Jonathan Perkins

UCD football coach Gould will make his debut in noisy DakotaDome

Published: Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013 - 8:44 am

UC Davis senior defensive back Jonathan Perkins remembers his last trip to Vermillion, S.D., in 2011 to play South Dakota.

"It was a little hostile, and pretty noisy," said the returning Big Sky Conference honorable mention cornerback. "It's a little bit of a shock when you first come out. You're warming up and you can hear the fans calling your name. You don't get that at an outdoor stadium. It's definitely different."

UC Davis will open its season at noon today against the Coyotes in their 10,000-seat, 34-year-old multipurpose DakotaDome.

It's not a setting for claustrophobes.

The grandstands are close to the action, so when the stadium is full, the noise level can reach ear-splitting proportions.

"Once you start playing, you lose sight of it," Perkins said. "We're pretty mentally prepared."

Perkins has played in five indoor games while with the Aggies, including in back-to-back weeks last season against Big Sky opponents Idaho State and Northern Arizona.

Perkins and his teammates hope to make new coach Ron Gould's debut a memorable one – indoors or out.

The Gardena native would rather forget the last trip to Vermillion. Plagued by five turnovers, the Aggies lost 27-24.

He also remembers that the Aggies weren't prepared for the slick artificial turf.

"I was playing in tennis shoes," he said with a smile. "We didn't have turf shoes back then for it. You really had to focus on your technique. It was a little slippery."

Gould cranked up the public address volume during practice earlier in the week to try to replicate the noise the Aggies might face today.

"We'll first catch some punts and catch some balls to get acclimated to the lighting," Gould said. "We know it's going to be loud. We've practiced all week with noise anticipating that the crowd is going to be loud.

"… You've just got to go play. Indoors, outdoors, rain or snow, it's out of our control."

Wright gets the call – Senior quarterback Randy Wright will make the 33rd start of his career after winning a competition with junior London Lacy and sophomore transfer Jimmy Laughrea (Boise State, Rocklin) after nearly a month of workouts.

"The quarterbacks did a phenomenal job of competing and going back and forth," Gould said. "At the end of the day, Randy edged those guys out. We feel very confident that whomever is in the game will do a great job for us."

Wright is among the Aggies' career leaders in passing yards, completions and attempts.

From walk-on to starter – Gould, renowned for his work with running backs as an assistant coach at Cal, named unheralded junior walk-on Gabe Manzanares as his starting tailback, one of the Aggies' most-watched positions this fall.

The 5-foot-9, 195-pound transfer played last season at City College of San Francisco after prepping at St. Ignatius in San Francisco.

"Gabe has been in for three weeks and has been able to master the offense from a conceptual standpoint," Gould said. "His attention to detail is unbelievable. His work ethic is impeccable … . He's exceeded my expectations so far."

True freshman Manu Luuga from Long Beach Poly and sophomore Tavior Mowry of Westlake of Westlake Village will serve as the primary backups, Gould said.

Coach's entourage – Gould will have plenty of support in his first game as a head coach.

Earlier in the week, his wife, Teresa, left for her native Iowa. She'll gather nearly two dozen relatives and friends who will drive to Vermillion for the game.

"There'll be some Aggie fans there," Gould said.

Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.

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