It’s been too long since the Causeway Classic had this much at stake, and it’s about time.
If Sacramento State and UC Davis want to rev up the region’s football brand, it has to make this rivalry game mean something. In recent years, the Causeway was purely for bragging rights and to save face from sagging seasons.
Still, winning last year’s game wasn’t enough to earn Ron Gould a contract extension with UCD. In came new coach and a familiar face in Dan Hawkins, the fiery one-time Aggies fullback. UCD at 5-5 has shown marked improvement, has been entertaining and the Aggies feature a bona fide star in receiver Keelan Doss.
A UCD win Saturday at Hornet Stadium will give the Aggies their first winning season in seven years.
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The Hornets are rolling, having throttled Cal Poly 49-14 on Saturday for the program’s first victory in San Luis Obispo since 1999. Sac State was 2-17 against coach Tim Walsh from his time at Cal Poly and, earlier, at Portland State.
The 6-4 Hornets are 5-2 in the Big Sky Conference, already the most league wins in program history. But will a victory help coach Jody Sears with a contract extension? He wants to remain as he winds down the fourth and final year of his deal, understanding full well that this is a business of results.
“We want to be here,” he said recently. “I am not working for my next gig. The big time is where my feet are right now.”
Should Sac State prevail, the Hornets would be in the conversation for an FCS playoff bid, the first for either Sac State or UCD. The Hornets own a 54-27 September rout of first-place Southern Utah, which just rolled UCD 42-27.
Sears’ young team has played inspired, including scores of local recruits such as Imannual Anderson, Mister Harriel, Ernest Jenkins, Tyler Meteer and Dre Terrell on defense as well as running back Elijah Dotson and tight end Stone Sander on offense.
First-year Hornets athletic director Mark Orr said no coaching decisions will be made until after the season, when the last of the equipment has been stored away, though he did say he was pleased with how the team has fared. Sac State won two games in each of the past two seasons, undone by injuries and shoddy defense. Defense has been a strength this season, and it will surely focus on Doss, who torched Sac State for four touchdown receptions last season.
O’Brien honored – Ken O’Brien, perhaps UCD’s finest player, was honored at halftime of Saturday’s game against Southern Utah by becoming the first to have his name and number placed on the Aggie Pride Wall, just above Jim Sochor Field.
O’Brien was a first-round pick in the famed 1983 NFL draft heavy on quarterbacks, including Todd Blackledge, Tony Eason, John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.
Before the game, O’Brien and teammates from the 1982 UCD team that reached the Division II finals were recognized. Hawkins was on that team.
Homecoming treat – It was a triumphant return to Yolo County for first-year Southern Utah coach Demario Warren, who was a three-year letterman at running back for UCD after growing up in Fairfield.
A win over Northern Arizona on Saturday would assure the Thunderbirds of an automatic FCS playoff spot.
“I’m just proud of the way the guys came out,” Warren said. “That’s a good football team we just beat, so, really proud of the guys to stick together and finish the game out. It’s a huge victory for our program, huge victory for this team.”
Beaver ball – American River College is ranked No. 1 in Northern California, No. 3 in the state and No. 4 nationally, and the Beavers have more to play for. They will host Laney College of Oakland on Saturday at 6 p.m. in a California Community College Athletic Association NorCal opener.
The Beavers lost to state and national No. 1 Fullerton in the state finals last season. ARC (9-1) is the top seed in NorCal and would host the NorCal finals on Nov. 25 if it beats Laney. ARC beat Sierra 45-28 on Saturday as Hunter Rodrigues passed for 232 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 76 and a score. Evyn Holtz rushed for 95 yards and a score and caught a touchdown.
Demps day – Wyatt Demps of Nevada by way of Pleasant Grove caught seven passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns and blocked a punt that was returned by teammate Dameon Baber for a score in a 59-14 win over San Jose State. With 19 career touchdowns, Demps moved into 10 place on the school’s all-time list.
Rally or die time – Jake Browning wasn’t at his best this past Friday and neither was Washington, which fell 30-22 at Stanford, serving a crucial blow to the team’s playoff chances. Said the Folsom High School product, “Now we’re going to find out who rallies and who will roll over and die.”
Goodbye, Humboldt? – The Humboldt State football program braces for bad news, as it seems headed for the chopping block as the last Division II program in the state left standing.
Coaches have suspended recruiting. Finances, not wins and losses, seem to have made Humboldt State another casualty as it will likely join other football teams in California that went under over the decades, including Chico State, Fullerton, Hayward, Long Beach State, Pacific, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco State, Santa Clara and Sonoma State, among others.