Sept. 13, 2003
FARGO, N.D. - Sophomore O.J. Swanigan rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown, while Dusty Apocotos converted a trio of field goals, as UC Davis beat North Dakota State 23-14 in a collegiate football game played before 14,548 fans on Saturday at the Fargodome.
The win evens the Aggies' record at 1-1 while the Bison - who last week stunned NCAA Division I-AA power Montana with a come-from-behind 25-24 road win - fell to 2-1. The Bison entered the game ranked No.20 in Division II.
UC Davis led the entire game, but was only up 17-14 entering the fourth quarter. However, Apocotos - who had two field goals in last week's overtime loss to top-ranked Grand Valley State - converted a 41-yard field goal with 14 minutes, 5 seconds remaining in the game. The teams later traded turnovers before the Aggies took over at their own 43-yard line with just over 10 minutes to go. A 15-play, 55-yard drive that chewed almost seven minutes off the clock resulted in a 19-yard field goal by Apocotos and gave UC Davis a 23-14 lead. The Aggies ran the ball 10 times on the clinching drive.
"We knew we had to score," said Aggie quarterback Ryan Flanigan. "The offensive line did a great job."
The defense held the rest of the way and UC Davis secured its first win of the season.
UC Davis took the early lead with a 6-play, 90-yard drive in the first quarter that featured a 17-yard run by Swanigan, a 25-yard pass from Flanigan to tight end Nolan deGraaff, a 15-yard strike to Kevin Freeman and a 27-yard pass to tight end Daniel Fells that took the ball to the 4, setting up Swanigan's touchdown run.
For the second straight week, linebacker Tom Parisi provided a big play on special teams, blocking his second kick of the year; this one a second-quarter punt by John Bonicelli inside Bison territory that was recovered at the 20. That led to a 39-yard field goal by Apocotos with 10:04 left in the first half that gave the Aggies a 10-0 lead.
The early lead helped UC Davis quiet the large crowd, Flanigan said.
"It was a great feeling, especially after that (touchdown) drive," he said. "We kind of took the wind out of their sails."
The Bison battled back though, cutting the lead to 17-7 after receiver Marques Johnson took an end-around handoff and scored on a 7-yard touchdown run that capped a 9-play, 68-yard drive with 3:17 to go in the first half. UC Davis responded, however, as Flanigan hit Fells for a 24-yard touchdown pass that put the Aggies up 17-7 going into intermission. A 10-play, 85-yard drive midway through the third quarter led to a 1-yard plunge by North Dakota State's Rod Malone that brought the Bison to within 17-14 and led to the Aggies' fourth-quarter field goals.
Swanigan, who had a 178 rushing yards in UC Davis' regular-season finale at Western Washington last year, hit the century mark for the second time in his young career. He had a long run of 29 yards, helping the Aggies to 152 yards on the ground.
"I thought our offensive line did a good job and I thought O.J. did a great job, too," said Aggie Coach Bob Biggs.
Flanigan completed 18 of 32 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown, only getting picked off by Isaac Snell in the fourth quarter. Fells finished with three catches for 73 yards, Freeman had four receptions for 50 yards and deGraaff had a trio of catches for 34. UC Davis finished with 356 yards in total offense.
Quarterback Tony Stauss completed 20 of 31 passes for 187 yards to lead the Bison, while receiver Allen Burrell had six receptions for 66 yards. Kyle Steffes was the leading ground-gainer for North Dakota State, finishing with 62 yards on 13 carries.
Defensively, the Aggies held the Bison to just 262 yards in total offense, including just 75 rushing yards on 30 attempts. UC Davis had three sacks, including 1.5 by defensive end Pila Fatukala. Strong safety A.J. Avila had six total tackles, while defensive tackle John Downs, linebacker Kelly Valaau, cornerback Derick Daniels, Parisi and Fatukala each had five.
"It was just good, tough defense," said Biggs.
UC Davis, which was playing its third-ever indoor game and its first since a 14-2 loss at North Dakota in the 2001 NCAA Semifinals, won for the first time inside. The Aggies will attempt to win for the second time on the road this season when it visits Division I-AA Texas State for a 4 p.m. (PDT) matchup next Saturday.