It seemed appropriate that on a day that UC Davis honored the late Jim Sochor, the Aggies would turn in a throwback performance worthy of the legendary coach – and against their bitter rivals to boot.
Under a leaden sky, the Aggies put together their best performance in an otherwise disappointing season and rolled the Hornets 48-30 on Saturday in the Causeway Classic before a rain-drenched announced crowd of 6,156.
Senior quarterback Ben Scott completed 14 of 24 passes for 292 yards and a career-high five touchdowns, senior running back Manusamoa Luuga rushed for a career-high 249 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries, and sophomore wide receiver Keelan Doss caught seven passes for 207 yards and a school record-tying four touchdowns as the Aggies (3-8, 2-6 Big Sky Conference) climbed to 45-18 in the annual series. The Aggies had 598 total yards.
UCD’s dominance of Sac State (2-9, 2-6) started during Sochor’s tenure, as he won 18 consecutive games before losing to the Hornets in his last year before he retired.
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Before Saturday’s game, UC Davis unveiled a bronze statue of the beloved coach at the main entrance to the stadium.
Sochor, who died last November at the age of 77 and is a College Football Hall of Fame inductee, turned UCD into an NCAA Division II power. He notched a school-record 156 wins.
UCD fourth-year coach Ron Gould said Sochor was a guiding light and mentor for him.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am for us to win this game for coach Sochor,” Gould said. “Last year after we won the Causeway, I got a text from him to congratulate me. The goal was to bring the trophy to his house, and then two days later he passed away. So I didn’t have the opportunity. So this is for him and for his family. He was a special man.”
Luuga, who set the tone by running for a 58-yard touchdown on UCD’s first play from scrimmage, didn’t practice most of the week because of a back injury he suffered the week before at Montana State.
Yet his 34 carries was also a career high as he finished the season with 1,077 rushing yards.
“The reality is this is my last game ever,” Luuga said. “I wanted to give it my all, not only for coach G but for my teammates. So I wanted to empty the tank, and today I did that.”
Sac State senior running back Jordan Robinson rushed for 152 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries, but quarterback Nate Ketteringham was limited to 75 passing yards.
Sac State, trailing 34-17 at the half, almost climbed back into the game early in the third quarter.
The Hornets stopped the Aggies on downs on their opening series, then Jaime Medina booted a 35-yard field goal and Manny Scott-Anderson returned a Luuga fumble 22 yards for a touchdown to put the Hornets within seven points.
Luuga fumbled on the first play after the kickoff and Sac State’s Marcus Bruce recovered the ball on the UCD 26. But after video review, the officials ruled Luuga’s knee was down before he fumbled and the Aggies retained possession.
“He was clearly down,” Sac State coach Jody Sears said.
UCD then went 75 yards in seven plays, with Scott hitting tight end Nehemiah Winston for a 14-yard touchdown.
That put the Aggies up 41-27 with 6:24 to go in the third. After Sac State missed a field goal, Scott and Doss combined for a 58-yard touchdown with 14:10 to play for a 48-27 lead.
“He’s a really good player,” Sears said of Doss. “The quarterback had a hell of day, too. He was on the money. The margin of error at this level is nil, and you’ve got to make plays. They made plays and we didn’t.”