Sept. 19, 2004
OGDEN, Utah -
Freshman Emmanuel Benjamin kicked a 22-yard field goal with just over five minutes remaining on Saturday night at Stewart Stadium as UC Davis rallied to edge Weber State 31-29 in a nonconference football game in which the Wildcats erased a 28-10 halftime deficit with 19 unanswered points.
The Aggies remain unbeaten on the young season, improving to 2-0 and giving 12th-year head coach Bob Biggs his 98th career win. Weber State, a member of the Big Sky Conference, fell to 0-3.
UC Davis took the 18-point halftime lead on three touchdowns that covered at least 65 yards each. Running back O.J. Swanigan took a short pass from quarterback Jon Grant and scampered 84 yards for a score with 9:38 left in the first quarter, senior Jesse Oliva had an 85-yard TD punt return with just over two minutes left in the period, and Grant connected with receiver Kevin Freeman on a 65-yard touchdown pass midway though the second quarter.
Swanigan finished with four catches for 115 yards, Freeman had a pair for 106 yards and Grant completed 12 of 22 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns. He was also picked off twice. Swanigan finished with 171 all-purpose yards after rushing for 65.
Weber State got back into the game on the arm of quarterback Jeff Fowler and the leg of kicker Joe Johnson. Fowler had a 20-yard touchdown pass to Drew Dukeshire late in the third quarter that cut the lead to 28-16 and Johnson hit field goals from 25 and 40 yards to limit the lead to 28-22. Fowler then hit a wide-open Mike Mathis with a 69-yard touchdown pass with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game that put the Wildcats in front, 29-28.
However, as Weber State faced a fourth down deep in its own territory, it was strong safety Dan Reece who helped key the rally by racing through the line untouched and forcing punter Wyatt Kennah to run. Kennah was tackled at Weber State's 14-yard line and the Aggies turned that big play into Benjamin's winning field goal.
"That's the thing I like about this football team, they don't worry about individual accolades, they just play as a team," said Biggs. "They never gave up, they got an opportunity with the special teams and capitalized with a freshman making a clutch field goal."
Weber State took an early lead in the game after Swanigan caught a short pass from Grant, but was hit hard by John McBride and fumbled. Defensive end Brady Fosmark grabbed the ball in midair and raced 30 yards for the game's first score just 1:46 into the game.
Swanigan's exciting long touchdown reception - tied for the seventh-longest in school history - evened the game later in the quarter. Swanigan raced along the UC Davis sidelines, breaking through defenders before hitting paydirt.
Oliva then electrified the field by tracking a 46-yard punt from Kennah back to the 15-yard line and racing across the field along the Aggies' sideline and scoring on the 85-yard return.
"I knew all I had to made miss was the snapper and I did that, and other than that, guys kept running around the field making plays for me," said Oliva of the punt return which is the second-longest ever by UC Davis. "I just had awesome blocks on that one."
Oliva then scored his second touchdown, capping a seven-play 82-yard drive early in the second quarter by grabbing an 11-yard scoring pass from Grant. Freeman added the final long play of the half when he took in a pass from Grant in front ot the Aggie defense with 7:11 left and broke through the defense to score the 65-yard touchdown.
UC Davis, however, turned the ball over four times in the second half with two fumbles and two interceptions. That helped the Wildcats get back into the game as they rallied throughout the second half to take a fourth-quarter lead.
"We just turned the ball over too many times in the second half," said Biggs. "Give them credit. How many third-and-long did they make? It seemed like they had third-and-eight yards-plus numerous times, particulary in that one drive. To their credit, they just kept making first downs and kept the drive going. Give them all the credit in the world."
Running back Nelson Doris had 69 yards on 10 carries to help carry the Aggies' rushing load.
UC Davis' defense played exceptionally well against running back Nick Chournos, who led the Big Sky in rushing last season. Chournos netted just 85 yards on 27 carries, part of a Wildcats' rushing attack that was held to just 98 yards.
Defensive backs Nevan Bergan, Luis Amaral and Reece each had interceptions in the game while defensive linemen Kent Sheridan and Ryan Sharp each had seven tackles. Sheridan added a sack.
Mathis had 134 receiving yards on five catches to help lead Weber State.
UC Davis returns to action next weekend, hos