Defending NCAA Champs Edge Aggies 9-6 In Overtime Thriller

Kevin Freeman had a career-high nine catches for 122 yards on Saturday.
 
Kevin Freeman had a career-high nine catches for 122 yards on Saturday.
 

Sept. 6, 2003

Final Stats

DAVIS, Calif. - David Hendrix kicked a 28-yard field goal in the first overtime on Saturday - his third of the game - as defending NCAA Division II champion Grand Valley State (Mich.) beat UC Davis 9-6 in the season opener football game for both teams, played before 6,447 fans at Toomey Field.

The Lakers won their 27th straight regular-season game and have won 34 of their last 35 overall. The Aggies lost to Grand Valley State in their opener for the second consecutive season after dropping a heartbreaking 24-17 matchup in Allendale a year ago.

UC Davis forced the extra period by driving 65 yards in 16 plays near the end of regulation, getting a 33-yard field goal from Dusty Apocotos with 3 minutes, 14 seconds remaining. Apocotos, who nailed a career-best 49-yard midway through the first quarter, had a chance to equal that in overtime, but his attempt missed left.

The Lakers took over at the Aggies' 25 - each overtime possession begins at the opponents' 25 - and after a 10-yard run by quarterback Cullen Finnerty moved into field goal range at the 12 after a pair of rushes by Ryan Hukill. Hendrix's kick split the uprights, delivering the Lakers the exciting win.

Receiver Kevin Freeman had a career-high nine catches for a career-best 122 yards, his second 100-yard receiving game as an Aggie. Quarterback Ryan Flanigan completed 20 of 38 passes for 186 yards while tossing one interception, but was chased by the Lakers' defense throughout game and was sacked five times.

The Lakers held the Aggies to only 214 total yards, including just 28 rushing yards, while the Aggies allowed 357 yards in total offense to the high-powered Grand Valley State offense, but held them without a touchdown.

"Both defenses really controlled the game," said UC Davis coach Bob Biggs. "Our defense made two goal-line stands and played outstanding throughout the game. They kept making big plays and kept us in the game. Offensively, we couldn't take advantage of those opportunities when they were there."

 

 

The defenses for both teams shined throughout the game as neither team was able to cross the goal line. For Grand Valley, it was held without a touchdown for the first time since losing 34-3 to Indiana (Pa.) in 1993, while UC Davis was held out of the endzone for just the first time since losing 14-2 at North Dakota in the 2001 NCAA Semifinals. The Aggies also had a streak of 74 consecutive games of scoring at least 10 points, dating back to a 17-7 loss to South Dakota State in 1997.

UC Davis stopped the Lakers from scoring close touchdowns twice. Grand Valley drove to a first down at the Aggies' 2 midway through the second quarter but couldn't score on three rushes before Finnerty fumbled into the endzone on fourth down, a fumble forced by linebacker Kelly Valaau and recovered by linebacker Clayton

O'Kane. In the fourth quarter, the Lakers drove from their own 16 to the Aggies' 6 but Hukill was stopped on third down from the 1, and Tom Parisi blocked a short field goal attempt by Hendrix with 6:01 left in regulation.

"Our defense time and time again came up with big plays," said Biggs. "It was a tremendous effort."

Flanigan found Freeman for a 19-yard gain on third and 15 for a key first down to the Aggies' 34 on the ensuing drive, hit him for a 17-yarder on fourth and 10 to UC Davis' 47, and then later completed a key 18-yard pass on third down to tight end Daniel Fells to the Grand Valley 17, setting up Apocotos' game-tying field goal.

In overtime, UC Davis was called for a holding penalty at the Lakers' 22 - the Aggies' 12th penalty of the game - before Flanigan and Freeman missed connecting on the next two downs, the first one nearly caught by Freeman in the endzone.

UC Davis led 3-0 before Hendrix capped a short drive by Grand Valley State with a 26-yard field with 9:56 left in the first half. His 25-yard field goal with just under a minute remaining in the third put the Lakers up 6-3, setting upping the final excitement.

The Lakers' Michael Tennessee rushed 11 times for 59 yards, while Finnerty had 55 yards on the ground. Finnerty also passed for 152 yards on 15 completions, while Jeremy Catlin had six catches for 42 yards. Sophomore O.J. Swanigan rushed for a game-high 66 yards on 23 carries while also catching three passes.

Apocotos' 49-yard field in the first quarter ties him with four other Aggies' for the seventh-longest in school history and is the longest since Ryan Christie's field goal of the same distance against Portland State in 1996.

"It's a long season ahead and this is just one game," said Biggs. "Now we have to prepare for North Dakota State. We have to learn from our mistakes, move on, and get better."

UC Davis, in its first season of reclassification from Division II to Division I-AA status, will travel to face North Dakota State next Saturday in Fargo for a 5 p.m. (PDT) kickoff. The Bison stunned No.3 Division I-AA ranked Montana 25-24 in Missoula on Saturday.