Manzanares leads UC Davis to second straight win

Published: Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 9C
Last Modified: Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 - 11:18 pm

CEDAR CITY, Utah – Sometimes you just have to throw the history books out the window.

UC Davis hadn't strung together two wins since 2010 and came into Eccles Coliseum on Saturday to face Big Sky Conference foe Southern Utah, which was riding a three-game winning streak against the Aggies dating to 2009.

But the streak ended in stunning fashion as the Aggies rolled to their second straight win, 21-3, after opening the season with four straight losses.

Randy Wright threw for 193 yards and a touchdown, and Gabe Manzanares ran for 175 yards and two scores as the Aggies (2-4, 2-0 Big Sky) had their way with the conference's top rushing defense.

"We did a great job all game," said Manzanares, who nearly doubled the Thunderbird defense's average for rushing yards allowed per game. "The (offensive) line did a good job of getting to the next levels, and we were able to execute there."

The line created big holes for Manzanares, who ran for both of his scores in the second quarter and caught three passes for 27 yards.

"It's not just me alone," Manzanares said. "I think our run game shows how well we play together as a team. That's really what it is, a collective effort from the entire team."

A quick start by Southern Utah on the game's opening possession saw the Thunderbirds move quickly down the field, going 56 yards in nine plays to get to the Aggies' 12-yard line before the defense was able to kill the drive when Jonathan Perkins blocked a field-goal attempt.

"I knew I wasn't going to be touched too much off the edge," Perkins said. "The coaches just told me to trust it, and it worked."

Manzanares fumbled on the ensuing UC Davis possession and the Thunderbirds recovered, moving 31 yards and taking a 3-0 lead on a Colton Cook field goal with 5:36 left in the quarter.

The Aggies got the go-ahead score in the second quarter when Manzanares took the handoff from Wright at the Southern Utah 16-yard line and broke several tackles before making his way into the end zone for his first touchdown of the day. The score was the culmination of an eight-play, 55-yard drive that saw Manzanares carry the ball five times for 31 yards.

The lead was extended to 14-3 when Manzanares punched it in from a yard out after the Aggies drove 73 yards in 10 plays.

The drive started when the defense forced the Thunderbirds into their second three-and-out of the day.

UC Davis showed why it has the top third-down defense in the Big Sky as Southern Utah was 4 of 15 on third-down conversions.

The passing game took over the show in the second half as Wright exploited the option and threw for 100 yards and a score in the final two quarters, giving the Aggies a 21-3 lead with a 19-yard touchdown pass to T.J. King midway through the third quarter.

From there, the defense kept the lead safe to preserve the victory for the Aggies.

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