UC Davis will face a quarterback who has played most of his college career as a wide receiver when the Aggies (1-5, 0-3 Big Sky Conference) take on Northern Colorado (3-2, 1-1) in a homecoming game Saturday at Aggie Stadium.
Kyle Sloter spent two years playing wide receiver at Southern Mississippi before transferring to Northern Colorado last season, where he was a wide receiver, a special-teams player and backup quarterback.
But Sloter became the starting quarterback in the second game this season when sophomore Jacob Knipp suffered a shoulder injury.
Sloter, a high school quarterback in Georgia, has proven able as a college passer. The 6-foot-5 senior replaced Knipp against Abilene Christian and threw for 407 yards and six touchdowns in a 55-52 win. He threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns in last Saturday’s 49-31 loss to Big Sky co-leader Eastern Washington.
“He has all the talent in the world,” said Northern Colorado coach Earnest Collins Jr. “He played a lot of wideout for us last year, and we were getting ready to use him a lot at wideout this year before Knipp gets hurt. … He’s getting his feet wet, but he’s learning fast.”
UC Davis coach Ron Gould said Sloter’s ability to grasp the nuances of such an important and complex position so quickly is impressive.
“For him to make the transition from playing wide receiver to quarterback speaks volumes about how smart he is,” Gould said. “The young man has a big arm; he can make every throw. But the greatest thing for him is he has five quality receivers.”
UCD struggled defensively through its first five games before putting together its best performance in last Saturday’s 24-3 loss at defending conference champion Southern Utah.
The Aggies had a season-high four sacks and held the Thunderbirds to 260 total yards, the lowest output by a UCD opponent this season. The Aggies also allowed season lows in rushing yards (77), passing yards (183), first downs (12) and plays (59). They did it without injured starting linebackers Russell Reeder and Brady Stibi.
“I was pleased how our defense stepped up,” Gould said. “But we’ve got to get back to playing our kind of offense this week.”
Against Southern Utah, UCD managed just 290 total yards with reserve quarterback Brock Dale filling in for injured starter Ben Scott. Dale was limited to 219 passing yards, though his receivers dropped several passes, and the Thunderbirds held UCD to 71 rushing yards.
Scott, who has practiced all week, could be ready to return against Northern Colorado. The Bears give up an average of 541.6 yards per game, the most in the Big Sky.
One of UCD’s most memorable wins came against Northern Colorado the last time the Bears visited Davis in 2008. Wide receiver Bakari Grant caught the winning 38-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Greg Denham on the game’s final play for a 34-30 victory.
Different directions – Entering Saturday afternoon’s game in Missoula, Montana coach Bob Stitt discussed his team’s consistency while Sacramento State coach Jody Sears bemoaned his team’s inconsistency.
“Just preparing to play very solid football, that’s what I love about my guys now,” Stitt said of his 4-1 team. “It’s the exact same thing every week: the same intensity, the same effort.”
The No. 10 Grizzlies’ only loss came at Cal Poly 42-41 in a Big Sky opener. Montana leads Big Sky defense in total yards allowed (295.8), rushing yards (115.4) allowed and third-down conversions allowed (28.6 percent). On offense, the Grizzlies rank second in the Big Sky in scoring at 42.4 points per game.
The Hornets, coming off a 40-7 loss to No. 22 North Dakota last Saturday, are last in scoring (20.3 points).
Sears was shocked at how poorly his team played in front of a homecoming crowd of nearly 10,000 fans after the Hornets’ emotional 41-38 comeback win the week before over Montana State.
“Long story short, we didn’t play well at all,” Sears said.
Sac State has never won in Missoula and has just one win in its 19 meetings against the traditional Big Sky power.