Oct. 24, 2004
CEDAR CITY, Utah - UC Davis' bid for a come-from-behind win ended deep in Southern Utah territory on Saturday evening, while theThunderbirds used a late touchdown pass to help upend the No.25 Aggies 19-15 in a Great West Football Conference game played before 2,234 chilly fans at Eccles Coliseum.
UC Davis, which has a two-game losing streak in the same season for the first time since early in the 1997 season, is 5-2 overall and 2-1 in conference action. Southern Utah, playing at home for just the second time this season, improved to 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the Great West Football Conference.
Southern Utah scored the eventual winning points on a five-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Casey Rehrer to running back Ilaisa Tuiaki with 5 minutes, 37 seconds left in the fourth quarter; a go-ahead drive set up when linebacker Mike Overly forced a fumble against Aggie quarterback Jon Grant which was returned 29 yards to UC Davis' 16-yard line by Marques Harris with 7:11 to go.
Southern Utah faced a third-and-goal from the Aggies' 5 when Rehrer scrambled to his right and threw a short pass to Tuiaki who was able to fall into the end zone near the sideline and put the Thunderbirds back in the lead.
UC Davis put together one final drive in an effort to win, securing a trio of first downs on key third-down situations, and driving to the Thunderbirds' 13-yard line with 1:49 to go where the Aggies eventually faced a fourth-and-four situation. Grant rolled to his right and hit Aaron Hines crossing to his left but the play ended up a yard short of the first down.
"We just tried to give ourselves a lot of options on that play," said UC Davis coach Bob Biggs. "We had three really good options and we came to the third one and caught (Hines) open and just didn't make the play.
"Did we play well enough to win?" said Biggs. "Certainly
there at the end we gave ourselves a chance to win... It was a
great last drive. The kids showed a lot of character, came up
with some key catches and made some great plays. We just couldn't
put the ball in the end zone when we needed to."
Grant completed six passes on the final series, finding receiver Kevin Freeman for 15 yards and later six yards, while also hitting receiver Jesse Oliva for 28 yards, helping keep the drive alive after facing third-down situations.
UC Davis led the game early, scoring on a one-yard touchdown run by Grant late in the first quarter. However, the extra-point attempt was blocked - the first of two by Southern Utah's special teams in the game - and the Aggies settled for a 6-0 lead going into the second quarter.
The Thunderbirds had a good opportunity to score early in the game but a fumble by Rehrer at the four-yard line ended the first threat. Southern Utah also had a pass on a fake field goal attempt intercepted by Ryan Ramey at the Aggies' 10, spoiling another early scoring opportunity.
A pair of field goals by Steve Pulver - the first from 41 yards and the second from 24 - tied the game in the second quarter for Southern Utah. But the Thunderbirds took the lead into halftime after putting together a late drive of 82 yards on six plays that resulted in Rehrer hitting Ben Anderson on a 24-yard touchdown pass with just three seconds left in the quarter.
Emmanuel Benjamin hit a 22-yard field goal midway through the third quarter, capping a 15-play drive for UC Davis and bringing the Aggies to within13-9. Trailing entering the fourth quarter for the first time this year, UC Davis took the ball to Southern Utah's 12-yard line where Grant hit Freeman for a touchdown pass that put the Aggies in the lead 15-13, finishing a 14-play, 90-yard drive.
The Aggies got the ball back and crossed midfield with just over seven minutes remaining before Grant was sacked at UC Davis' 45 and the ball was scooped up by Harris who returned it deep. Grant was sacked seven times in the game.
The loss was disappointing to Biggs who felt the Aggies had a chance to remain undefeated in league play.
"I felt last week (a 22-19 loss to Stephen F. Austin) we were the better team on the field," he said. "Today, I don't know if I could say we were the better team, but we certainly gave ourselves opportunities to win. We just didn't finish it."
Grant completed 25 of 36 passes for a touchdown and 234 yards, hitting Freeman seven times for 67 yards. Tony Kays had six grabs for 46 yards while tight end Daniel Fells had five for 58. Nelson Doris led the Aggies' rushing attack with 44 yards.
Rehrer rushed for a game-high 53 yards to pace the Thunderbirds while also passing for 240 yards and a pair of scores on 22 completions. Justin Walterscheid and Jerome Eason each had 67 yards in receptions.
Linebacker Nick DiPadova had 11 total tackles for Southern Utah, safety Steve Smith had 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks and Overly had a pair of sacks. Linebacker Dan Elbanna had eight tackles for UC Davis while safety Nate Ramezane had six tackles and broke up a pair of passes. Tackle Ryan Sharp had the Aggies' lone sack.
UC Davis returns to action next Saturday, traveling to San Luis Obispo to take on fifth-ranked Cal Poly. The Mustangs improved to 7-0 with a 13-10 victory at North Dakota State on Saturday.
Doss sets new single-season record in home finale
at Sacramento State (2 p.m.)