Nov. 17, 2012
DAVIS, Calif. - UC Davis special teams scored 28 points and tight end Taylor Sloat capped a career-high day with an eight-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter as the Aggies beat rival Sacramento State 34-27 in the 59th annual Causeway Classic at Aggie Stadium, giving retiring head coach Bob Biggsa victory in his final game.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for UC Davis which finished its 2012 season with a 4-7 overall record and a 3-5 mark in its first year in the Big Sky Conference. The Hornets, who had narrow hopes for an NCAA Division I FCS playoff berth, concluded their season with a 6-5 overall mark and a 4-4 conference record.
""This team will be special to me," said Biggs. "All of them have been special, but this one has a lot of players who keep fighting, have been resilient and care about one another. I know that some teams overstate these things, but I feel that it is true in this case."
Quarterback Garrett Safron threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns, completing 37 of 67 passes, both of those totals marking school records. He was sacked five times and intercepted twice, the final one coming in the fourth quarter when linebacker Jordan Glassthwarted the Hornets' try to take a late lead.
Sloat, a junior from Fall River Mills, Calif., had seven receptions for a career-high 109 yards to help lead UC Davis on the offensive side of the ball. Running back Colton Silveria rushed for 87 yards, Marquis Nicolis added 66 and quarterback Randy Wrightthrew for 181 yards.
Glass led the Aggie defense with a dozen tackles, including five solo, picked up the crucial fourth-quarter touchdown and help highlight a strong day by the special teams when he returned a blocked PAT kick for two points in the first quarter. Brady Stuart kicked three field goals, including a season-best 45-yarder, linebacker Steven Pitts recovered a fumbled punt in the endzone for a touchdown, UC Davis converted a pair of two-point conversions and Jonathan Perkinsreturned a kickoff 81 yards.
"I think we need to give credit where credit is due. Our special teams coach (Jeff Copp) is a terrific coach," said Biggs. "We talk about it as a team all the time about how importatnt special teams is, especially in a game like this. You refelct on how big special teams were in this game, you have to give a lot of credit to Jeff. He did a great job of game-planning with the coaches that were assisting him. Every week, he is prepared and adds new wrinkles."
The Hornets got on the scoreboard first when De'Jon Coleman capped a 13-play, 60-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run with just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter but the celebration was short-lived when Glass scooped up Byron Gruendl's sblock on the PAT and raced down the right sideline 93 yards for two points. It was the first time the Aggies had score defensive points on an extra point since 2006.
Trailing 6-5 after Stuart's first field goal, this one from 31 yards, UC Davis took a 13-6 lead midway through the second quarter when Morris Norrise fumbled Colton Schmidt's63-yard punt at the Hornets' 19-yard line. The ball bounced into the endzone where Pitts jumped on it. Silveria then ran in the two-point conversion.
UC Davis and Sacramento State combined for 17 points in the final 80 seconds of the half beginning with Stuart's 45-yard field goal. The Hornets then raced 75 yards in six plays, closing to within 16-13 when Safron found DJ Maciel for a four-yard TD pass with 20 seconds left. The Aggies, however, would re-extend the lead to 10 points at 23-13 when Jonathan Perkinsreturned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards along the UC Davis sideline with just eight seconds to go.
Safron's eight-yard touchdown pass and Stuart's 20-yard field goal left UC Davis with a 26-20 lead going into the fourth quarter. Sacramento State, though, would take its first lead since the first quarter when Ezekiel Graham, who rushed for a game-high 108 yards, plunged in from two yards early in the period, giving the Hornets a 27-26 lead.
The teams traded interceptions on the next two drives; Wright getting picked off by Markell Williams near midfield, and then Norrise intercepted by Phillip Thrappas in the endzone on the next play when Norrise took a reverse and tried to find Safron for the score.
That gave UC Davis momentum as it charged 80 yards in five plays - Nicolis and Silveria rushing for 23 and 22 yards, respectively, on consecutive plays - before Wright hit Sloat for the eventual game-winning score. Wright then found Gruendl for the two-point conversion.
Sacramento State took over on its own 23 with 3:20 left and moved into Aggie territory. However, Glass came up big, picking off Safron at the 39 and returning it to the 28 with 1:25 on the clock. UC Davis was able to run out the clock the rest of the way.
""I think the players would agree that Jordan maybe has been the most valuable player on the team this year," said Biggs. "We have been waiting to make a big play at the end to win a close game (and) for Jordan to make that, as a senior and a leader, was very fitting."
UC Davis won the Causeway Classic for the third straight year and increased its overall lead in the series to 41-18. Biggs, who earned his 144th career win - the second-most in school history - finished his 20-year run as head coach with a 16-4 mark in the Causeway Classic. He has enjoyed a 39-year association with the program as a player, assistant coach and head coach, and is 30-10 all-time against the Hornets.
"I do not really know when everything hit me," said Biggs on his career ending. "When we started to take a knee, the world seemed to go by so fast, but slow at the same time. I thought 'wow, this is coming to an end' and I wanted to take it all in. I can tell that it was emotional for the players as well. There are no words to say how much gratitude I have.
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at Sacramento State (2 p.m.)