Local college football notes: Sac State, UC Davis aren't cooking at home

10/24/2013 12:00 AM

10/24/2013 5:42 PM

UC Davis and Sacramento State each have one quality Big Sky Conference football win at home this season. Both have two dominating conference wins on the road.

So what gives?

No doubt quality of opponent plays a factor. All four wins have come against teams in the bottom half of the Big Sky standings.

Normally, playing in front of a home crowd is supposed to provide a bigger boost than playing in front of a hostile crowd on the road.

"You would think you'd play better at home," first-year UC Davis coach Ron Gould said. "We haven't given that much thought, but our concentration and effort on the road has been spectacular."

UC Davis (3-5, 3-1 Big Sky) defeated Northern Colorado 34-18 on Saturday – a game the Aggies led 31-7 after three quarters – in Greeley, Colo. They defeated Southern Utah 21-3 in Cedar City, Utah, on Oct. 5.

Sac State (4-4, 3-1 Big Sky) also won on the road Saturday, soundly beating North Dakota 31-7 in Grand Forks, N.D. On Sept. 28, the Hornets stopped an eight-game losing streak in games played in Ogden, Utah, by topping Weber State 31-3.

"I don't really have an answer to that," Sac State coach Marshall Sperbeck said. "If I did, we'd probably be better at home. Part of it is who you are playing. Part of it is how your guys prepare for that week. I am grateful we've been able to win a couple of games on the road in conference. Hopefully, we can maintain that with some tough games coming up down the stretch."

UC Davis' lone home win came against Idaho State 30-13 in the Big Sky opener Sept. 28, a game that wasn't decided until the fourth quarter.

Otherwise, the Aggies have lost at home to Big Sky members Montana (42-7), Portland State (41-10) and Northern Arizona (21-10), though the latter two officially were nonconference games. Only the Northern Arizona game was competitive.

Sac State has a Big Sky win at home over Northern Colorado (37-21) but has lost late leads in falling to Southern Utah 24-21 in overtime and Northern Arizona 39-38.

The Hornets' other home win was over Southern Oregon, an NAIA team, and Sac State had to rally to win 63-56 in overtime.

UC Davis senior strong safety Aarynn Jones has one theory for why winning at home has been tougher for the Aggies this season.

"There's more focus when we're on the road," said Jones, who had six tackles against Northern Colorado. "We get away from some of the distractions in Davis. At home, you're chilling sometimes with friends, watching TV."

Sac State sophomore defensive end Darnell Sankey said a hostile road crowd can sometimes work to the visitors' advantage.

"It gets you fired up," said Sankey, who was named a Football Championship Subdivision National Defensive Player of the Week for making 10 tackles, including 4 1/2 for loss, three sacks and forcing and recovering a fumble at Weber State.

Sac State, which has a bye this week, is 5-5 in road games over the last two seasons.

That includes a win at Colorado and a loss at New Mexico State last season and losses at San Jose State and Arizona State this season, all higher-level Football Bowl Subdivision programs.

That's pretty good for a Hornets program that lost 18 consecutive road games from 2002 to 2006.

UC Davis went 1-5 on the road last season and lost its first two road games this year at South Dakota and Nevada before winning at Southern Utah and Northern Colorado.

The Aggies will try for road win No. 3 on Saturday at Montana State (5-2, 3-0 Big Sky).

A win in Bozeman, in a stadium that seats 17,777 but draws standing-room-only crowds of nearly 20,000, would be monumental.

The Bobcats are ranked No. 5 among FCS schools and have won outright or shared the past three Big Sky championships.

Northern Colorado player suspended – The Big Sky suspended Northern Colorado's Courtney Hall for targeting a hit on UC Davis quarterback Randy Wright.

The junior defensive back was penalized and ejected with 3:37 remaining in the third quarter for hitting Wright with the crown of his helmet after Wright rushed for 7 yards.

By NCAA rule, Hall is suspended for the first half of Northern Colorado's next game, Nov. 2 against Montana State. Hall also was suspended last year for a similar hit against a Weber State player.

The Wright stuff – Wright set a school record for career passing attempts (1,170) on Saturday, surpassing Jon Grant (1,154). Wright is now second in completions (679) to Grant's 690 after completing 27 of 37 passes for 310 yards against Northern Colorado.

Wright's four touchdown passes moved him into third place on the career list with 51. He needs 23 yards to become the third Aggies quarterback to throw for more than 8,000.

Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.

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