College Sports

Local college football: UC Davis mostly healthy for Big Sky opener

Sacramento State football coach says players need to make plays

On Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, Sacramento State football coach Jody Sears discusses what the Hornets need to do to prevail in Saturday's Big Sky Conference opener at Idaho State.
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On Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, Sacramento State football coach Jody Sears discusses what the Hornets need to do to prevail in Saturday's Big Sky Conference opener at Idaho State.

UC Davis was plagued by injuries the last two seasons, a big reason the Aggies had two wins each year.

But even after games against Football Bowl Subdivision schools Oregon and Wyoming, the Aggies are fairly healthy entering Saturday’s Big Sky Conference opener against Weber State at Aggie Stadium.

“Just like everybody in the country, we’ve got a few guys banged up, so they don’t get an opportunity to take as many reps as you would like in practice,” UCD coach Ron Gould said. “But all in all, I’m pleased with our health.”

Senior linebacker Russell Reeder, senior defensive tackle Inoke Raikadroka and junior fullback Derek Baljeu, starters held out of last Saturday’s 45-22 loss at Wyoming, are expected to be back against Weber State.

Senior quarterback Ben Scott, who left in the fourth quarter with a leg injury, also is ready to play.

Last year, UC Davis lost 15 starters, including sophomore Keelan Doss, this year’s leading receiver who missed 2015 with a foot injury.

“Hopefully we can avoid that injury bug this year, and luck will be on our side,” said Doss, who had 100-plus receiving yards against Oregon and Wyoming.

Weber State beat UC Davis 23-3 last year in Ogden, holding the Aggies to 174 yards, including 28 rushing. But Weber State coach Jay Hill expects a much more challenging game this year and not just because it’s a road game.

“Last year, we played well defensively,” Hill said. “But last year is last year. They are playing at a much higher level.”

Gould said the Aggies’ two biggest tasks will be to establish a run game and contain Weber State quarterback Jadrian Clark.

Clark passed for 380 yards and a touchdown, rushed for 71 yards and scored the game winner on a 10-yard run with a 1:42 to play in Weber State’s 14-7 nonconference win over Sacramento State in Ogden last Saturday.

“Clark is superdynamic,” Gould said. “He can beat you with his arm, beat you with his legs.”

Role reversal – For several seasons, Sac State put up record offensive numbers behind quarterback Garrett Safron and wide receiver DeAndre Carter, but the defense struggled.

But since their departure two years ago, the Hornets have struggled offensively as the defense appears to be coming around.

Sac State ranks last in the Big Sky in points (13.3) and pass efficiency (91.6) and 12th in third-down conversions (28.3) entering its conference opener Saturday at Idaho State.

Coach Jody Sears sat sophomore quarterback Nate Ketteringham early in the second quarter and went with junior Kolney Cassel the rest of the way in the loss to Weber State.

Sears said he is leaning toward playing both against Idaho State, which committed five turnovers, including four interceptions, in a 37-7 loss at Oregon State last Saturday.

“We’ve got to score,” Sears said. “We’ve been nonexistent offensively the last two weeks. We have faced two pretty good defenses, but there are no excuses for the level of play and execution and our inability to sustain drives and score.”

Hornets add another Aztecs game – Sac State will open the 2020 season against San Diego State at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Aztecs and Hornets are scheduled to meet for the first time in 2018.

San Diego State, the defending Mountain West Conference champion, has the second-longest active winning streak among FBS teams at 13.

The Hornets have six other games against FBS opponents in the coming seasons: at Idaho next fall, at Arizona State and Fresno State in 2019, at Washington in 2020, at Cal in 2021 and at Fresno State in 2022.

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP