FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – After falling behind by 16 in the first half, the UC Davis Aggies stood at their own 33-yard line with a shot to snap their six-game losing streak.
However, Ben Scott threw an interception on the second play of the Aggies’ final drive with 1:11 remaining in the game and the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (7-3, 5-1 Big Sky Conference) ran out the clock by taking knees for a 23-21 victory.
“We let one get away from us, but it has nothing to do with the kids. This one here is on me,” said coach Ron Gould. “Poor call at the end there. Very last pass, it is not on the players, it is on me.”
Scott was picked off on first-and-10 at his own 44 after Northern Arizona had been hit with a roughing-the-passer call to start the drive. The Aggies (1-8, 0-6 Big Sky) had rallied with a pair of touchdown catches from Ramon Vargas in the second half, pulling UC Davis to within a possession after struggling early on.
The Aggies had just 135 yards, nine on the ground, during the first half before hitting their stride in the second. The lone touchdown came on a trick 29-yard touchdown pass from Gabe Manzanares to Mark Martindale.
Scott connected with Vargas on a post route through the middle of the field for a 27-yard score on the team’s second drive of the third quarter. The two connected again for a 47-yard touchdown on a seam route with 8:56 remaining in the game.
“The defensive backs were a little farther back and they were stuffing the box, and we were still running the ball pretty effectively,” Vargas said. “We were trying to take shots all game; we just weren’t getting the right looks. That just happened to be the right look.”
Vargas finished the game with four catches for 97 yards and the two scores. Scott threw for 204 yards on 18-of-29 passing, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
After allowing 23 points to Northern Arizona in the first half, the UC Davis defense shut out the Lumberjacks over the final 30 minutes. The Lumberjacks managed just 74 yards in the second half and were forced to punt the ball five times after scoring on all five first-half possessions.
Despite struggling to get off the field as the Lumberjacks held the ball for 13 minutes in the first quarter, the Aggies’ defense held the Lumberjacks to three first-half field goals to keep the score close.
“I thought our defensive staff did a phenomenal job of getting a bead on what their tendencies were, and we were able to capitalize on that,” Gould said. “The defense gave the offense an opportunity, and gave our team an opportunity, to win the game, and we just fell short.”
After starting out 11 for 14 for 83 yards in the first quarter, Northern Arizona quarterback Jordan Perry finished 23 of 36 for 208 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
The pick by Russell Reeder with 10:49 left in the fourth quarter was the first takeaway for the Aggies since the Port-land State game on Oct. 4 and set up Vargas’ 47-yard score.
Keleen Culberson finished with two tackles for loss and the Aggies’ lone sack of Perry, as well as a pair of pass breakups.
The Aggies head into next week’s game at Cal Poly (6-4, 5-2 Big Sky) on a seven-game losing streak, their longest since 1959, when they finished 1-8.