baty at City College of San Francisco and Ike is a 6-foot-1, 170-pound speedster by way of Summit High (Frisco, Colo.).
“After that it’s a myriad guys in and out,” the coach explained.
On defense, who is the Fort Lewis standout?
“Don’t know that there is one,” laments Smith, who replaced Bobby Petrino at Arkansas in 2012.
Gone are leading tackler Joey Alvarez — a linebacker — captain/safety Jamal Campbell and defensive lineman Broderick Sargent (9.5 sacks last year).
Smith hopes former New Mexico Highlands linebacker Derik Wetzel (in his third season in Durango) can build off 2013, a year in which he recorded 70 stops and forced three fumbles. Wetzel is a senior.
“First, it’s tough to replace a guy like Alvarez,” the Skyhawk coach said. “And injuries here have taken their toll (during camp). We’ll see who steps up.”
So why UC Davis on Saturday?
“Normally we schedule a Big Sky school,” Smith told The Enterprise. ” We get a guaranteed (money) game. It’s like when Davis went to Stanford. We get one Big Sky school each year simply to make a little money.”
Fort Lewis lost its 2013 season opener to Southern Utah, 49-0. Later that year, UCD beat the Thunderbirds, 21-3.
My, how the Aggie competitive paradigm has shifted in just seven days …
After gaining only 115 total yards in losing to the No. 13 Cardinal, UCD now has a chance to get its engine running.
Senior QB London Lacy will make his second career start, according to Aggie coach Ron Gould.
Lacy was 12-for-22 for 54 yards at Stanford. He was sacked four times and threw two interceptions as a basic Cardinal defense showed its physical dominance in building a 38-0 halftime lead. Nonetheless, Gould was “pleased with how London managed the game.”
Stanford pulled All-American receiver/punt returner Ty Montgomery and QB Kevin Hogan just after intermission while using a trail-mix lineup much of the second half.
UCD fans will get a better feel for their team’s offense Saturday as Gould promises to open things up with a group of Aggies who did a little soul-searching during practice this week.
“The thing that was disappointing — really uncharacteristic of our team — was that we had several penalties, personal fouls … the execution (wasn’t to standard). We left some things out there,” Gould said of a spotty performance at Stanford.
“Against those teams, you have to execute. Now … the players are very excited. (Against Fort Lewis) we have to find resolve. That’s something we’re working hard to do.”
Gould says his troops have talked “very little” about Fort Lewis, choosing to focus on what the Aggies can do, fixing the mistakes and coming out in two days “with a different mind-set.”
Notes: Fort Lewis’ signature win in 2013 was a 27-24 victory over Adam State (7-4) last Nov. 2. … The Skyhawks averaged 14.6 points per game while allowing more than 30 an outing. Opponents averaged 391 yards of offense. … UCD wide receiver T.J. King and defensive end Inoke Raikadroka suffered ankle injuries at Stanford. King is out, according to Gould, while Raikadroka might play. Running back Gabe Manzanares (foot) again was ruled out. … Local flavor: Fort Lewis has former Will C. Wood High LB Jedediah Perthes-Cox and ex-Pleasant Grove High WR Esley Simmons III. … The Skyhawks will take a 17-hour bus ride from Durango to Davis on Friday. They return home Sunday with an Aggie thank-you check for $60,000.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-320-4456.