Enterprise sports editor
Since the Great West Football conference has only five teams, there is no official conference championship game. Last season, the de facto title contest was a matchup between UC Davis and North Dakota at Aggie Stadium.
The Aggies had so much fun that time, capturing the 2009 GW title with a 28-20 win, that they hope to play three pseudo championship games this season, beginning Saturday when they host Southern Utah.
The visiting Thunderbirds (4-4, 3-0 Great West) already have played and beaten each of the other members of the conference this season, and a win over UCD (3-4, 1-0) on Saturday will give them the league title.
For the Aggies, a victory doesnÕt guarantee a GW championship Ñ UCD still has games at North Dakota and Cal Poly over the next two weeks Ñ but a loss, obviously, ends their chances.
ÒWeÕre treating it as a conference title game,Ó UCD head coach Bob Biggs said after practice Wednesday. ÒThis game is a championship game and then, if we win, next week is a championship game. And then if we win that, the next week is a championship game.Ó
With that much on line for the Aggies this week, it was easier to put a disappointing loss to South Alabama last week out of their minds. UCD forced four turnovers in that contest but, continuing a season-long trend, scored no points off of the extra opportunities.
The Aggies, who have scored just 21 points off of takeaways this year, recovered a late fumble but missed a field goal in the final seconds that would have sent the game into overtime.
ÒIt was a strange game because we did a lot of good things,Ó Biggs said of the 24-21 loss to the Jaguars. ÒItÕs been tough because we have played well and played hard all season but our record doesnÕt reflect that.
ÒWe just need to make more plays. (Quarterback Randy Wright) is playing well, we just need guys to break tackles and score touchdowns. ItÕs all there, we just need that game where we all come to together and the offense really explodes.Ó
It wonÕt be easy against the Thunderbirds who, after starting 1-4, have turned their season around with strong play on both sides of the ball.
Coming into the game on a three-game winning streak, SUU is playing with a confidence not seen in Cedar City in quite some time. Now playing with swagger, the Thunderbirds are a far cry from the squad that lost 19 straight games during a three-year stretch that ended in 2008.
ÒFor so many years, they never got any respect and now they have kind of embraced that attitude,Ó Biggs said. ÒThey are just a blue-collar bunch; they are very confident and they have good senior leadership. They just keep clawing and clawing.Ó
And while the Aggies have had strong practices this week, knowing that the conference championship is at stake, Southern Utah almost certainly will be pumped up as it plays for its first-ever Great West title.
On offense, T-Birds quarterback Brad Sorensen leads a unit that has averaged 442 yards a game in its last three victories, as the signal-caller has completed 75 percent of his passes for nearly 300 yards per contest. SorensenÕs job is made easier by a pair of dynamic wide receivers who have given opposing secondaries fits this season. The UCD defensive backs have been hit by injuries this season and will have their work cut out for them trying to slow Tysson Poots and Fesi Sitake.
Poots is a 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior who has six touchdown catches among his 59 receptions for 831 yards on the season. Sitake has made 58 grabs for 605 yards and 2 TDs.
ÒTheir quarterback is getting better and better and he plays with a lot of confidence … he knows heÕs got those two great receivers,Ó Biggs said.
On the other side of the ball, SUU relies more on heart and grit than it does on schemes, according to Biggs:
ÒDefensively, they just play tough. They like to get up and lean on you and bang on you. This is a game where our guys know they are going to have to be mentally tough.Ó
The Aggies would like to do some damage on the ground to take the pressure off of Wright and the passing game. Straight running plays have not been too successful for UCD this season, however, so Nick Aprile will take some direct snaps in the AggiesÕ Gator and Dolphin formation to help give the offense some balance.
Notes: Saturday marks the end of a three-game homestand for UCD. The Aggies will play at North Dakota on Nov. 6 and at Cal Poly on Nov. 13 before return home for the season-ending Causeway Classic. … After a career day that featured 12 catches for 147 yards, UCD wide receiver Sean Creadick is now tied for 14th among Football Championship Subdivision receivers for receptions per game (6.57). Poots and Sitake rank sixth and seventh on that list. … The Thunderbirds rank 11th in the FCS Ñ and first in the Great West Ñ in total offense at 410 yards per game and also lead the conference in total defense at 298.8 ypg. UCD gains 285.9 ypg and gives up 384.1.
Ñ Reach Chris Saur at email@example.com or (530) 747-8049. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com To view photo galleries and purchase prints of UCD football, visit http://photos.davisenterprise.com