By Greg Eichelberger
POCATELLO, Idaho — Facing an opponent that has surrendered 51.3 points per game this season, the UC Davis football team kept that average up by putting 52 on the scoreboard Saturday. However, the Aggies needed every single tally to hold off a tough Idaho State squad that played much better than it did in losing by 67 points at Portland State last week.
Taking on the Bengals (1-5) for the first time ever, UCD (3-4) scored early and often in a 52-45 victory that evened the squad’s Big Sky Conference record at 2-2 in preparation for this week’s game at Northern Arizona.
For the visitors, a win is a win, but this was a difficult battle, considering ISU collected more than 374 passing yards and five touchdowns through the air, pushing the Aggies to the limit before they finally were able to run out the clock.
“We knew they were going throw the ball, so we tried to put as much pressure on the quarterback (senior Kevin Yost) as possible,” said UCD head coach Bob Biggs, who is at the helm for his 20th and final season. “Obviously, we were not as successful in that department as we had hoped to be.”
Fortunately for UCD, its own offense was much more balanced, with 346 yards on the ground and 309 through the air. Redshirt freshman running back Courtney Williams, a Davis High graduate, scored on runs of 55, 3 and 2 yards (the last with 4:30 remaining in the game), while junior QB Randy Wright threw for 300-plus yards and three touchdowns, but added a late interception deep in his own territory that almost proved costly.
Running backs Colton Silveria and Marquis Nicolis also gained 121 and 105 yards, respectively. Williams’ 55-yard scamper from scrimmage was the longest of his young career, and opened the game’s scoring.
“I knew what the play was designed to do,” said the former Blue Devil football and track star. “The defense took the bait; I kept my eye on the defense and found the hole.”
Idaho State, however, came right back to tie the game when Yost hit wide receiver Rodrick Rumble in stride with a picture-perfect 62-yard strike less than 30 seconds later. But Wright and Company would find a way to keep up the scoring pace.
“They run multiple defenses at you, but I think we had a very well-balanced attack (Saturday),” said Wright, who was 20-of-31 on the day. “We have some really talented running backs, and finishing those runs was a huge key for us.”
Wright’s passing attack was no slouch, either, as he found three different receivers — Anthony Soto, Mark Martindale and Dalton Turay — for scores. It was the third 300-yard game of his career.
“Randy is seeing the field really well right now,” Biggs said. “He was very accurate (Saturday) and made some big third-down throws. He had a very, very solid game.”
After trading touchdowns in the first quarter — a pattern that would continue for most of the contest — and leading by just a field goal, the Aggies would forge ahead, only to have the tenacious Bengals remain doggedly in tow, never more than 14 points behind.
It seemed that a dagger was thrust into ISU, though, when Wright found Soto in the end zone to put UCD up 24-17 with just 17 seconds left in the half. Brushing off what could have been a devastating momentum shift, ISU would take the third quarter kickoff, march downfield and score on a 7-yard Yost-to-Luke Austin toss.
“They have nothing to feel bad about,” Biggs said. “I told the ISU coach (Mike Kramer) that his kids did a heck of a job out there. They fought us every step of the way.”
Another Williams touchdown and a 10-yard pass to Martindale would again give the visitors a 14-point edge, and both clubs would alternate scores from then on. Even the late pick, which would give the home team a touchdown to make it 45-38 with 11:27 left, was not a devastating blow.
“I threw it a little too hot to (intended receiver) Corey (Galindo),” Wright said. “It went off one of our player’s’ hands. Things like that are going to happen. That’s football.”
With the unflappable Yost hitting wideout Cam Richardson with three minutes left to bring ISU within seven again, the Aggie offense came back for one last stand. UCD completed the task as sophomore Silveria collected two first downs to run out the clock, close the door on the frustrated Bengals and give the Aggies a satisfying rebound from last week’s heartbreaking 48-41 loss to Montana State.
“We’ve executed our offense very well over the last few weeks,” Biggs said. “We are starting to have a lot of confidence. Of course, there are things we need to address defensively, but, overall, I think we had a very good game on the road and in an indoor arena to prepare us for the rest of the season.”