UC Davis coach Ron Gould knows a good running back when he sees one after sending 13 to the NFL as a Cal assistant coach.
He says Northern Arizona's Zach Bauman will present special challenges for the Aggies when the Football Championship Subdivision No. 24 Lumberjacks play Saturday at UC Davis in the Aggies' home opener.
"He'll play in the National Football League next year," Gould said. "The guy is really, really good."
Bauman, who rushed for 71 yards in the Lumberjacks' 35-0 loss at Arizona on Aug. 30, has had three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
With 3,747 rushing yards, he needs just one yard to move into a tie for ninth place with Idaho's Sherriden May (1991-94) for career yardage in the Big Sky Conference. And he needs just 48 yards to break Marcus King's school record of 3,794 yards.
Last year, Bauman had 122 rushing yards and 51 receiving yards and a touchdown in a 21-7 win over the Aggies.
Saturday's game will be another test for the Aggies' defense, which held South Dakota to one touchdown in a 10-7 loss Aug. 31 but allowed 535 yards in Saturday's 36-7 loss to Nevada.
Most of the Wolf Pack's yards, however, came in the second half when the Aggies' offense was unable to sustain drives.
"I'm pleased with the effort," Gould said. "But the guys got worn out a little bit in the fourth quarter. We just got to do a better job offensively of keeping drives going."
Nevada ran 91 plays to UC Davis' 52.
Conference, sort of Although the Aggies and Lumberjacks are both in the Big Sky, their game won't count in the conference standings.
The Big Sky schedules eight conference games for each team, but because of a lack of other FCS teams in the West, the Big Sky allows teams to schedule each other for nonconference games, too. UCD's home game against Portland State on Sept. 21 also is nonconference.
Although the games do not count in the conference standings, the results could factor into tiebreakers at the end of the season.
On the run Gould says that if City College of San Francisco transfer Gabe Manzanares is able to practice later this week, he'll return as the starting running back.
Manzanares rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown against South Dakota but injured his shoulder. The Aggies didn't miss a beat Saturday as freshman Manusamoa Luuga from Long Beach Poly High School gained 81 yards on 13 carries.
Luuga, who didn't play against South Dakota, acted as if playing in front of more than 27,000 spectators in Reno was no big deal.
"I felt pretty good," he said when asked about first-game jitters. "It's just another game."
Gould thought Luuga, who had a 46-yard run in the first quarter, played more like an upperclassman.
"The focus he has, he's played like a veteran," Gould said. "We're proud of this young man, and how he really stepped up."
Lucky is back Northern Arizona senior cornerback Lucky Dozier (Burbank High School) has made several FCS preseason All-America teams. Last season, the College of San Mateo transfer had 57 tackles and tied for the Big Sky lead with four interceptions.
Three area freshmen also are on Northern Arizona's roster: defensive lineman Sam Woods (Rocklin), offensive lineman Rafael Aguilar (Jesuit) and quarterback Pete Denham (Placer).
A homecoming Northern Arizona wide receivers coach Tim Plough and offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello are returning to Davis.
Plough, a former quarterback, had a 10-year playing and coaching career with the Aggies. Scangarello coached for the Aggies in the late 1990s and from 2004 to 2008.
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.