RENO — There was another changing of the guard on Saturday for UC Davis.
Sophomore Jimmy Laughrea, the Rocklin High product, took the reins from veteran Aggie quarterback Randy Wright.
While the result wasn’t a win — Football Bowl Subdivision Nevada steadily advanced to a 36-7 win before 27,052 fans at Mackay Stadium — the gridiron promise of Laughrea shined through.
“Jimmy came in and threw the ball really well, moved the ball for us. The guy’s a competitor, the game’s important to him,” first-year Aggie coach Ron Gould told the gathered media afterward.
Laughrea (pronounced LOCK-ray) went 13-of-27 for 178 yards and a touchdown in his first collegiate start. Gould believes the numbers could have been better. He pointed to “at least five drops.”
“We left a lot of points out on the (field),” Gould continued. The former Cal assistant remains concerned about his Aggies not taking advantage of scoring opportunities — and making costly mistakes.
“We had some opportunities to score early. We were moving the ball, we just didn’t finish the deal. (As coach), that’s on me.”
Gould went on to say “all the pieces are there.”
* Like running back Manusamoa Luuga, the freshman from Long Beach Poly who rushed for 85 yards on 13 carries — including a 46-yarder as his first carry as an Aggie.
* And Tom Hemmingsen, back after missing a season due to injury, who caught six passes for 87 yards and a 23-yard score in the second period.
* And linebackers Steven Pitts and Jonathan Bias, each of whom had 11 tackles; Russell Reeder added another eight stops.
But Nevada outgained its FCS visitor, 535 yards to 296, while controlling time of possession, 35:07-24:53.
While Gould says the fixes are right in front of his team, UCD showcased its early-season problems.
After two Laughrea incompletions — one drop, one near-pick — Wolf Pack safety Bryant Lane Jr. captured a pass that was tipped on its way to UCD fullback Dalton Turay.
With Nevada set up at the Aggie 24, it took quarterback Cody Fajardo only three plays and 50 seconds to score the first Wolf Pack touchdown.
Despite the 46-yard, third-down run by Luuga the first time he touched the ball, UCD couldn’t move from the Pack 30 and punted.
In what was to be an ongoing theme, Nevada and Fajardo made short work of the Aggies on the ensuing possession.
A couple of medium gains put the Wolf Pack at the door again. This time, Fajardo cashed in as wide receiver Richy Turner shook loose for a 40-yard touchdown reception.
The conversion failed, thanks to a fumbled hold.
UCD (0-2) mustered a first down via penalty, but was held again — the ensuing punt allowing Nevada (1-1) to establish itself on its own 25.
Mercifully, it was a chop block by Pack offensive tackle Joel Bitonio that helped stall Nevada’s third possession. However, a 51-yard Chase Tenpenny punt pinned the Aggies at their own 1.
The locals flashed a spark as Tavior Mowry went 30 yards on second-and-9 — but the Aggie fire didn’t ignite and Colby Wadman punted for the third time just before the end of the first quarter.
Working from the Nevada 27, Fajardo showed that freelance ground game he possesses, scrambling for a first down on a well-covered pass play, then avoiding a sack while gaining three yards later in the drive.
But UCD safety Charles Boyett ruined the party, breaking up Fajardo’s third-down pass deep downfield.
Tenpenny’s punt again put the Aggies inside their own 10. UCD moved the ball, but — after a 59-yard pass from Laughrea to Alex Cannon — stalled at the 11. Brady Stuart missed a 31-yard field goal, his third miss of the young season.
Nevada launched a 16-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Kendall Brock scoring his first collegiate touchdown from two yards out. The march swallowed almost six minutes.
With his team seemingly out of time, Shamawn Wright’s 59-yard kickoff return set up UCD at the 35 with 1:43 until intermission.
This time, the Aggies capitalized as Laughrea found Hemmingsen with a 23-yard scoring toss. When Stuart converted, UCD fans had hope for a contentious second half.
It wasn’t meant to be.
First, Brock — who finished the day with 116 yards rushing — tallied his second TD.
Twice, UCD had the ball around the Nevada 35 (once on an Anthony Kaspar fumble recovery), but neither time could the locals capitalize (once turning it over on downs, once punting).
Then, Brandon Wimberly went in on an eight-yard strike from Fajardo.
At 10:30 of the final period, Brent Zuzo kicked a 23-yard field goal.
Fajardo completed 18-of-21 passes for 239 yards and two scores. Turner had a career-best 136 yards on six catches.
Notes: Gabe Manzanares (shoulder), who rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown in UCD’s 10-7 season-opening loss at South Dakota, did not play. Luuga did not play in that first game. According to coach, it was a sore hamstring. “(Manu) came out of camp as the starter,” Gould continued. “But he got a little wide-eyed. We settled him down, didn’t play him and explained to him why. The focus he has, he’s played like a veteran. We’re proud of this young man, and how he really stepped up. It’s amazing to see great leadership coming from a freshman.” … Don Jackson, the former Laguna Creek running back, should be considered the Wolf Pack’s featured back. He was the leading rusher last year for Iowa Western CC. However, Jackson didn’t play Saturday because of a bad ankle. Just as well — the last time Jackson played against people from Davis (facing the DHS Blue Devils in a 42-28 Cardinals win on Oct. 15, 2010) he rushed for 444 yards and five TDs … Long-time Nevada coach Chris Ault was honored before the game as family, friends and well-wishers gathered for the unveiling of Chris Ault Field at Mackay Stadium.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-747-8047.