UC Davis was paid to play a role Saturday night at Nevada, and though quarterback Jimmy Laughrea and running backs Manusamoa Luuga and Tavior Mowry helped them depart from the script for awhile, the Aggies eventually fell 36-7 in the renewal of an old rivalry.
There was none of that FCS upsetting the FBS nonsense.
Nevada paid the Aggies $250,000 to come to Reno to understudy the Wolf Pack's festivities in their home opener in front of an announced crowd of 27,052.
That included a pre-game dedication of the field to former coach Chris Ault, the founder of the innovative pistol offense and the man who helped unleash Colin Kaepernick on the NFL.
There also was the chance to showcase the Wolf Pack's high-octane offense engineered by Cody Fajardo, the junior who succeeded Kaepernick and help the Wolf Pack (1-1) account for 535 total yards.
But even with mistakes, missed opportunities and poor field position, UC Davis (0-2) had some positives to take away under new coach Ron Gould.
The Aggies looked more explosive on offense behind Laughrea, the Boise State transfer from Rocklin, who played the entire game.
He completed 13 of 27 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown. He also threw two interceptions, though its debatable they were his fault.
"It's a great feeling to be back on the field and playing football," Laughrea said. "I can't complain about playing the game that I love....It could have been better. Little things shot us in the foot."
Laughrea's appearance to open the game ended a long streak of starts by Randy Wright, the Aggies leader under center since his true freshman season. But Wright struggled to move the team in a 10-7 loss to South Dakota in the opener the week before.
"Jimmy came in and threw the ball well, he moved the ball for us," Gould said. "We had a lot of dropped balls....It's nothing to do with the throws. We gotta look the ball in. You can't ask the quarterback to put the ball any better."
The Aggies also continue to show a budding running game.
Even though community college transfer Gabe Manzanares (91 yards rushing and a touchdown last week) did not suit up because of a bum shoulder, the Aggies moved the ball on the ground.
Luuga, a true freshman, and Mowry, a sophomore, combined for 122 yards on 17 carries. Luuga had a 46-yard burst and Mowry a 28-yard run.
"I felt pretty good," said Luuga, who finished with 81 yards on 13 carries. "...It's a big transition from high school to college."
On defense, linebackers Jonathan Bias (Pleasant Grove) and Steven Pitts each had 11 tackles, defensive tackle Anthony Kaspar recovered a fumble and defensive end Nick King had a sack.
But the Aggies couldn't overcome some early errors, poor field position, the experience of Fajardo (18-for-21, 239 passing yards, two touchdowns) and his corp of veteran receivers led by Richy Turner (6 catches, 136 yards, one touchdown) or the running of reserve Kendall Brock (116 yards, two touchdowns, 27 carries), pinch-hitting for injured starter Don Jackson (Laguna Creek).
"We left a lot of points out there on the (field)," Gould said. "We're moving the ball, but we didn't finish the deal. The loss is on me. The kids are playing hard."
The Aggies finished with 296 total yards.
A poor start doomed UC Davis as the Wolf Pack led 13-0 less than five minutes into the game.
On UC Davis' second play from scrimmage, Laughrea's pass deflected off the hands of Dalton Turay and was intercepted by former Christian Brothers star Bryan Lane Jr. at the Aggies' 24.
"It was a high pass," Laughrea said. "Ball got tipped and tips equal picks. That's part of football."
Fajardo scored on a seven-yard run three plays later, a little more than a minute after the game had started.
After forcing the Aggies to punt, Fajardo was even quicker in moving the Wolf Pack. They went 80 yards in four plays, capped by Fajardo's beautifully thrown 40-yard scoring strike to Turner with 10:21 to go.
The Aggies showed some quick strike capabilities of their own just before the end of the first half.
With Nevada up 20-0 after Brock's two-yard touchdown run, Shamawn Wright returned the ensuring kickoff 59 yards. Laughrea passed six yards to Tom Hemmingsen (six catches, 87 yards) then followed up with a 23-yard touchdown pass to the senior. The drive took 42 seconds.
"I felt comfortable," Laughrea said. "The coaches set up a good game plan. The line blocked well. The receivers ran good routes. We just gotta clean up the little things."
UC Davis missed on another scoring chance earlier in the second quarter after Laughrea and Alex Cannon connected on a 59-yard bomb. Brady Stuart's 31-field goal attempt went wide right, who had a miss and a block last week against South Dakota
Before that, the Aggies battled poor field position. They started their first two drives at the 25 after touchdown, then the next three at their 13, 1 and seven yard-lines.
The Aggies will play their home opener on Saturday against Northern Arizona.
The matchup of Nevada and UC Davis was a renewal of a long rivalry that started in 1915 but ended in 1989 as the Wolf Pack started to transition to Division I. The Wolf Pack now holds a 28-21-3 advantage in the series.
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson (916) 326-5506.