College Sports

UC Davis hopes to hit jackpot in Reno with upset over Nevada

Aggies head coach Ron Gould during a practice at UC Davis in Davis on April 17, 2015.
Aggies head coach Ron Gould during a practice at UC Davis in Davis on April 17, 2015.

UC Davis coach Ron Gould said he will have a better idea of where his healthier, deeper and more experienced football team will stand when it opens its season Thursday night at Nevada.

Nevada, the first of two Football Bowl Subdivision programs the Aggies will face this season, will be heavy favorites against the Aggies, who are coming off a 2-9 season – their worst finish since 1960 – though they return 66 letter winners and 14 starters.

The Wolf Pack is ranked 91st by Athlon Sports and 92nd by CBS Sports in preseason FBS polls coming off a 7-6 season in which it lost in the New Orleans Bowl to Louisiana Lafayette 16-3. But Gould played up the David vs. Goliath theme during a weekly teleconference.

He called Nevada’s offensive line one of the “most impressive I’ve ever seen,” praised running backs Don Jackson (Laguna Creek High School) and James Butler for their physicality and explosiveness, and said there is no way the Aggies could duplicate in practice the speed and precision they’ll see from the Wolf Pack’s pistol offense. He also praised Nevada defensive end Ian Seau, nephew of Hall of Famer Junior Seau, as a player who can disrupt an entire offense with his pass rushing.

“It will let us know where we are at as a team,” Gould said. “… We’ll be able to take a lot from the game.”

Gould will watch his running backs closely. Junior Manusamoa Luuga and sophomore Justin Williams are battling for the starting job. Luuga rushed for 81 yards as a true freshman two years ago in the Aggies’ 36-7 loss at Nevada while filling in for the injured starter.

The Nevada players say they aren’t overlooking the Aggies, despite upcoming games against nationally ranked Arizona in Reno and at Texas A&M.

“When you play (a Football Championship Subdivision) opponent they have nothing to lose,” Wolf Pack senior linebacker Bryan Lane Jr. (Christian Brothers), told the Reno Gazette. “They want to upset us. They want to put us in the headlines: ‘Nevada takes loss to UC Davis.’ We can’t look past them.”

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP