UC Davis sophomore wide receiver Keelan Doss likes performing on the big stage.
Playing before nearly 54,000 fans at Oregon’s Autzen Stadium in the Aggies’ season opener, Doss caught seven passes for 116 yards in a 53-28 loss to the Ducks.
Among the grabs was a 50-yard bomb delivered by quarterback Ben Scott to Doss, who had Oregon defensive back Ugo Amadi draped over him before the ball arrived. The impressive catch helped set up one of Manusamoa Luuga’s three rushing touchdowns against the Ducks.
Last Saturday at Laramie, Wyo., Doss fended off Wyoming free safety Andrew Wingard to make a 25-yard over-the-shoulder touchdown catch in the left corner of the end zone in the third quarter of the Aggies’ 45-22 loss to the Cowboys in front of nearly 19,000 fans.
Doss finished with seven catches for 104 yards.
“It was pretty exciting,” said the 6-foot-3, 206-pound native of Alameda. “My whole mentality is that if I do what I’m trained to do, I can compete against anyone out there. It definitely was fun to go against those (Football Bowl Subdivision) schools and show what I could do.”
The stage could be set for another big day for Doss on Saturday evening at 10,849-seat Aggie Stadium. A large crowd is expected when UCD (1-2) plays its Big Sky Conference opener against Weber State (1-2), four days after students returned to campus for the fall quarter.
It might have appeared Doss was slacking in the Aggies’ home opener against NAIA power Southern Oregon. UCD defeated the Raiders 52-35 in an offensive shootout as the two teams combined for 1,270 total yards.
While he had another spectacular 25-yard touchdown grab by outwrestling Southern Oregon defender AJ Cooper for the ball before spilling out of the left corner of the end zone in the second quarter, Doss finished the evening with only three catches for 37 yards.
Senior wide receiver Ramon Vargas had the big game with six catches for 208 yards, fourth in school history. and a touchdown.
UCD coach Ron Gould wasn’t surprised how things played out. Doss missed last year with a foot injury, and Vargas was limited to seven games because of an injury.
“Look at the film last year, and there is nothing of Keelan,” Gould said. “Then after Southern Oregon sees him making plays against a Pac-12 school, they go on high alert. But they don’t really know about Ramon Vargas, either.”
Doss and Vargas are among a corps of outside receivers that also includes 2015 receiving leader Chris Martin, senior Luke Williams and freshman Jared Harrell. All are 6-1 to 6-3 and from 185 to 206 pounds with good speed.
But Doss is the clear leader so far this season in highlight-reel plays while topping the Aggies in receiving with 17 catches for 251 yards and two touchdowns.
After a promising freshman season in 2014, Doss said it was tough to watch the injury-ravaged Aggies sputter to a 2-9 record. It only made him hungrier for this year.
Gould sees Doss’ determination and commitment daily.
“He’s a football junkie,” Gould said. “He loves watching the matchups, seeing the corners and how they play. He studies those guys just like a professional, then loves to go out and compete. But he’s talented as well. Any time you have a guy who is talented and has the work ethic, good things can happen.”
The goals for the Aggies are many.
They want to post the school’s first winning record since 2010. They want to land a Football Championship Bowl playoff berth and ultimately a Big Sky title. Most of all, they want to prove the prognosticators wrong. The Big Sky coaches picked the Aggies to finish last in the 13-team conference; the media tabbed them for 12th.
“The whole offense put in the time throughout the summer and training camp so we can perform as one group,” Doss said. “We feel like we’re really prepared. We’re definitely moving in the right direction.”
Editor’s note: This story has updated to correct the team’s historical record.