UC Davis will play Oregon for the first time Saturday, but it won’t be the first time the Aggies will go against Ducks senior quarterback Dakota Prukop, a graduate transfer.
While at Montana State, Prukop had one of the best games of his career against the Aggies in their Big Sky Conference game in 2014, throwing for four touchdowns and running for two more in a 77-37 victory at Aggie Stadium. One week earlier, he had an eight-touchdown performance in a thrilling 59-56 win at Sacramento State.
“I have a lot of bad memories playing against that young man,” UCD coach Ron Gould said. “We know Dakota is a tremendous athlete, a good quarterback. He can beat you with his arm, beat you with his feet.”
Gould said Prukop is even more dangerous now because No. 24 Oregon has superior receivers and running backs, but he said the Aggies can’t be star-struck by playing the perennial Pacific-12 Conference power in Eugene.
“It’s not about who we play but how we play,” said Gould, a former Oregon defensive back. “We know we are playing one of the best schools in the country. There is no secret to that. But what I want to see us do is come out and play four great quarters and let the chips fall where they may.”
Oregon is coming off a mildly disappointing 9-4 season in 2015, a record the Aggies only dream about since their move to Division I. UCD has had back-to-back 2-9 seasons.
Although Prukop said it was a fun game playing against UCD two years ago, “that’s in the past.”
“They’re going to come out, and they’re going to look to make an upset,” Prukop said. “They’re at the (Football Championship Subdivision) level, and I know what that feels like. This team is not going to lay down. The level of play isn’t that big of a difference.”
If UCD upsets Oregon, it would supplant the Aggies’ 20-17 win over Stanford in 2005 as the Aggies’ biggest football upset. Stanford was 5-6 that season.
The NCAA allows Prukop, who has earned his undergraduate degree but had not used all of his athletic eligibility, to play immediately at a Football Bowl Subdivision school. Quarterback Vernon Adams left Eastern Washington with a year of eligibility remaining to play for Oregon last season.
Prukop, who redshirted at Montana State in 2012, graduated with a degree in economics. He is one of at least a half-dozen prominent FCS players who have joined FBS teams this season using the graduate transfer rule.
While Prukop grew up in Texas, his family has ties to UCD. His father, Tim, played for the Aggies before going on to coach at Arizona State, USC and with the Sacramento Attack Arena football team. He’s now a technology executive in Austin, Texas.
Hornets open at home – Sac State coach Jody Sears is interested to see how the offensive and defensive lines perform when the Hornets host Western Oregon on Saturday.
“That’s the biggest thing I’m looking forward to on Saturday,” Sears said. “I want to see how far they have come.”
Sears felt the Hornets wore down at the end of last season and couldn’t physically match up in the trenches against Big Sky opponents. So he brought back Will Plemons, a Hornets assistant in 2007, to build up the defensive line and close friend and former Eastern Washington and Washington State head coach Paul Wulff to revitalize the run game and offensive line.
“We’ve been eating and lifting because getting bigger and stronger has been a key point of emphasis,” Sears said. “Last year toward the end of the season we didn’t have any tread on the tires. We feel we have the personnel to be much better than we were last year.”
Western Oregon, a Division II school in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, was 7-4 last season. The Hornets were 2-9.