Quarterback Jimmy Laughrea liked being part of a highly ranked football program at Boise State.
The rabid atmosphere, the large, raucous crowds at home and on the road, and the sophisticated, pass-friendly Broncos offense left an indelible mark on the former Rocklin High School star.
There was just one problem.
"I wasn't happy with my situation there, not just football-wise but other stuff going on that I don't feel comfortable talking about," Laughrea said. "My first year there was tough. I lived my whole life in the same house. Not having my family there was difficult.
"Football my redshirt season was a grind, especially knowing I wasn't going to play. The second year got easier. Still, watching football is not that much fun. It was foreign to me."
After redshirting as a freshman in 2011, not playing last season and realizing after April's spring game that he was likely to remain a third-stringer behind senior Joe Southwick and junior Grant Hedrick, Laughrea told Boise State coach Chris Petersen that he wanted a fresh start at a different school.
That led to Laughrea transferring to UC Davis, where Petersen once starred at quarterback.
"I don't think I'd be here if it wasn't for coach Petersen," Laughrea said. "After I told him I wasn't happy with my situation, he was understanding, and he offered to go out of his way to talk to Davis. He knows some of the coaches here.
"I'm thankful for all the help he put in with me. I don't think that would have happened everywhere. I think some coaches would say, 'Hey, you're on your own.' "
Laughrea considered going to another Football Bowl Subdivision school and sitting out a season, but because UC Davis is an Football Championship Subdivision school, Laughrea could be eligible immediately.
"Once Davis offered, that seemed like the best opportunity education-wise and playing-time wise," he said. "And it's close to home. I can't complain about driving 45 minutes and getting a home-cooked meal."
Since Laughrea arrived in Davis in the summer, it has been a whirlwind for the quarterback, his teammates, new coach Ron Gould and his staff. Laughrea wasted little time getting into the action.
He played the second quarter of a 10-7 season-opening loss to South Dakota, then made his first collegiate start and played the entire way in the Aggies' 36-7 loss Saturday at Nevada, a performance that earned Gould's praise and another start.
"Jimmy played well for his first (college) start ever," Gould said. "(His receivers) had around seven or eight drops. He was putting the ball right where it needs to be. He was moving the team. We were encouraged by that."
Laughrea, 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, completed 13 of 27 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown. He also had two passes intercepted, one a deflection on the first series of the game and the other a Hail Mary on the last play of the first half. Both hit the receivers' hands first.
While there were clearly too many drops, Laughrea took most of the blame for the offense's inconsistency.
"I make a better pass, and it's a touchdown," Laughrea said. " If we do things well, it's going to be a shootout in the fourth quarter. We make too many mistakes, and it's 36-7. It's the little things that are holding us back from becoming a high-caliber football team. But we're working on cleaning those up."
Although disappointed his team lost, Laughrea enjoyed his experience in Reno more than the previous season when he was with the Boise State team that beat the Wolf Pack on the same field.
"Same place, same fans, different feeling," Laughrea said. "I was excited for this game. I got the pregame butterflies, the whole deal."
Laughrea's addition has given UC Davis a different dimension, which new offensive coordinator Kevin Daft noticed after just a few practices in early August.
"He's a very bright guy who understands the game," said Daft, a former Aggies quarterback who played in the NFL. "He can move around the pocket, has a strong arm, a quick release. He's got a lot of potential and is further along than I would have expected at this point."
Laughrea has mixed feelings about replacing senior Randy Wright as the starter and leapfrogging gifted but untested junior London Lacy. Until Saturday, Wright had played quarterback in every game since his redshirt freshman season.
"I came in this summer, and Randy helped me with the playbook," Laughrea said. "I feel nothing has changed. We're all friends. I love those guys."
On Saturday, Laughrea will start in the Aggies' home opener against Northern Arizona, with a large contingent of family, friends and former high school teammates expected to be on hand.
Before transferring to UC Davis, Laughrea said sometimes when he'd get down about not playing, he'd think back to his high school days, especially Rocklin's magical 2009 season. That year, Laughrea helped lead Rocklin to 14 consecutive wins, including a 21-19 upset of favored Grant in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinals and a 21-14 victory over league rival Del Oro for the section title at UC Davis.
Laughrea broke his left (non-throwing) arm in that game and had to watch from the sideline the next weekend, when the Thunder lost 33-30 to Servite of Anaheim in the CIF State Division II championship game in Carson.
"That season was awesome, crazy," Laughrea said. "I knew we were good from the get-go, but it was amazing what we accomplished, considering we didn't have an easy game all that year."
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.