While you hate to mail in a season before the final game is played, it’s clear that the Aggies have already fallen short of their preseason goal of defending a Great West Conference title and getting their shot at the playoffs.
Now, as coach Bob Biggs says, their backs are to the walls, and the Aggies will learn a little bit about themselves as they move into the last three games of the season.
The focus has changed: UC Davis now looks to finish the season, not with the conference crown, but simply with a 6-5 winning record, a step in the right direction.
Based on some aspects of the most recent 55-24 loss to Southern Utah Saturday night, this goal is by no means out of reach, though the Aggies may need to consider tweaking a few things here and there to make this goal a reality. The following is my to-do list for the Ags leading up to their final games of the season:
In the quarterback spot, if Randy Wright could trust his offensive line more and stay in the pocket when he’s got the ball, the offense would instantly be more successful. Yes, he was sacked four times in the game against Southern Utah. But the problem was not the quantity of the sacks — it was the timing of those plays. It would also be valuable for Wright to practice throwing the ball away under pressure more often, rather than taking a sack at an inopportune moment of the game.
In the offensive line, an area that was initially considered to be a strength for the Aggies, there has been far too much pressure allowed on Randy Wright. With a rookie quarterback, this doesn’t allow him enough time to hang in the pocket and make quality decisions with the ball. By simply pass protecting better and giving Wright a little more breathing room, suddenly the offense should start to find a rhythm.
In the defensive line, some more pressure could be applied to the opposing quarterback. Thunderbirds quarterback Brad Sorensen, for instance, completed 30-of-36 passes for 397 yards, assisting in all five touchdowns. Like Southern Utah, there are too many solid offenses on the remainder of the schedule for the Aggies to sit back and give the quarterbacks time to throw, not to mention open up the run game.
In the secondary, while Southern Utah marched up and down the field to the tune of nine scores on 11 possessions, UC Davis didn’t force a single turnover. If the Aggies were able to force a turnover or two, it would alleviate some of the pressure on the offense, while also making opposing offenses think twice before throwing.
In special teams, there could be a bit more consistency, especially when the pressure’s on. From the snap to Sean Kelley’s kick, everyone needs to be on the same page. You never know when a game will come down to the wire.
Among the linebackers, a defensive core led by Dozie Amajoyi is solid for the most part, but it bent a little too much in terms of stopping the Thunderbirds’ running game (128 total yards). With North Dakota, Cal Poly and Sac State averaging at least 158 yards per game on the ground, UC Davis will have to do something to shut down the run.
UC Davis is more than capable of finishing with a winning record. Not only has the running game shown improvement in just the past two weeks, the receivers have demonstrated a power to move the ball down the field on some big plays. (Wright threw two 44-yard passes on Saturday — one to Dean Rogers and the other for a Sean Creadick touchdown).
Sometimes skill comes simply with practice, experience and maturity. The Aggies’ issue isn’t talent — it’s a sharpening of the fundamentals that will be necessary for them to finally put it all together on the field.
The good news is that the problems are minor for UC Davis. If the Aggies put on their hard hats, grab their lunch pails and go to work on the details, there’s no reason why three games from now, they won’t be sitting on a winning season.
— Grace Sprague