It was cloudy and mild on Saturday afternoon at Jim Sochor Field, ideal conditions for a Big Sky Conference opener between storied programs.
And it was festive with 10,011 packed in, including kids chasing down Frisbees, footballs and smaller siblings on the berms just beyond the goal posts.
But when those grassy pursuits trump some of the action on the field, it’s a bad look and feel for UC Davis.
The No. 4 Aggies trailed No. 17 Montana by 10 at the half before falling 45-20 in a meeting of ranked FCS programs in a series that dates to 1926.
Dalton Sneed sparkled in his quarterback duel with Jake Maier as Montana (4-1) moved to 8-1 all time against UCD, including 4-0 in Yolo County since 1995. UCD is 3-2 this season, having lost last week at FCS No. 1 North Dakota State 27-16.
A senior from Scottsdale, Arizona, Sneed passed for 268 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions as he continues his strong play a year after earning Big Sky Newcomer of the Year accolades.
Meier, a third-year starter soaring up the UCD career lists, passed for 275 yards and three touchdowns. His 69 career touchdowns are second in program history, trailing J.T. O’Sullivan. But Maier doesn’t play defense, and the Aggies allowed a season-high 528 yards.
“Credit to Montana,” UCD coach Dan Hawkins said. “They out coached us, out played us, energized us. Today was tough. It’s a good learning experience. We’ll come back with resolve.”
UCD, winners of the Big Sky last season, plays at North Dakota on Saturday.
Sneed initially attended UNLV to play for coach Bobby Hauck, but wound up at a community college in Kansas before Hauck brought him to Montana.
Hauck is in his second tour as the Grizzlies coach. In his first Montana run from 2003-09, Hauck led the Grizzlies to seven consecutive Big Sky championships and to the FCS championship game three times.
Montana has won 18 Big Sky banners, the first in 1969 and the most recent in 2009.
The Grizzlies missed the playoffs for the third successive season, a severe drought for a program that has reached the postseason an FCS-record 23 times.
At UNLV, Sneed became friends with Kevin Thomson, now a third-year star at Sacramento State.
Sneed last season had 440 yards of total offense against Sac State with four touchdowns, including 205 yards rushing. Sac State hosts Montana on Oct. 19.