Shhh. Aggies can enter Big Sky title talk with a win

By From page B1 | October 18, 2013

Nobody in the UC Davis football program dares talk about it …

Aggie head coach Ron Gould has his guys focusing on matters at hand — a Saturday game at Northern Colorado.

Players and staff haven’t dwelled on last week’s 42-7 loss to No. 9/10 Montana. Nor has anyone thought aloud about what a win over the Bears might mean in the Big Sky Conference race.

Win and move on. Gould’s set-in-concrete mantra remains intact: “Follow the process. Focus on the details. One step at a time.”

Nonetheless, UCD (2-5 overall) can take its league mark to 3-1 with a victory in Greeley, Colo. (kickoff 12:35 p.m. PST).

With Montana State (Oct. 26), Cal Poly (Nov. 2), North Dakota (Nov. 16) and Sacramento State (Nov. 23) down the line, beating UNC at least puts the Aggies, once a long shot, in the title conversation.

Not bad for a team that started 0-4.

Gould said his team “took a step backwards” in the loss to Montana, but scrutiny of that game provides hope for the future.

UCD was trailing only 21-7 when it looked like Aarynn Jones had recovered a Griz fumble deep in Aggie territory. A penalty canceled the turnover and Montana went on to take control.

But the Grizzlies had to work their way down the field on each possession. The UCD defense didn’t allow a play longer than 30 yards (and only three over 20 yards).

An interception of Aggie quarterback Randy Wright’s pass in the end zone didn’t help matters and the locals — despite daily drills designed to knock the ball from opponents’ arms — still struggled to create turnovers.

In conference wins over Idaho State and Southern Utah, the UCD’s scoring has come the old-fashioned way … sustained drives, no gifts.

The shortest Aggie touchdown drive in those wins was 52 yards. Of the 11 UCD TD marches, seven have had to go 70 or more yards.

Conclusion? When the Aggies are on, they’re tough to stop. Conversely, they aren’t getting those turnovers, especially deep in the other guys’ end of the field.

A wide-open Northern Colorado (1-6, 0-3) offense could give the locals multiple opportunities to change that Saturday.

A horrible running game — fifth worst among Football Championship Subdivision teams at just over 60 yards a contest — has the Bears and QB Seth Lobato going to the air.

Lobato’s career average of 211 yards per game is the ninth among active FCS quarterbacks. And this fall, Lobato and backup Tim Tancik are gaining just over 300 yards a game — the 14th-best FCS mark.

On the flip side, UNC has coughed up the ball 13 times and its QBs have been sacked 19 times — stats that have added to the team’s current six-game losing streak.

So does Gould like the prospect of a nothing-to-lose aerial display on Saturday? Or is grind-it-out football with UCD running back Gabe Manzanares (third in the Big Sky with 606 yards) owning the clock in a low-scoring affair the coach’s cup of tea?

It doesn’t matter to the former Cal assistant. He just wants his players at the top of their games.

“I want to see our guys come out and improve each week,” Gould told The Enterprise after another spirited workout on Thursday. “Take that next step and the rest will take care of itself.”

Notes: Players to watch on Saturday include Northern Colorado receivers Jace Davis, who’s averaging 102 yards per game ((No. 11 in FCS) and Dimitri Stimphil with 94.3 ypg (No. 15). Bears linebacker Clarence Bumpas is somebody to steer clear of. In the 40-26 loss to Idaho State, Bumpas had 15 tackles as UNC had to make more than 100 tackles as a team. … Northern Colorado lost to both Southern Utah and ISU, while UCD beat both squads. However, this could be the first game of the season in which coach Earnest Collins Jr.’s troops are relatively healthy. … The Aggies lead the Big Sky in stopping opponents on third down (31.4 conversion for their foes). Defensive end Nick King has five sacks (third in league). … Montana State (4-2, 2-0), Eastern Washington (4-2, 2-0) and Cal Poly (3-3, 2-0) sit atop the conference standings. … KHTK (1140 AM) will broadcast the game with announcer Scott Marsh and color man Doug Kelly. The pregame show starts at noon PST. The radio broadcast will be simulcast on www.ucdavisaggies.com.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.

Bruce Gallaudet

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