Column: Almost there

The end is near. The UC Davis football team will play its final game this Saturday, and it will mark the last showing for the Aggies in the season that will conclude coach Bob Biggs’ career.

UC Davis stands at 3-7 overall with a 2-5 record in its new conference, the Big Sky. At first glance this record is rather underwhelming. But so is Yoda.

This has been the Aggies’ premier season in their new conference, and their performance should hardly be counted as a failure.

Let’s break down this record, and maybe we’ll find that the UC Davis football season has, in fact, been an encouraging one.

Most recently, UC Davis was taken down by Eastern Washington, a Big Sky opponent. The Aggies dropped a 31-28 decision to the sixth-ranked team in the Football Championship Subdivision that could have easily swung the other way.

UC Davis had an opportunity when freshman kicker Brady Stuart lined up for a 52-yard field goal attempt with less than a minute to play. The kick was blocked and the Aggies’ upset was thwarted.

This wasn’t just UC Davis having a lucky chance at the end of the game. They were actually up 25-14 at halftime after scoring 22 uncontested points in the second quarter. The Aggies had a 28-24 lead up until the eight-minute mark in the fourth quarter, and still had the opportunity to knock in that game-tying field goal.

Statistically, the Aggies outgained the Eagles 435 yards to 361 and junior Randy Wright had 289 passing yards to the Eastern Washington 242. UC Davis had the advantage in almost every offensive category, and controlled possession of the ball for 63 percent of the game time. It just came down to one blocked field goal.
The game against Portland State was a bit more one-sided, but UC Davis did go into halftime tied at 14-all.
Against Northern Arizona, which is now ranked No. 11 in the FCS, UC Davis held the top-20 Lumberjack offense to 21 points. The Lumberjacks had some of the best special teams and offense in the nation and had scored at least 40 points in three of their four games prior to playing to the Aggies. UC Davis stepped up and played a close game with them, but were unable to put points of their own on the board.
In the Aggies’ 48-41 loss to Montana State for Homecoming, UC Davis gave the No. 2 team in the nation quite a scare.
UC Davis flipped the game on Montana State by scoring 24 points to turn a 31-14 deficit into a 38-31 advantage. It wasn’t exactly the prettiest game, but the Aggies still almost pulled out a win. Barring that red-zone interception Wright threw that let the Bobcats set up a touchdown with under three minutes to play doomed the Aggies.
UC Davis dropped a 28-20 game to rival and now No. 19 Cal Poly in the Battle for the Golden Horseshoe. It’s tough to say what happened in this game. The Aggies went up 10-0 early but then allowed 28 points before scoring 10 of their own afterwards.
It’s kind of like the Jonathan Sanchez syndrome, for you Giants fans. It’s the case of one bad inning, a couple of messy plays that ruin a good outing.
Most of these losses have come down to the wire and are the result of one costly mistake. They’re so close to finishing and getting that upset, then they just get cold.
Just like Lightning McQueen about to win that Piston Cup. He literally could have stuck his tongue over the finish line, then turned around to help the King finish. No. 95 could have had both victory and those good Samaritan points in the bag, but for some reason he chose just one.
The Aggies are so close: They can have those victories and the impressive major upsets that make national headlines, but they just can’t cross that line.
Once they shore up these small mistakes and get rid of the small errors that snowball out of control, UC Davis will get much better results. Get that Rust-eze on them and they’ll be slick and ready to play. It’d be a stretch to say they would have won each of these games, but maybe a few of them could have gone our way.

All in all, the losses to South Dakota State, Cal Poly, Montana State, Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington were defeats at the hands of some of the top teams in the FCS. UC Davis has stepped up its game and is holding its own against the best FCS teams in a tough conference.

All five of those teams are in the top-20 teams in the FCS. Outside of the losses to these teams, the Aggies are 3-2. Not great, but not bad for a team’s first year in the Big Sky Conference.

MATTHEW YUEN has been listening to Christmas music for a week now. Spread Christmas cheer to sports@theaggie.org.

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