Sept. 14, 2013
DAVIS, Calif. - Safety Lucky Dozier had a 78-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter and cornerback Marcus Alford followed with another 47-yard interception return for a score as No. 25/24 Northern Arizona rallied to beat UC Davis 21-10 in a nonconference football game at Aggie Stadium on Saturday night.
Quarterback Jimmy Laughrea threw for 154 yards and ran for a 23-yard touchdown while defensive end Nick King had three sacks for the Aggies who fell to 0-3 in the early season. Running back Zach Bauman rushed for 56 yards and became Northern Arizona's all-time leading rusher (3,038 yards). The Lumberjacks evened their record at 1-1.
The Aggie defense held Northern Arizona to just 191 total yards including only 66 on the ground. It was the first time UC Davis has held an opponent below 200 yards of offense since limiting Montana State to 194 yards in 2006.
Sophomore Brady Stuart kicked a 25-yard field goal midway through the third quarter, staking UC Davis to a 10-7 lead. The Aggies kept the advantage until Dozier intercepted Laughrea at the NAU 22 early in the fourth quarter and raced to midfield before cutting up the left sideline through traffic and into the endzone.
The Aggies started at their own 34 with 3 minutes to go, looking for the go-ahead score but Laughrea was picked off by Alford at the UC Davis 47 and Alford returned it up the right half of the field for a game-clinching score.
King had three sacks for the Aggies and now has four on the year.
The Aggie defense played well throughout the game, forcing 10 Northern Arizona punts including every drive after the first quarter except for drives that ended each half. UC Davis held Bauman - on the watch list for the 2013 Payton Award as the top offensive player in the NCAA Division I FCS - in check, limiting him to 56 yards on 18 carries. The Lumberjacks averaged just 2.1 yards on 32 carries.
"Our defense did a phenomenal job," said Aggie coach Ron Gould. "They rose to the occasion and did a fabulous job containing Zach (Bauman). This past week we focused on making that first tackle and running to the ball and that is exactly what they did tonight."
Lumberjack quarterback Kyren Poe threw for just 125 yards, completing 15 of 26 passes and a long of just 19 yards. He was sacked three times by King who got him in the first, third and fourth quarters.
NAU got on the scoreboard first, moving 30 yards on six plays before getting a short three-yard touchdown pass from Poe to wide receiver Dejzon Walker. The Aggies punted on their next three possessions before taking over on their own 20 with 9:35 left in the second quarter.
Laughrea then drove UC Davis 80 yards on six plays, hitting running back Gabe Manzanares for a 36-yard gain who then followed with a 13-yard rush. Laughrea then scrambled 23 yards through the Lumberjacks' defense, moving up the left side and picking up good downfield blocks to score the game-tying touchdown.
The Aggies went ahead in the third quarter, getting a highlight-quality 40-yard throw-and-catch from Laughrea to receiver Tom Hemmingsen that put UC Davis in business at the NAU 13-yard line. Stuart later finished the drive with his first field goal of the year.
Both team's defenses then took over, forcing punts on the game's next seven drives with only one drive going more than 10 yards. UC Davis, though, turned the tide by going 44 yards on eight plays to move to the Lumberjacks' 33-yard line in the fourth quarter. Dozier, however, ended the threat with his big return. The Aggies tried again two drives later but Laughrea was pressured and Alford picked him off for another score.
Aaryn Jones and King each had seven tackles to lead the UC Davis defense which had 11 TFL's for 27 yards. Linebacker Ryan Dimino had five tackles while safety Charles Boyett had a pass breakup and defensive end Marques Barron recorded a quarterback-hurry.
"We win as a team, we lose as a team," said King. "It's all about execution. We need to create more turnovers (on defense), that is the way I look at it. We need to create as many touches as well can. We did not create any turnovers tonight, plain and simple. We are a team. I do not look at this game as a victory by the defense."
NAU had two sacks in the game.
"We were beat on the edge a couple of times," Gould said of NAU's defensive pressure on the line. "Those were mental mistakes because of poor technique. We will help the guys correct them this week. Entering this game, we only gave up three sacks. For the most part, those guys did a good job. When you don't trust your technique for a couple of plays, and you have those speed rushers in, it will take a toll on you."
Despite the loss, Gould said UC Davis is making strides.
"We are going to keep working hard and improve as a team," he said. "We are really close. We made a couple of mistakes down the stretch but the guys are improving. They believe and we are going to get this thing turned around."
UC Davis plays the second of three straight home games when it hosts Portland State next Saturday in another nonconference game against a Big Sky Conference opponent. Kickoff is 6 p.m. at Aggie Stadium.