The UC Davis football team gave nationally ranked Montana State quite a scare on Saturday night, but came up just short of an upset in the final minutes.
Urged on by a Homecoming crowd of 9,877 fans, the Aggies scored 24 unanswered points in the third quarter to overcome a 31-14 halftime deficit and held the lead twice down the stretch. But they were unable to pull off a final scoring drive and fell 48-41 to the Bobcats — ranked No. 2 in the FCS — at Aggie Stadium.
With 12:26 left to play in the game, UCD took a 41-38 lead on a 28-yard field goal by Brady Stuart before MSU answered with a 7-yard touchdown run by Tray Robinson and a field goal of its own with 2:23 to go.
Down by seven, UCD quarterback Randy Wright completed four straight passes — including a 30-yard bomb to Tim Benton — and added a 4-yard rush to lead his team down to the Bobcat 15-yard line. But after an incompletion, a holding call and a sack moved the Aggies back to the 30-yard line, Wright was forced to heave a fourth-down prayer. The ball, intended for Corey Galindo, was batted away by MSU safety Joel Fuller.
While visibly disappointed with the loss, UCD head coach Bob Biggs praised his team’s determination and relentlessness.
“The thing I’m most proud of is that, regardless of what the score was, (the players) just fought. They just kept fighting, kept playing,” Biggs said. “Just one of those games. We came up a little bit short, but I’m very proud of the way we played, the way we fought.”
The Aggies (2-4 overall, 1-2 Big Sky Conference) took a 14-7 lead in the first quarter off a 5-yard scoring run by Wright, who finished 23 of 37 for 242 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, and a 13-yard touchdown rush by Alex Cannon.
But the Bobcats (6-0, 3-0 Big Sky) responded with a 24-0 second quarter. Rory Perez connected on a field goal, quarterback DeNarius McGhee scored on a 1-yard keeper, and Tanner Blesken nabbed a 3-yard touchdown pass from McGhee. Then with 1:04 left in the first half, defensive back Darius Jones picked off Wright over the middle and returned the ball 45 yards down the sideline to give his team the 31-14 lead.
At that point, Aggies fans probably were thinking the same thing — another great start up in flames. UCD has led after the first quarter in five of six games this year and ended up losing two of those games — against San Jose State and Cal Poly — by a combined score of 73-33.
On top of that, UCD entered Saturday night’s game having been outscored 35-0 in the third quarter by opposing teams.
Fortunately for the Aggie Pack, the team opted to break from tradition.
Less than four minutes into the third quarter, Wright spotted Anthony Soto running free on a deep corner route and hit him in stride for a 26-yard touchdown play.
On the ensuing MSU possession, UCD defensive end Nick King forced a fumble and tackle Andrew Benjamin pounced on the ball to set up a 30-yard field goal by Stuart.
Less than a minute later, the defense did it again.
This time it was Jordan Glass picking off a wild pass by McGhee and fighting his way through a mob of players for a 7-yard touchdown that tied the score at 31-31.
The Aggies then got the ball back late in the third period on a fumble recovery by Steven Pitts. Soto drew a 15-yard pass interference penalty to set up Wright’s second touchdown pass, which went to Galindo. Galindo got a jump on the cornerback and broke free on a corner route. Wright tossed a floater, which Galindo corralled before sneaking his way inside the pylon for a 19-yard touchdown that put the Aggies up 38-31 heading into the fourth.
Unfortunately for the Aggies, things began to fall apart in the final period.
With the score tied at 38-38, Wright threw an interception in the backfield, giving the Bobcats a first and goal on the Aggie 1-yard line. Three plays later, Robinson put MSU up for good.
“Having played (quarterback for UCD), nobody feels worse about it than you do (when you turn the ball over),” Biggs said. “You feel like the brunt (of the blame) is on you, but reality is that’s football. And in this day and age, there are so many different schemes and different looks.
“Things happen. That’s what I think about it.”
Soto was Wright’s favorite receiver on Saturday, catching 7 passes for 80 yards and the score. He was joined by Benton, who snagged four balls for 52 yards, and Dalton Turay, who had three receptions for 23 yards.
On the ground, Silveria rushed 13 times for 44 yards, and Courtney Williams carried three times for 23. Williams, a Davis High graduate, also returned a kickoff 70 yards down the sideline to set up Stuart’s final field goal of the night and led the Aggies in all-purpose yards with 138.
Defensively, the Aggies forced four turnovers — three fumbles and one interception — and had nine tackles for a loss.
Glass led the way with 10 solo tackles, and Kyle DeVaughn added three tackles and a sack.
The Aggies now look ahead to next weekend’s game at Idaho State. UCD should get to experience being the powerhouse against the 1-4 Bengals.
Notes: UCD players wore pink cleats and ribbons to raise awareness for breast cancer. “We’ve had a couple of families that have been stricken by cancer in general. There are things greater and bigger than football,” Biggs said … Punter Colton Schmidt continued to impress, punting four times for 193 yards (a 48.2-yard average) … UCD turned the ball over three times.