Everything seemed set for a special day Saturday in the 60th annual Causeway Classic.
There was good weather, a large crowd and a matchup of Sacramento State and UC Davis teams that have battled to close finishes in recent history.
Blame the Aggies for ruining a great storyline at Hornet Stadium. UC Davis thoroughly dominated in pounding the Hornets 34-7 in front of an announced crowd of 12,571.
It was the most one-sided win in the series since the Aggies beat the Hornets 37-7 in 2005. It also was the Aggies’ fourth consecutive win in upping their record against their rivals to 43-18.
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The victory showed that UC Davis (5-7, 5-3 Big Sky Conference) may be on the right track under new coach Ron Gould after winning its last two games and finishing in a four-way tie for fourth in the Big Sky Conference. It may have left people questioning whether the inconsistent but usually entertaining Hornets (5-7, 4-4) will ever become relevant.
“I was shocked we were up by so much at the end,” said senior Randy Wright, who quarterbacked the Aggies to four Causeway wins. “Usually, these come down to the wire.”
Wright, who had started all but one game in his three previous seasons, was benched after the opener against South Dakota before returning to lead the Aggies to five wins in their last eight games.
“It’s been an up-and-down season for me personally, but to end my career with my teammates like this just means the world to me,” Wright said.
Wright had plenty of time to find targets – he completed 17 of 22 passes for 212 yards with no interceptions – and spent much of the afternoon getting the ball to walk-on running back Gabe Manzanares, who rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries and had four catches for 95 yards.
Sac State quarterback Garrett Safron, who threw for a school-record 554 yards and had six total touchdowns in a 43-42 come-from-behind win last weekend at Portland State, spent most of the day running for his life against an Aggies defense that had four sacks and an interception.
“You just got to stay in front of him,” said UC Davis senior defensive end Nick King, who had two sacks. “The guy is a dynamic athlete. He strings out plays. So it was just our execution.”
UC Davis junior linebacker Steven Pitts had a game-high 13 tackles – 3.5 for a loss – and a sack. Sac State was held to 75 rushing yards.
“It wasn’t anything I did, it was our coaching staff putting us in the right positions,” Pitts said. “The gaps were wide open. I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.”
With Manzanares touching the ball every play on the first series, the Aggies went 73 yards in six plays. The junior caught three passes and rushed three times, including a 2-yard touchdown.
The Aggies went up 14-0 on their next series, highlighted by Manzanares’ 33-yard touchdown burst untouched through the middle of the line.
“Our O-line was doing a great job,” said Manzanares, whose 1,285 rushing yards puts him fifth all-time single season for the Aggies. “I told them, ‘That was your touchdown.’ You could have (driven) a big rig through that (hole).”
Sac State, meanwhile, came up empty after its first two promising drives, turning over the ball on downs at the UC Davis 27-yard line and missing a 24-yard field goal after reaching the Aggies’ 4.
Sac State already trailed 21-0 when Jordan Robinson scored on a 4-yard run with 4:24 to play in the second quarter. But Brady Stuart’s 38-yard field goal, the first of two for the sophomore, put the Aggies ahead 24-7 at the half.
“We had a couple of opportunities early,” Sac State coach Marshall Sperbeck said. “Then it’s 14-0, 21-0, and that’s tough to bounce back from. Maybe it’s a little different if we can keep up with them early, but we struggled to do that.”