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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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UCD battles Hornets and the elements

By
November 20, 2010 |

Enterprise staff writer

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The last time the UC Davis football team was interrupted by the elements, it was laying a little thunder on Abeline Christian in September of 2001.

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While that lightning delay was more than 90 minutes, the Aggies didn\’t have as much trouble with the weather that day as they did on Saturday. Playing in Texas, UCD won, 41-28.

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Who\’d have thought Saturday\’s Causeway Classic would provide the Aggies with two opponents —

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Sacramento State and its new quarterback, Mother Nature.

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The National Weather Service called for partial showers and nine mile per hour breezes, all petering out in the evening.

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When the Hornets and Mother Nature suited up for the 4 p.m. contest, they eventually brought constant rain — sometimes in deluge fashion — thunder and lightning and a 25 to 30 mph wind.

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Thanks to the conditions, both coaches believed taking care of the ball would be the key factor.

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“We knew the difference (would) be turnovers,” UCD coach Bob Biggs said after the Aggies managed a 17-16 victory over visiting Sacramento State at stormy Aggie Stadium. “We had those early two turnovers (interception and blocked punt), then our chances came.”

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When the game ended — punctuated by a 47-minute halt because lightning was lurking overhead — UCD had forced four Hornet turnovers. One, the recovery of a punt muff inside the Sac State 10, led to Sean Kelley\’s game-winning field goal.

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On UCD\’s two touchdown “drives,” it went 38 and 12 yards after recovering fumbles.

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“We actually wanted to pass in this game,” Biggs said afterward, adding that the elements didn\’t allow either team to put the ball up much.

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That, given the Aggies were struggling on the ground (20 yards rushing after just 28 last week), meant the defense had to step up. Forcing the turnovers was the difference.

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In fact, trailing 16-14 at the half, Biggs said he thought about kicking for the wind advantage again in the second half.

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“But the wind died down while we were (waiting), so we took the ball,” Biggs explained.

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The game was eerily similar to another Classic, back in October 2000.

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In that game, a downpour and blustery conditions almost cost the Aggies their perfect regular season.

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“We talked about trying to take advantage of the wind,” Biggs told The Enterprise 10 years ago. “We just felt the weather was getting progressively worse and that we needed to try to take some shots and fortunately we hit the big one.”

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Quarterback J. T. O\’Sullivan hit Onome Ojo with an 80-yard bomb to pull out a 13-10 victory for UCD at muddy Hughes Stadium. The game had been switched from Sacramento State to Hughes to accommodate a larger crowd, but the weather kept the turnout under 10,000. Hughes Stadium seats around 20,000.

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In that game, like Saturday\’s matchup, action ended with the Aggie defense stopping a Hornet quarterback (this time Ricky Ray) — on the final play of the game — back at the 35-yard line.

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Kelley said the ball on Saturday “was heavy” and Biggs praised his kicker for the line-drive game-winner from 21 yards out in the fourth quarter.

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Notes: The victory marked Biggs\’ 136th win in 18 years as head coach. He\’s lost 71 and tied one. Hornet coach Marshall Sperbeck, who is former Aggie All-American QB Ken O\’Brien\’s brother-in-law, finishes his fourth year at Sacramento State with a 16-25 mark. … UC Davis received votes for The Sports Network\’s FCS poll for the first time since Oct. 25. It is ranked 49th after getting a 37th-place polling before the season started. …With attendance figures based on tickets sold, the announced crowd Saturday was 9,785. When the game ended, about 1,200 fans remained in the stands. … O\’Sullivan, Ojo and Ray from that 2000 game all went on to play in the pros. All three have spent time on NFL rosters, and O\’Sullivan is currently the San Diego Chargers\’ backup quarterback.

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— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at bgallaudet@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8056. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com

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