RENO, Nev. 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 a while, 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 helped 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 High School. He played the entire game.
He completed 13 of 27 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown. He also threw two interceptions, though it's 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 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 last week's opener.
"Jimmy came in and threw the ball well," Gould said. "We had a lot of dropped balls."
The Aggies continued to show a budding running game.
Even though community college transfer Gabe Manzanares (91 rushing yards and a touchdown against South Dakota) did not suit up because of a bad shoulder, the Aggies ran the ball effectively.
Luuga, a true freshman, and Mowry, a sophomore, combined for 122 yards on 17 carries.
On defense, linebackers Jonathan Bias (Pleasant Grove) and Steven Pitts each had 11 tackles, defensive tackle Anthony Kaspar recovered a fumble, and end Nick King had a sack.
But the Aggies couldn't overcome some early errors, poor field position, the experience of Fajardo (18 of 21, 239 passing yards, two touchdowns) and his corps of veteran receivers led by Richy Turner (136 yards on six receptions, one touchdown) or the running of reserve Kendall Brock (116 yards, two touchdowns), subbing 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 Aggies scored just before halftime. With Nevada up 20-0 after Brock's 2-yard touchdown run, Shamawn Wright returned the ensuing kickoff 59 yards. Laughrea passed 6 yards to Tom Hemmingsen (87 yards on six catches) and then followed with a 23-yard pass to Hemmingsen to cap the scoring drive.
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.