Ron Gould knows a little bit about rivalry games.
As a player at Oregon, he competed in the Civil War against Oregon State. As an assistant at Cal for 16 seasons, he had an up-close view of the Big Game against Stanford.
On Saturday, the UC Davis coach will participate in his first Causeway Classic at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium, which also is the 60th meeting between the Aggies and Hornets.
“I’m a newbie to this game, but I understand rivalry games,” Gould said after Tuesday’s energetic Aggies practice. “You can throw out the records, throw out which team is favored and which is not. You know there’s going to be a tremendous amount of intensity and passion exhibited.
“We expect the same thing this week. It’s two good teams battling, fighting and competing, so it’s going to be great to see.”
Gould wants his players to temper their enthusiasm. He’d like them to approach the Hornets with the same focus as the previous 11 games the Aggies have played this season.
“For me, it’s making sure our guys are getting better and are not so consumed by the game,” Gould said.
Forget about it.
This game is always circled on the players’ calendars, and it’s special for the UC Davis seniors because they have a shot at a sweep of their rivals. The Aggies are riding a three-game winning streak.
“You just say Causeway Classic and it gives me goose bumps,” said senior defensive end Nick King. “Every Sac State game has been the best game of our college careers. Now that it’s our last game, it’s OK to say it. We can win all our games or lose all our games, but Sac State’s the game that determines the season, not only for us but for the alumni and the community.”
Impressive offense – Gould said he doesn’t usually look at film of an opposing team’s offense until Wednesday night. But he’s already seen plenty of Sac State quarterback Garrett Safron and wide receivers DeAndre Carter, Morris Norrise and Shane Harrison.
“With the kind of numbers they are putting up, I’ve already been looking at them,” Gould said. “They are dangerous.”
He calls Safron, who engineered Sac State’s 43-42 come-from-behind win at Portland State last Saturday, “phenomenal.”
“His release is one of the quickest I’ve seen,” Gould said of the junior. “He can beat you with his arm, he can beat you with his feet. On one of his runs against Portland State, a zone read, he pulled the ball back and went around the corner and scored a touchdown before you could blink your eyes.
“He’s got the leadership qualities you want. To drive his team 85 yards and get the winning touchdown speaks volumes to the poise this young man has.”
Aggies’ workhorse – Junior running back Gabe Manzanares has had more carries and rushed for more yards this season than in his high school (St. Ignatius-San Francisco), small college (Wesleyan-Middleton, Conn.) and community college (City College of San Francisco) careers combined.
But he’s been nonplussed by the physical pounding he has taken this season in rushing for 1,163 yards and eight touchdowns on 232 carries and catching 23 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown.
“Physically, I feel great, especially running behind (my offensive line),” Manzanares said. “It’s motivating, so you don’t pay attention to the boo-boos here and there. You just keep fighting through it. Week to week, our athletic staff is great. They do a great job of helping us recover.”
Last home hurrah – Right guard Jimmy Kunkel, one of 15 seniors to play their final home in last Saturday’s 34-18 win over North Dakota at Aggie Stadium, said it didn’t hit him until late that he was playing his final minutes in front of the home crowd.
“All of a sudden, I look up and there’s three minutes on the clock,” Kunkel said. “That’s when I started looking around, and that’s when it hit me and my emotions got to me realizing how great it’s been here as far as my career and the careers of our seniors. It was kind of bittersweet.”
Benefit game – For every ticket purchased to the Causeway Classic, ScholarShares (the state’s 529 College Savings Plan) will donate $1 to UC Davis Children’s Hospital. As part of the game, 7-year-old Cadence Stamper of Orangevale will participate in the midfield coin toss. She was admitted to the hospital in July after suffering a stroke and losing her mobility. After five weeks of daily physical therapy, she regained movement and is now back in school.
Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.