UC Davis football: Aggies flex defensive muscle in loss to Northern Arizona

Published: Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 5C

UC Davis, once renowned for its offensive prowess on the football field, is developing a reputation for some rugged defense.

The Aggies held No. 25 Northern Arizona to 191 total yards, including 51 in the second half of last Saturday's 21-10 home-opening loss.

It was the first time UC Davis kept an opponent below 200 yards since holding Montana State to 194 yards in 2006.

The Aggies forced Northern Arizona to punt 10 times, had 11 tackles for losses, limited the Lumberjacks to two third-down conversions in 13 attempts and held prolific senior running back Zach Bauman to 56 yards on 18 carries.

During the game, Bauman became Northern Arizona's career rushing leader and moved to ninth all-time in the Big Sky Conference (3,803 yards).

"He's a great back," said UC Davis senior defensive end Nick King, who led the Aggies with three sacks. "He's shifty, he's fast and he's strong. We knew as he goes, their offense goes."

King said first-year defensive coordinator Bert Watts put together a good game plan in containing Bauman and sophomore quarterback Kyren Poe (125 passing yards and one touchdown).

The Aggies also worked on honing their tackling fundamentals during the week in preparation for Bauman, an NFL prospect who has had three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

"When we watched film of Bauman at Arizona, you could see that no one could tackle him on the first try," King said. "So we practiced all week on wrapping up and swarm tackling."

King and senior safety Aaryn Jones each had seven tackles, junior linebacker Ryan Dimino added five and redshirt freshman Patrick Wells had two tackles for losses.

"Our defense rose to the occasion the way they were running around and gang tackling," UC Davis coach Ron Gould said after Tuesday's practice. "Hats off to our defensive staff and coordinator."

King senses the days of the Aggies being viewed as a defensively soft team are over.

"You hear older alums talk about how this used to be such a pass-happy school," said King, from Mill Valley. "But there's a lot more focus on defense now. The Big Sky is one of the best (Football Championship Subdivision) conferences in the country. Every team has phenomenal offensive players, so you need to try to match up with those athletes."

The Aggies get another test Saturday when they host Big Sky member Portland State in another non-conference game.

Portland State, coached by former Jesuit High School standout Nigel Burton, is averaging nearly 616 total yards, second best in the nation, and came close to upsetting Cal before falling 37-30 on Sept. 7.

"They're a great team," King said. "They have a physical offensive line and are well-coached. They'll be a great measuring stick to show how we stack up defensively."

Sleepless in Davis – Gould said he did a lot of tossing and turning and didn't sleep until late Sunday morning before mentally rewinding all the Aggies' missed opportunities against Northern Arizona.

"I feel bad for these young men because they have worked their butts off, and they deserved to get the win Saturday," Gould said. "The good thing is there is no finger pointing, no blaming anyone. … We had a very energetic practice (Tuesday)."

UC Davis is 0-3 for the first time since 1965.

Lumberjack honored – Former Burbank defensive back Lucky Dozier, whose 78-yard, fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown helped Northern Arizona rally to beat the Aggies, was named the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week.

UC Davis led 10-7 when the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Dozier intercepted Jimmy Laughrea's pass and returned it for the go-ahead score with 9:05 to play.

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

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