Jake Maier freely admits he’s a mama’s boy.
Maier just seems to play better when his mother, Lori, is in the stands at Aggie Stadium on the campus of UC Davis.
Lori and Jim Maier, Jake’s father, will be in attendance Saturday – along with loads of other family member and friends – when Maier leads the No. 6-seeded Aggies against Northern Iowa in the second round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
Kickoff is 4 p.m.
Maier over time also realized that home is where the heart is, or at least his home state.
He graduated from St. Paul High School in Santa Fe Springs in 2015 and took a scholarship offer from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. But the distance from home and Maier’s distance to the starting QB position was too great, he said. So he returned to California after redshirting.
“I knew that spring ball at Sacred Heart would determine if I stayed or not and I was the third or fourth guy on the depth chart,” Maier said. “I had a chat with my family and a lot of it was just financial. It cost too much for them to come out to watch games, and it was the first time I was away from home.
“And, yeah, I’ll say I’m a mama’s boy.”
So Maier spent a season at Long Beach City College where he passed for 3,689 yards and 38 touchdowns against just eight interceptions. He attracted the attention of UCD assistant coach Cody Hawkins, the son of UC Davis coach, and Aggies offensive coordinator Tim Plough.
The assistant coaches marveled at his Maier’s quick release and accuracy and quickly relayed to Dan Hawkins that they may have found a gem.
“He’s an extremely accurate thrower who rarely misses,” Dan Hawkins said. “He can make all sorts of off-platform throws, has great intellect and a great handle of the game. He also runs better than most people think, and can throw the deep ball better than people think.”
Maier has, in just two seasons, led the Aggies to some lofty heights. The Aggies won a share of the Big Sky Conference title this season after going 9-2 overall and 7-1 in the Big Sky. It was UC Davis’ first league title since 2009 when it was a member of the Great West Conference. This is also the program’s first FCS postseason berth. The No. 6 ranking gave the team a first-round bye.
Maier last season passed for 3,667 yards and 26 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions. This season, he’s thrown for 3,387 yards with 31 touchdowns and cut his interceptions almost in half with just six. Maier was selected as the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year.
Maier said Colorado State and Northern Colorado both offered him scholarships when at Long Beach City College, but when the Aggies came calling he knew it was a good fit. The proximity to his parents didn’t hurt the sales pitch, either.
“I made the (recruiting) trip to Northern Colorado and, after UC Davis came to talk, I didn’t trip back (to Colorado),” Maier said. “My family will always be a part of this football experience and the drive up is only five-and-a-half hours or so.”
Maier said he was unaware of the quarterback lineage that has helped define the Aggies program, especially in the second half of its 100 years of playing football. He didn’t learn about former celebrated Aggies signal callers such as Ken O’Brien and J.T. O’Sullivan until he got on campus, and then he got a heavy dose of Aggies history from former players, professors and fans.
“Playing in home games at Davis and to see all the alumni support and seeing the students enjoying a football revival that reminds them of the 1970s and 1980s has been really special,” Maier said. “It’s been surreal. All the hard work the players and coaches and everyone that plays a role in the program… it’s just been super rewarding.”
Maier knows for the Aggies to have success against Northern Iowa on Saturday, he’ll have to be upright and mobile. No matter how accurate he is, he can’t throw the ball very far, or on point, if an opposing player is driving him to the turf.
“We have to take care of the line of scrimmage and find a way to neutralize their huge defensive line,” Maier said. “If we do that, I feel we have the advantage in skill positions and there’s no one out there that can stop (Keelan) Doss.”
Doss also is on the Walter Payton Watch list for the best FCS player in the nation. He was a finalist last season and was selected as the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year after catching 115 passes for 1,499 yards and seven touchdowns. No player at the Football Bowl Subdivision or FCS levels had more receiving yards, receiving yards per game (136.3) and receptions per game (10.5) than Doss did last season.
Doss was projected by many to be a first-round NFL draft pick, but chose to come back to UC Davis for his senior season. Doss had 100 catches for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018.
“It’s hard to explain because that’s really rare, in my opinion, when you get a quarterback and a receiver on the same page from the very start,” Doss said. “I don’t know man, it was just during the summer, I remember we would come out here, work out a couple of times, and there was just a bond there.
“We felt connected as soon as we got together and started throwing and everything. We just built on that connection into the season. We just play football. We don’t think about it too much and that just allows us to go out there and play free and confidently. It allows us to make plays at a more efficient level.”
Maier said Doss’s decision to come back for his senior season was inspiring. The pair are co-captains along with junior linebacker Nas Alesi. Maier was quick to praise his senior receiver.
“Keelan will be a ‘Sunday Special’ very soon and he’s a big reason why we’re where we are this season,” Maier said. “He came back. That meant a lot to everyone here.”
Maier agreed with Doss that the two had an uncanny chemistry from the first time he threw a football at Doss and Doss caught it. There haven’t been too many dropped balls between them in the two years they have been teammates.
“He’s not tough to get used to,” Maier said. “His catch radius makes me look really good and when you have that kind of intelligence on the field … man, he brings it every single Saturday, and I’m taking advantage of it.”