The always-intense Causeway Classic battles between UC Davis and Sacramento State have come down to a pivotal play, a breakout performance or a jaw-dropping miscue in recent years.
But even UCD senior Randy Wright can’t shed light on why the Aggies have a three-game winning streak in the closely contested series that celebrates its 60th annual meeting at Hornet Stadium on Saturday.
“I wish I could explain it. I just hope I have one more (win) left in me,” said Wright, the Aggies’ starting quarterback in those games.
What Wright knows is that it’s a great game to play because anything can happen and often does.
“These games we will always remember because they are the last games of the season, they’re a rivalry game, so the buildup is there, and there’s usually something memorable that happens or a breakout player in the game,” Wright said.
In the past three Causeway Classics, senior defensive back Jonathan Perkins, senior tight end Taylor Sloat and junior running back Colton Silveria have produced highlight-reel performances for the Aggies.
In 2010, Perkins, then a redshirt freshman, intercepted a pass by Sac State quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson with 21 seconds to play to preserve a 17-16 victory in monsoon-like conditions at UCD.
The next season it was Silveria, another redshirt freshman, who dazzled with a career-high 170 rushing yards and a touchdown in the Aggies’ 23-19 win at Hornet Stadium.
Last season it was Sloat turning in the best performance of his career. He caught seven passes for 109 yards, including the winning touchdown early in the fourth quarter of the Aggies’ 34-27 victory.
“I went to Taylor four or five times in the fourth quarter,” Wright said. “We had a real connection that game.”
Sloat said the hardest part was being so wide open in the end zone on the 8-yard pass.
“I knew I had to look it into my hands because those easy catches sometimes prove to be the toughest,” Sloat said. “It was pretty exciting because it was a big play in a big game.”
Silveria knows that feeling, too.
Two years ago, he helped UC Davis rush for a season-best 206 yards against Sac State. His 1-yard touchdown run gave the Aggies a 17-13 lead in the third quarter. But it was his 66-yard burst to the Sac State 11-yard line late in the fourth quarter that broke the Hornets’ back. It set up a 23-yard Sean Kelley field goal that put the Aggies up 23-13 with 1:22 to play.
“I knew it was a critical point in the game,” Silveria said. “It was an inside run, but all I remember is racing down the sidelines. I was trying to get into the end zone, but I was losing my gas a little bit.”
Silveria, a reserve this season after coming back from offseason hip surgery, said he was pumped by the nearly 13,000 in attendance in 2011 at Hornet Stadium.
“It’s always fun to go to their house and battle them and come out with a win, and that’s what we’re looking to do this year,” he said.
Perkins has been a stinger in the Hornets’ side since his freshman year. He returned a kickoff 81 yards for a touchdown in last year’s Causeway Classic at Aggie Stadium, but it was his interception in the 2010 game that was his most memorable.
Stormy conditions, including sideways hail and lightning over the field, delayed the start of the third quarter by 47 minutes, and the second half was largely played in an empty stadium that was filled hours earlier.
“We call it the ‘Monsoon Game,’” Wright said. “The wind was ridiculous. We basically knew that who was going to win was the team that didn’t make a mistake.”
With Sac State driving for the potential winning touchdown, Bethel-Thompson tried to hit Dylan Lane down the middle deep in Aggies territory on fourth and 17 with 1:54 to play. Despite the slippery conditions, Perkins stepped in front of Lane at the 11-yard line and picked off the pass.
“That’s one of my favorite plays of my career because of how my team responded,” Perkins said. “Everybody was excited about it.”
They were a little concerned, too.
After the interception, Perkins didn’t take a knee.
“We’re all telling him to slide, to go down, and he’s running around,” Wright said. “He’s such a competitor that he wanted to take it to the house. But some of our guys were ready to tackle him because you never know in that situation if there could be a fumble.”
While Wright hopes that someone will step up again Saturday for the Aggies, he knows how the Hornets feel being on the losing end.
As a redshirt freshman in 2009, Wright watched as Sac State stunned the visiting Aggies 31-28 with a late 15-play, 83-yard scoring drive led by Bethel-Thompson.
“It was very bitter,” Wright said of the defeat. “We had the game almost iced. But they went down and scored with 20 seconds. It ruined our chances of going to the playoffs. It was pretty devastating.”
Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.