Nov. 23, 2013
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Gabe Manzanares rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns, and caught four passes for 95 more yards, while the defense held host Sacramento State to just one touchdown as UC Davis romped to a 34-7 win over the Hornets on Saturday in the 60th annual Causeway Classic.
The game was played before 12,571 fans. The margin of victory was the largest in the series since UC Davis' 37-7 win at Hornet Staidum in 2005.
The Aggies, who won the rivalry game for the fourth straight year, ended their first season under head coach Ron Gould with a two-game winning streak and a 5-7 overall record. UC Davis, which was picked to finish as low as 12th in the Big Sky Conference, ended in a fourth-place tie with a 5-3 record.
UC Davis led 14-0 in the first quarter, extended the lead to 21-0 and then went up 24-7 at halftime before pushing the lead in the final two quarters.
"My hat is off to these players," said Gould. "Just their preparation, fight (and) their resiliency. We started out 0-4 and these guys came back every single day and worked. We've got a special group of seniors that believed in me, believed in the staff and believed in each other."
UC Davis outgained Sacramento State overall, 400-315, including a 188-75 advantage on the ground. Manzanares was the major portion of that rushing attack, picking up his fifth straight 100-yard game and his seventh this season. He finished the season with 1,285 yards, fifth-best on the Aggies' single-season list, while also carrying the ball 259 times which put him third.
He had 27 carries on Saturday while averaging 4.5 yards an attempt. Wright, who went 4-0 as starting quarterback in the Causeway Classic, ended his standout career strong. He completed 17 of 22 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown.
Wright finishes ranked second at UC Davis in career passing yards (8,799) and total offense (8,537) while holding school records for completions (755) and attempts (1,288). He is third all-time with 55 touchdown passes.
Linebacker Steven Pitts led a spirited defensive effort by the Aggies, picking up a career-best 13 tackles. UC Davis had four sacks in the game, including a pair by senior defensive end Nick King. Linebacker Artice Nelson had an interception. Sacramento State had just 75 rushing yards.
The last four Causeway Classic games were decided by four points or less but UC Davis jumped to a quick 14-0 and never looked back on Saturday.
The Hornets drove 48 yards on the game's opening possession before being held on fourth down at the Aggies' 27. UC Davis then went the other way, highlighting its 73-yard scoring drive with a 36-yard pass from Wright to Manzanares that put the ball on the 2. Manzanares' touchdown plunge on the next play helped make it 7-0.
The Hornets drove to the UC Davis 4-yard line on their next drive but Pitts raced through into the backfield, stopping Brandon Kellerman for a three-yard loss. Brad Cornish's 24-yard field goal was wide left and allowed the Aggies to march down the field again.
Manzanares had a 19-yard gain up the middle and the Aggies moved to the Hornets' 33-yard line before Manzanares busted through the middle again, this time racing in for a 33-yard touchdown.
UC Davis' staunch defense held Sacramento State to just three yards on six plays over two consecutive drives that then resulted with UC Davis driving 42 yards in five plays for its third score, a 14-yard TD from freshman Manusamoa Luuga that helped make it 21-0 early in the second quarter.
A 74-yard drive that was capped by Jordan Robinson's four-yard touchdown run made it a two-touchdown game while the first of two field goals by Brady Stuart - a 38-yarder which gave him a school-record 17 for the season - made it 24-7 at halftime.
Stuart added his second field goal, this time from 30 yards, on the opening drive of the second half while Wright's six-yard TD pass to senior Tom Hemmingsen on the right sideline in the endzone pushed the lead to 34-7 early in the fourth quarter.
"I was shocked we were up by so much at the end, we had the game in hand," said Wright. "Usually these things come down to the wire. I'm thrilled for my teammates and me.... We had a tough start to the season but just kept battling and finished the season strong."
Pitts had eight solo tackles among his game-high baker's dozen, including a seven-yard sack and 3.5 TFL's. Senior cornerback Jonathan Perkins and defensive end Colin Kelly each had nine tackles while King's two sacks totaled 11 yards in losses.
Gould gave a lot of credit for Saturday's win to the defensive side of the ball which was led by defensive coordinator Bert Watts.
"Those guys are magical," said Gould of the defensive coaches. "That staff over there, they're an unbelievable group. I'm so proud of the way they've been able to come together... It's a testament to the staff (for putting together the game plan) and to the players for executing it."
Sacramento State quarterback Garrett Safron threw for 221 yards while receiver Morris Norrise had six catches for 101 yards. Punter Justin Weldon averaged 51.2 yards on four punts, launching a school-record 78-yarder that eventually settled on the UC Davis 1-yard line. Linebacker Todd Davis had 12 tackles to lead the Hornets' defense.
The game brought to a close a 2013 season in which UC Davis lost its first four games but then went 5-3 the rest of the way - all of them in the Big Sky Conference - to finish much higher than preseason projections. It also brought to a close the careers of 16 outstanding seniors who went 4-0 in Causeway Classic.