UC Davis senior quarterback Ben Scott went to sleep last Friday night in Eugene, Ore., not knowing if he would start the Aggies’ season-opener against No. 24 Oregon the next day.
“I found out the morning of the game, like everybody else,” Scott said.
Throughout spring and fall camps, Scott and sophomore C.J. Spencer were in a competitive battle to win the Aggies’ starting job. Scott, from Vacaville, started the first eight games for UCD last season before an injury sidelined him the final three weeks. Spencer, then a redshirt freshman from Sacramento, played well and led the Aggies to a 35-21 season-ending victory over Sacramento State in the Causeway Classic.
Both were listed as the No. 1 quarterback on the Aggies’ two-deep depth chart in the days leading up to last week’s game in Oregon, and UCD coach Ron Gould wouldn’t show his hand to reporters about whom he favored.
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But just before the Aggies stepped onto the Autzen Stadium field, Gould anointed Scott as the team’s starter.
“Ben is the guy,” Gould said Friday as the Aggies prepared for their home opener Saturday against Southern Oregon, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics power. “His accuracy in practice, his ability to get guys in the right place and his leadership qualities have been impressive. Even though we gave Ben the nod, it doesn’t take anything away from C.J. He is a great player, a great quarterback. But at the end of the day, we felt Ben had done enough to hold the edge.”
Scott reinforced Gould’s decision by throwing for 303 yards, rushing for a touchdown and leading a resilient offense in the 53-28 loss to the Ducks.
“I thought he did a pretty good job,” Gould said. “I loved his poise. He got us into the right plays, made good throws, and his decision making was good on all but one play, the interception. For the most part, he did a phenomenal job of orchestrating our offense.”
Scott, who suffered an upper body injury last season, said he entered the 2016 season with a different perspective, one that he thinks makes him a more effective, relaxed leader.
“Because of the injury last season, I now feel anytime you step on the field, it’s special,” Scott said. “I don’t have too many opportunities left, so I want to have fun with my teammates and enjoy the time while I have it.”
Scott understands he can be replaced by Spencer after a poor performance or two.
He replaced an ineffective London Lacy at quarterback midway through his sophomore year in 2014.
Despite playing in only seven games in 2014, Scott threw 19 touchdown passes and made All-Big Sky Conference honorable mention.
While he helped lead UCD to a 38-24 upset of Northern Arizona last season – the Aggies’ 500th win – the season otherwise was a disappointment for Scott as the Aggies went 2-9 for a second consecutive season.
“I didn’t have a lot of fun last year,” Scott said. “I think I took the game too serious.”
Last season’s frustration hasn’t sacked Scott’s competitiveness. While he praises Spencer for how well he led the team in his absence, he wasn’t about to concede the position.
“I’m trying to keep playing as long as I can and as well as I can,” Scott said. “C.J. brings it every day. He forces me to be better.”