A win Saturday against visiting North Dakota would keep UC Davis on track to finish the Big Sky Conference with a winning record and set the stage for the season finale next week against Sacramento State at Hornet Stadium in the 60th Causeway Classic.
The Aggies are 3-7 overall and 3-3 in conference one season after finishing 3-5 in their first year in the Big Sky.
North Dakota also is 3-7 overall but just 2-5 in conference play.
UC Davis has won only once in five home games, but that’s something North Dakota understands. UND had lost five in a row at its domed stadium in Grand Forks, N.D., before rallying from 15 points down in the third quarter to beat Northern Colorado 24-21 last Saturday.
The win was engineered by redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan Bartels, who has worked his way back into the starting job he lost to Joe Mollberg in the second game of the season. Bartels played well two weeks ago in a loss to Northern Arizona and last Saturday helped UND hand Northern Colorado its ninth consecutive loss. In those two games combined, Bartels completed 70 of 106 passes for 711 yards and five touchdowns.
Bartels has an NFL prospect to throw to in 6-foot-4 receiver Kenny Golladay (64 catches), a school record-breaker in senior Greg Hardin (56) and another burner in sophomore Jameer Jackson (50).
“Offensively, they’ve got a lot of speed,” UC Davis coach Ron Gould said. “They’ve got a kickoff return guy (Hardin) who is sensational, and their wide receivers can score from anywhere.”
Hardin has racked up more than 4,800 all-purpose yards in his UND career and nearly 500 of those have come on plays of 80 yards or longer. He is second among active Football Championship Subdivision players with 31 touchdowns.
“At the end of the day, he will sit at the top – or pretty close to the top – of every UND regular-season receiving record we have,” said North Dakota coach Chris Mussman. “It’s been a pleasure to coach him and have him be a huge part of our transition from Division II to Division I and into the Big Sky.”
The Bears are 1-9 this season under first-year coach Sonny Dykes.
“My heart goes out to those young men, but one thing for sure is they’re a resilient bunch,” Gould said.
Gould’s wife, Teresa, is still an athletic administrator at Cal and keeps him apprised of how some of his former players are doing.
“Every time she runs into one of the guys, she offers encouragement,” Gould said. “Like I tell my guys, life is about overcoming adversity. It’s easy to say you have character when you win. But it’s when you are faced with adversity and how you respond that shapes your character.”
Grant’s most notable moment with the Aggies came Oct. 4, 2008, when he out-jumped four Northern Colorado defenders for a 38-yard touchdown reception on the game’s last play to beat the Bears 34-30.
NORTH DAKOTA (3-7, 2-5 BIG SKY) AT UC DAVIS (3-7, 3-3)
SATURDAY'S AREA GAMES
Sacramento State: at Portland State, 1:05 p.m., 1380
UC Davis: vs. North Dakota, 4 p.m., 1140
Stanford: at USC, 5 p.m., Ch. 10, 1050
Cal: at Colorado, 2:30 p.m., PAC12, 810