UCD notebook: Aggie defense shuts down the potent T-Birds

By From page B1 | October 06, 2013

There were a season-high four quarterback sacks.

The two interceptions give the UC Davis football team six in the last three games.

The high-profile Southern Utah ground game was held to 45 net yards.

The Thunderbirds were 1-for-4 in the red zone, a trip they rarely got to make.

“I really feel we have one of the best defenses in the country — and the guys continue to come out here and prove that every week,” said Aggies head coach Ron Gould said.

Against Southern Utah, UCD was visiting turf upon which they were humiliated 34-3 in 2011.

Just to return the favor, when the Aggies held the T-Birds to a field goal in their 21-3 victory, it marked the first time in 12 years SUU didn’t score a TD in a home game.

Those four sacks of quarterback Aaron Cantu came complements of linebacker Steven Pitts, defensive end Nick King, tackle Kyle DeVaughn and DE Colin Kelly.

And because Cantu didn’t know where the bullets were coming from, he was occasionally hurried into back throws.

Cantu completed 29-of-50 for 281 yards. OK numbers, but Cantu came into Saturday hitting 71 percent of his tosses (sixth in the nation). He was also picked off twice — by Dre Allen and a fourth-quarter dagger in the end zone from Shamawn Wright.

Gould and defensive coordinator Bert Watts preach staying home, “doing your job” and when that happens it can be a beautiful thing.

Solid defensive stats were spread throughout the box score: three times freshman punter Colby Wadman pinned SUU inside their own 5, the T-Birds converted only four of their 15 third-down tries (and failed on a fourth-and-1) and seven Aggies had four or more tackles with safety Charles Boyett’s eight leading the way.

A look ahead at the schedule tells Aggie fans it’s not going to get any easier. But at 2-0 in Big Sky Conference — and with the locals sporting that take-no-prisoners defense — it’s not going to get any easier when the other squads play UCD.

Battle of the Toes: Aggie kicker Brady Stuart and his Thunderbird counterpart Colton Cook shared Big West Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors last week when Stuart hammered home three field goals (in four attempts) in the 30-13 win over Idaho State. Meanwhile, Cook had nailed two three-pointers, including a career-long 48-yarder, in a 27-21 victory at Northern Colorado.

Each kicked three extra points.

Saturday at Eccles Coliseum, UCD blocked Cook’s first field goal attempt, then saw him miss a 33-yarder in the third period. He made a one of three (from 30). Meanwhile, Stuart did not attempt a field goal and converted all three of his PATS.

The Gap Widens: Coming into Saturday’s battle, SUU had won three straight meetings including the 31-point blowout in 2011. Randy Wright, the Aggie QB on Saturday, also quarterbacked in that game. Thanks to this 21-3 win, UCD leads the 17-game series, 11-6.

Coaching matchup: Ed Lamb, in his sixth season at the Southern Utah helm, has a 30-31 record. He inherited a team that had lost 18 straight games. Gould is in his first year as a head coach anywhere and has now won two in a row.

Little Time to Celebrate: Gould was asked if he felt Saturday’s win was his team’s best game of the year?

“Overall I think it was,” the coached said, smiling. “Offense, defense. I was pleased with the way we corralled their punt returner.”

Gould praised his coordinators Kevin Daft (offense) and Watts for great game plans, but added: “We still have a lot of work to do. We’ll get back to the drawing board and get ready to play our next opponent. We have to get better … we still have a lot of work to do.

“We’re looking to getting home, enjoy this win. They’re hard to come by.”

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected]

Bruce Gallaudet

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