GREELEY, Colo. After starting the season 0-4, UC Davis' third win in the last four weeks raised its Big Sky Conference record to an improbable 3-1 mark and the Aggies are starting to make believers of the rest of the league.
Northern Colorado (0-4, 1-7) is the latest team to be convinced after it was thumped by the Aggies 34-18 at Nottingham Field.
"This feels great," first-year Aggies coach Ron Gould said. "It's a culmination of all the hard work among the staff and with the players. For us to be 3-1, it sounds great but we haven't done much, though it's a lot better than the alternative."
UC Davis piled up 488 yards of total offense, with quarterback Randy Wright connecting on 27 of 37 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.
Tight end Taylor Sloat hauled in touchdown passes of 28 and 16 yards in the opening quarter as the Aggies pulled away for a 24-0 halftime lead. UC Davis had 319 yards in total offense to Northern Colorado's 84 yards in the first half.
The Bears managed second-half scores on a 43-yard run by Tromaine Dennis (18 carries, 135 yards), a 19-yard field goal by Jamie Falloon and a 6-yard touchdown pass from Seth Lobato to Dimitri Stimphil (7 catches, 101 yards).
Sloat, a 6-foot-4, 235-pounder, had yet to find the end zone this season. "To get in the end zone that felt nice," Sloat said. "To get the road win felt better."
Staying with their normal balanced offense, the Aggies were able to pile up 178 rushing yards, led by Gabe Manzanares' 105 yards on 21 carries, often bouncing outside to pick up extra yardage.
"I'm always confident in my offensive line," said Manzanares, who has rushed for more than 100 yards three times this season. "They open up the lanes, and I make my reads to get the yards that I can.
"Northern Colorado's defense flies around and tackles hard. They fly around and gang tackle."
UC Davis put up 17 points on its first three possessions of the game: the two TD passes from Wright to Sloat and a 19-yard field goal by Brady Stuart. The Aggies then made it four of four on scoring possessions when Wright hit Corey Galindo for a 20-yard TD pass with just 39 seconds left in the half.
The Aggies punted just once and were 11 of 16 on third-down conversions.
Northern Colorado didn't have a first down until midway through the second quarter when a drive stalled at the UC Davis 18-yard line. A pass from Lobato to Stimphil to the 1-yard line was ruled incomplete when officials determined Stimphil didn't have possession when he went out of bounds.
Northern Colorado middle linebacker Clarence Bumpas (14 tackles) said there were no excuses for the Bears' inability to slow down the Aggies' attack until late in the game. "We should have had a lot more three-and-outs," Bumpas said.
The Bears did manage an impressive drive late in the game, going 75 yards on 12 plays to score on the 6-yard pass from Lobato to Stimphil. Lobato finished with 231 yards on 18 of 31 passing and no interceptions.
For Gould, it felt good to get back in the win column after a 42-7 loss to Montana last week.
"We're really pleased with how Randy (Wright) was able to execute, and I'm so proud of how hard those guys are working," Gould said.
"We're making progress, but it's a lot of hard work. The kids believe in where we're going with this program."