Coming into a rivalry game, everyone knows to expect the unexpected. However, it is hard to imagine anyone was prepared for the thrilling and emotional game that marked the last game of UC Davis head coach Bob Biggs’ 20-year career.
In a game that included back-to-back interceptions, trick plays and multiple two-point conversions, the UC Davis Aggies came out on top with a 34-27 win over rival Sacramento State Hornets.
The 59th annual Causeway Classic was anything but a typical regular-season game, as it marked the end of an era led by head coach Bob Biggs. It was also the end of UC Davis’ first season in their new conference, the Big Sky, where they went 3-5 and finished their overall season record at 4-7. Before the game started, Aggie Stadium showed a brief video dedication to coach Biggs that was followed by a standing ovation from the crowd.
“Since it was his last game, it was on the minds of the quarterbacks a lot. I just wanted to go out there and play really well for him and the seniors,” said junior quarterback Randy Wright.
The departing seniors were also recognized before the game, greeting their families and friends on the field. Many of those seniors made a huge impact on the game, especially on special teams.
Sac State got on the scoreboard first with a touchdown just under the halfway point of the first quarter. But the Aggies retaliated when senior linebackers Byron Gruendl blocked the PAT and Jordan Glass picked it up and returned it for a safety.
The Aggies scored 28 of their points on special teams while the offense struggled early in the game to score touchdowns. Junior cornerback Jonathan Perkins had a huge 81-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter, and redshirt freshman kicker Brady Stuart knocked in three field goals, including his career-long 45-yarder.
“The time and effort that we put into special teams seems almost fitting that the game came down to us winning that part of the game. I need to give a lot of credit to our special teams coach Jeff Copp,” Biggs said. “He does a great job game planning with the coaches assisting him and every week he’s prepared and has a new wrinkle.”
Another big play on special teams took place when senior punter Colton Schmidt, who came into this game leading the Big Sky in punting, booted a 63-yard punt that was fumbled by the Hornet returner and recovered by sophomore linebacker Steven Pitts for a touchdown.
“It’s not often that you have a special teams player like Colton. All year long he has put us in good field position and pinned the other teams in their own 20,” Biggs said.
Although the Aggies struggled at first on offense, the unit stepped up when it needed to, as Wright marched the team down 80 yards and threw an eight-yard touchdown to junior tight end Taylor Sloat to give the Aggies the 34-27 lead in the fourth quarter. Sloat had a great game, amassing 109 yards and seven receptions, including the game-winning touchdown.
“The group of tight end players knew that there were plays to be had in the pass game. Randy really stepped up and made great throws all night,” Sloat said.
The Aggies also had a strong run game, rushing for 146 yards as a team led by sophomore Colton Silveria and senior Marquis Nicolis.
The Hornets had one last chance to tie up the game at the end, but Glass stepped in front of a slant route to pick off the ball and seal the victory.
“Jordan has maybe been the most valuable player on the team this year, and we’ve been waiting for a big play at the end of the game to allow us to win a close game — and for Jordan to make that, here as a senior, it seems very fitting,” Biggs said.
The Aggie defense gave up 480 total yards on offense but still made enough plays to win the game. The UC defensive line did a great job balancing their pass rush while also stopping the Hornets’ run game and containing their athletic quarterback.
The Aggies racked up a total of five sacks while also picking off the Hornets three times. One of the interceptions for the Aggies came on the play immediately after Wright threw an interception himself. The Hornets tried to run a trick play, throwing a pass to their quarterback that was picked off by Perkins.
“This team will always be special to me just because [of] the way they keep fighting and the way they really care for each other. A great a day it is for me — I think what makes it a great day for me was that they were able to accomplish their goals they set before the game,” Biggs said.
JASON MIN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.