SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Led by freshman sociology major Tehran Thomas, junior Namane Modise and senior Justin Williams, who finished with 125, 89 and 86 rushing yards respectively, the Aggies recorded a season-high 334 rushing yards, the highest team total in the program's Big Sky era, in Saturday's Causeway Classic at Hornet Stadium.
In the 64th meeting between local rivals, the Aggies scored 26 straight points throughout the second half and turned a 38-14 halftime score into a five-point deficit, with possession of the ball and just a few minutes remaining. But UC Davis' last drive fell short of the end zone, and Sacramento State barely survived the Aggies' second-half scoring surge to post a 52-47 victory.
Both Thomas and Modise set single-game career highs with their individual rushing yards total, with Williams recording a career high of his own by scoring three touchdowns. By doing so, he became the second Aggies within the last three seasons to record three TDs on the ground in a game.
In addition to scoring a touchdown on the first rushing attempt of his career, junior organizational studies major Keelan Doss set the first of three new single-season all-time records by finishing with 1,499 receiving yards after collecting 173, on 13 receptions, against this Hornets.
This follows another all-time mark that he originally set in last weekend's home finale, which now stands at 115 receptions in a single season. Doss ended his junior season by posting 100 or more receiving yards for the ninth time this year, which is another new edit to the program's all-time records book.
Senior hydrology major Ryan Bua, one of 14 Aggies who competed in the final game of their careers, led all players with 11 tackles, capping an outstanding season that included a team-high 93 tackles and three recovered fumbles -- one of the top figures in the nation.
Sophomore natural sciences major Nas Anesi ended his sophomore season with eight tackles, including one stop for a loss. Senior mechanical engineering major Brandon Weaver and redshirt freshman (undeclared) Connor Airey each recorded a sack, the first of his career for the latter.
Sophomore economics major Jake Maier completed 31 of 53 passes for 325 yards -- the ninth time he crossed the 300-yard threshold in his first season as an Aggie -- and threw two touchdowns. Of the 17 300-yard games posted by UC Davis' quarterbacks throughout its Big Sky-era, Maier's name is now attached to more that half the games that comprises that total.
Following a two-yard pass from Maier to Ethan Hicks early in the third quarter -- the junior animal science major's second this season -- Sacramento State responded by scoring a TD of its own to push its lead to a 52-41 margin.
Those were the last points the Hornets scored for the remaining 24:01 of game time because UC Davis' defense shut down Sacramento State for the rest of the evening, and forced punts on its final five possessions.
"We just focused on scoring one touchdown at a time. Once we accomplished our first goal, we focused our efforts on scoring the next touchdown only," said Maier. "If we spent too much time looking at the scoreboard, we would have tried too hard to score a 30-point touchdown. That's why we focused our efforts on offense and defense one possession at a time."
The Aggies' comeback began when Williams scored the last of his three TDs on a 19-yard run, which capped a 13-play drive that covered 75 yards in just under four minutes.
UC Davis ended the third quarter with another six points when Doss sprinted 42 yards bring the Aggies within the Hornets at 52-34, with a full quarter of action still remaining.
With the Aggies now battling the clock, in addition to the Hornets, they wasted no time marching down the field on each of their following two possessions. After its following drives ended with a 5-yard TD run from Thomas and 2-yard pass from Maier to Wesley Preece (sophomore, undeclared), UC Davis turned a double-digit halftime deficit into a one-possession game.
It was the Aggie defense that provided their teammates a game-winning opportunity after coming up with a clutch stop on third-and-2. With the Hornets seeking a first down to cement the result, UC Davis forced Hornet quarterback Kevin Thomson to throw a pass out-of-bounds to avoid a sack on the play.
But it was an incomplete pass on the Aggies' ensuing possession, on a fourth-and-6, that brought a heartbreaking end to their comeback as the Hornets took a knee on the next three plays to improve their record to 7-4 overall and 6-2 against Big Sky teams.
"We did not have a lot of consistent drives early on because we were trying to find our rhythm," said head coach Dan Hawkins. "I always tell the guys that a few plays will determine a game, and that was the case tonight."
UC Davis ends its season with records of 5-6 and 3-5. The team's five overall wins are the most in the program's Big Sky era, and match the number of victories against Division I teams in the previous three seasons combined.
"There were times where we could have been fazed by what took place, but the guys continued to work hard and compete, which will make this a good learning experience that we can build on," Hawkins said. "This is a tough way to end [the season], and something we will take into the off-season because it provides a reminder about how the importance of the little things.
"I told the seniors it would have been great to finish 6-5 and `be a winner,' but these guys are winners, and if you spend enough time around these guys, you will know that they are spectacular. A record does not define who they are. This team built a great foundation; even though I will miss the seniors and their leadership, I am excited about our future."
ABOUT UC DAVIS
Providing a small-town community feel while providing a world-class academic experience, UC Davis is home to more than 37,000 students and centrally located between San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and the Napa Valley.
The No. 6-ranked public university in the nation, according to the Wall Street Journal, offers nearly 100 graduate programs and more than 100 academic majors across four colleges and six professional schools, ranking among the world and nation's best in numerous disciplines, including veterinary science, agriculture, and plant and animal programs.
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