UC Davis pushes No. 24 Oregon in opening game

Sept. 3, 2016

EUGENE, Ore. -
UC Davis held strong against No. 24/22 Oregon during the first quarter of their season-opening matchup at Autzen Stadium on Saturday afternoon and then played tough the rest of the way before the Ducks posted a 53-28 win before 53,817 fans.

Senior Ben Scott threw for 303 yards and ran for a 9-yard touchdown that gave the Aggies an early 7-0 lead. Senior Manusamoa Luuga put a workman-like effort together, rushing for 96 yards and three touchdowns and catching four passes for 51 more.

Sophomore Keelan Doss, returning to the Aggies' lineup after redshirting last year because of injury, caught seven passes for 116 yards, including a long 50-yarder from Scott on UC Davis' first play of the second half that preceded a 20-yard TD run by Luuga.

"I'm extremely proud of our team fighting for four quarters," said head coach Ron Gould. "One of the things we talk about a lot is redefining our best. I asked the guys to come out and play four quarters and they did an unbelievable job of coming out of playing four quarters. They never laid down."

UC Davis rolled up 392 yards in total offense, had three second-half scoring drives of at least 65 yards and held the ball for more than 37 minutes. The Aggies' special teams picked up a pair of turnovers, including a fumble that led to their first touchdown.

"We did not finish our goal which was to win the game," Gould said. "But there's a lot to build off of. There's a lot for us to take into the next game and I'm looking forward to seeing how we can build this program."

Dakota Prukop, who transferred to Oregon from Montana State, threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns while Royce Freeman's 87 rushing yards and two scores led the Ducks' 251-yard ground attack. Darren Carrington had 117 receiving yards and a touchdown on seven catches.

UC Davis sacked Prukop three times.

The Aggies started their season against a Pac-12 opponent for the second time in the past three seasons and played the first of two NCAA FBS opponents this season. UC Davis travels to Wyoming in two weeks for its other one.

UC Davis was not intimidated against one of the more storied programs of the past 30 years. After being stopped on its opening drive, the Aggies got the game's first break when Charles Nelson fumbled Wadman's 37-yard punt and Darryl Graham fell on it at the 33-yard line.

Facing a 3rd-and-8, UC Davis got down to the 4 when Scott hit freshman Jared Harrell for a 27-yard pass play. A penalty pushed the Aggies back to the 9 but Scott rolled right on the next play before scampering up the middle for his second career TD run.

UC Davis played good defense on the next two Oregon drives, holding them to a combined 22 yards. The Aggies had a 9-play, 21-yard drive but couldn't cross back into Duck territory.

Oregon finally managed to push through late in the first quarter using the arm and legs of Prukop. He had a 23-yard pass to Pharoah Brown, ran for 21 yards and Royce went six yards for the score. Nelson ran in the conversion and the Ducks took an 8-7 lead into the second quarter.

An interception in UC Davis territory in the second quarter led to Oregon's second touchdown as the Ducks scored 17 points to take a 25-7 halftime lead.

The Ducks' quick strike to start the third quarter, keyed by Freeman's 49-yard run to the 1-yard line, preceded Prukop's TD rush and made it 33-7.

But UC Davis didn't roll over. Scott found Doss for their 50-yard connection and Luuga took it from there, running for five yards and then pounding for the final 20 on the next play for the first of his three scores.

Luuga capped two long drives with a pair of 1-yard touchdowns. The first came at the end of an 11-play, 65-yard drive in the third quarter while the second put an exclamation point on an 8-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth.

Freeman scored from five yards, Darren Carrington caught a 55-yard TD pass from Prukop and Tony Brooks-James ran in from 33 yards for the Ducks' remaining scores after halftime.

Safety Ryan Parenteau had eight tackles for the Aggies' defense while Zach Jones, Darryl Graham and Russell Reeder each had seven. Parenteau and Jones each forced fumbles while Graham had a fumble recovery.

Reeder, Keleen Culberson and Brandon Jamison each had sacks. Scott was only sacked twice, including just once after the opening play of the game.

Scott completed 27 of 47 passes, picking up his third career 300-yard game. It was also the third straight 300-yard passing game for the Aggies dating back to last season. C.J. Spencer had the other two.

UC Davis did not have any fumbles while Oregon had three, two which they lost.

The Aggies will return home to host Southern Oregon next Saturday at Aggie Stadium. Kickoff is 6 p.m.