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OGDEN, Utah - In the first year of the Dan Hawkins era, UC Davis collected 10 All-Big Sky and specialty awards when conference officials announced their selections on Tuesday. Junior organizational studies major Keelan Doss earned first team accolades and became the first Aggie named Offensive Player of the Year.
In addition to his selection on the third team, sophomore economics major Jake Maier is the league’s Newcomer of the Year, and sophomore undeclared major Wesley Preece also nabbed a spot on the third team.
This is the first time that Maier and Preece received all-league recognition; the conference’s announcement marked Doss’ inaugural selection to the first team, which follows second team honors bestowed by the Big Sky last season.
Five Aggies also earned honorable mention: senior cognitive science major Julian Bertero, senior hydrology major Ryan Bua, senior managerial economics major Kyle Sulka, senior mechanical engineering major Brandon Weaver and junior psychology major Vincent White.
Of this group, Bua, Weaver and White received all-conference nods for the first time in their respective careers. This is the second straight season that Bertero and Sulka’s names highlight the honorable mention list.
By finishing the regular season as the best wide receiver in the nation — no player at the FBS or FCS levels holds higher total receiving yards (1,499), receiving yards per game (136.3) or receptions per game (10.5) averages — it comes as no surprise that Doss was named Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year one day after he became the first Aggie national finalist for the Walter Payton Award, which is presented to the top FCS’ top offensive player.
Doss’ historic season also includes three new all-time single-season program records: total receiving yards, receptions and 100-yard games (9). The Alameda native also set two new Big Sky era single-game records when he finished with 15 receptions and 208 receiving yards when the Aggies hosted Eastern Washington.
Also enjoying the most successful season of any Aggie signal caller is Maier, who just finished his first year at UC Davis by setting new all-time single-season records of his own in pass completions (306) and 300-yard passing games (9). The La Habra native also set 10 new Big Sky-era records in addition to finishing the regular season as one of the league’s top quarterbacks.
Ranked second among all Big Sky quarterbacks in total offense (331.6 ypg), passing average per game (333.5 yes) and pass efficiency (152.5), Maier was a key reason why the Aggies led all league teams in total offense and pass offense.
As impressive as these numbers are, it was his consistent play that quickly garnered attention from other Big Sky teams. When the Aggies hosted North Dakota, he set a new single-game record by completing 86.8 percent of his passes. Against Cal Poly, he threw for 459 yards, another single-game Big Sky-era high and the third-highest all-time, to help the Aggies bring the Golden Horseshoe back to Davis in front of the fourth-largest crowd in Aggie Stadium’s history. In his team’s home finale, Maier broke his own single-game program record of 32 completions by finishing with 35 vs. Southern Utah.
Another Aggie who enjoyed a breakout season was Preece, who quickly made a name for himself when he caught three touchdown passes in the Aggies’ Big Sky home opener vs. North Dakota. In that game alone, Preece, who hails from Rocklin, topped his freshman season statistics across the board.
Beginning with that game against the Fighting Hawks, Preece caught a touchdown pass in five of his team’s last six games, including two against Cal Poly to help UC Davis record an impressive victory over their rivals.
Preece isn’t just one of the league’s top tight ends, but offensive players as well since his nine touchdowns placed him fifth among all Big Sky players in scoring.
As was the case in his previous three seasons representing the No. 6 public school in the nation, Bertero was a consistent presence on the Aggies’ offensive line by starting all 11 games for the third season in a row. Another mainstay up front was Sulka, another consistent name in the team’s starting lineup this season.
Both Bertero and Sulka positively influenced games for UC Davis on a weekly basis, but none more so than in last weekend’s Causeway Classic when they, and their teammates, helped the Aggies set another new record by finishing with 334 rushing yards.
Bua ended his senior season tied for seventh with an 8.5 tackles per game average, and one of the top fumbles recovered totals among all FCS players (3). By finishing with 93 tackles, a new Big Sky era record, he not only led all Aggies in this category (by nearly 30 tackles), but surpassed his total from his three previous seasons combined.
Even though Bua provided defensive highlights for the Aggies in nearly every game this season, it was his 16-tackle performance in this year’s Battle for the Golden Horseshoe that was particularly noteworthy since that set a new Div. I-era program record.
Another student-athlete who gave opponents fits all season long was Weaver, who also enjoyed an outstanding season as a senior. In addition to snatching his first career interception when EWU visited Davis, a team-high 9.5 of his 38 tackles were for a loss.
Weaver also led the team with six sacks, the sixth-highest total in the conference, and one that nearly matched the 6.5 sacks collected throughout his first three seasons with the program.
Even though White recorded his first pass breakup of the season in his team’s home opener vs. San Diego, it was his career-high four PBU performance at Portland State that forced opposing teams to dramatically change their offensive game plans.
Combined with his career-high two interceptions, second only to senior managerial economics major Keleen Culberson’s three, White’s 14 passes defended is another new Big Sky program record and the second-highest individual total among all conference players this year.
During Coach Hawkins’ first year at UC Davis, his team set 46 new Big Sky era records, faced more ranked teams (or teams receiving votes) since joining the league, won five games against Division I competition, equal to the combined total from the previous three seasons, and won five Big Sky Player of the Week awards, matching the total from the last four years.
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