College Sports

Rising to occasion, UC Davis football earns first win

UC Davis Aggies tight end Atlas Smith (45) receives the ball during the first half at a game between the UC Davis Aggies and the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, at Aggie Stadium in Davis, Calif.
UC Davis Aggies tight end Atlas Smith (45) receives the ball during the first half at a game between the UC Davis Aggies and the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, at Aggie Stadium in Davis, Calif. aseng@sacbee.com

Defensive tackle Kyle DeVaughn is one of four senior starters for a UC Davis football team that was winless, frustrated and error-prone through its first five games.

DeVaughn and his Aggie teammates decided enough was enough against Northern Arizona on Saturday, especially on homecoming night at Aggie Stadium.

Showing that there was still a lot to play for this season, the Aggies stun- ned the Lumberjacks 38-24 in front of an announced crowd of 6,432.

It marked UCD’s first home win in more than a year and No. 500 for the program.

UCD (1-5, 1-2) won in impressive fashion against a quality Big Sky Conference team in the Lumberjacks (3-3, 1-2), coming off a big win over No. 18 Montana State.

“It’s so amazing,” said DeVaughn, who had a fumble recovery and two sacks. “This is our first homecoming win since I’ve been here. A lot of the seniors before this game said, ‘We have to do this. This is our last chance.’ 

UCD had more than a two-to-one advantage in time of possession. The Aggies didn’t commit a turnover, and DeVaughn’s first-quarter fumble recovery resulted in a UCD touchdown and confidence boost.

Quarterback Ben Scott completed 20 of 35 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns. Manusamoa Luuga rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries and had five catches for 62 yards, and true freshman Joshua Kelley rushed for 94 yards on 20 carries. The Aggies had 497 total yards to Northern Arizona’s 430.

UCD coach Ron Gould commended his players for staying positive through the challenging early season.

“I talked to them about their character, perseverance and what they have overcome,” Gould said. “They came out and played their hearts out. Tonight was an extraordinary effort by this team and by this staff.”

After a 17-17 halftime tie, the Aggies broke the game open in the third quarter when Scott threw touchdown passes of three yards to Chris Martin and 25 yards to tight end Nehemiah Winston. That put UCD ahead 31-17 with 5:11 to play in the third quarter.

The defense forced Northern Arizona into two punts and stopped them on downs. The Aggies then finished off the Lumberjacks with a 13-play, 71-yard drive that used up 7:56 of the clock. Luuga capped it with one-yard touchdown run with 2:47 to play.

UC Davis did a lot right in the first half but saw its momentum take a hit when Northern Arizona went 76 yards in 33 seconds to tie the Aggies 17-17 with 12 seconds to play.

It came right after the Aggies ran a grinding 14-play, 59-yard drive that led to a Brady Stuart 38-yard field goal for a 17-10 lead with 51 seconds to play.

It was the 45th field goal of Stuart’s career, two short of the school record. However, he saw his streak of 10 consecutive field goals dating to last year end with a 46-yard miss on the Aggies’ first possession of the game. Otherwise, the Aggies counted on big plays on their first two scoring drives.

A Martin 28-yard punt return and a 30-yard pass from Scott to Alex Cannon led to a one-yard touchdown run by Luuga with 4:20 to play in the first quarter to tie the score 7-7.

The Aggies went ahead 14-7 with 1:07 to play in the first quarter when Scott found Ramon Vargas over the middle for a 51-yard scoring strike on first down.

The touchdown was set up by Northern Arizona quarterback Case Cookus’ fumble after a hit by Darryl Graham at the Aggies’ 25-yard line.

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