College Sports

Local college notes: UC Davis, Sac State football search for wins

Unless a reversal starts this weekend, 2015 is shaping up as the worst season in decades for area college football.

UC Davis and Sacramento State have one win each after seven games, and they’re coming off their worst performances of the season last Saturday, one-sided road losses to Northern Colorado and Southern Utah, respectively.

UCD (1-6, 1-3) is 12th and Sac State (1-6, 0-4) is last in the 13-team Big Sky Conference, and UC Davis coach Ron Gould and Sac State coach Jody Sears are being seared on social media.

“We can’t worry about what people are saying or what our record is ... ,” Sears said. “We’ve got to focus on our work ethic and the consistency with which we’re playing. … We’ve got to keep growing.”

Even though UCD already is assured of its fifth consecutive losing season, Gould said his players are working harder than ever.

“Practice has been real good,” Gould said. “We looked at the film. These are smart guys. They know we weren’t very good (against Northern Colorado). … We didn’t execute worth a darn on Saturday.”

UC Davis and Sac State play at home Saturday. UCD faces Big Sky co-leader Southern Utah (4-2, 3-0) at Aggie Stadium. Sac State takes on Idaho State (2-5, 1-3) in its homecoming game at Hornet Stadium.

Sac State continued to struggle offensively in Saturday’s 44-0 rout by Southern Utah, which has allowed only three points in three conference games. The Hornets are averaging a conference-worst 15.4 points.

Freshman Nathan Ketteringham made his first college start and completed 14 of 33 passes for 117 yards with an interception. Sears gave Ketteringham mixed reviews.

“He had a pretty tough hill to climb going against the best defense in the country,” Sears said. “But I liked his poise and his management was spot on. Now the execution, that was a different story. But that’s why we are out here practicing.”

Ketteringham is expected to be Sac State’s quarterback the rest of the season, if he can stay healthy. Daniel Kniffin (shoulder), Kolney Cassel (shoulder) and Nolan Merker (leg), the Hornets’ top three quarterbacks at the start of the season, are out with injuries.

Former Antelope High School standout Mister Harriel, also a freshman, made his college debut Saturday and gained 29 yards on eight carries as Jordan Robinson’s backup.

“He’s a gem, so you are going to see more of him,” said Sears, who has used 27 redshirt and true freshmen this season. “He brings a little juice to the table.”

Idaho State quarterback Michael Sanders, who has thrown for 17 touchdowns, injured his leg in last Saturday’s 45-28 loss to No. 7 Eastern Washington. Sanders also may have played his way out of the lineup by throwing three interceptions and fumbling against the Eagles. Redshirt freshman Tanner Gueller would be his likely replacement.

The Aggies will play perhaps the Big Sky’s best team. Southern Utah is first in the conference in total defense (317.8 yards per game) and fourth in the Football Championship Subdivision in scoring defense (12.8 points per game). The Thunderbirds have outscored their last four opponents 173-10 and have an FCS-leading 13 interceptions.

Southern Utah’s defense is led by two-time All-Big Sky end James Cowser, who broke the conference record for tackles for loss with 28 1/2 last season, and safety Miles Killebrew.

“They've got an unbelievable, unbelievable defense,” Gould said. “I’m going to try and call coach (Ed) Lamb and see if he can have James Cowser stay home. … Killebrew is, in my mind, an NFL safety. He’s very physical, very rangy.”

UCD has been on the opposite end defensively, allowing too many big plays and quick drives with a lineup that has been in flux because of injuries. Teams also have scored 29 of 31 times inside the Aggies’ 20-yard line, including 25 touchdowns. Northern Colorado scored touchdowns on its first seven possessions in last Saturday’s 56-27 rout.

The Aggies got some good news this week, when quarterback Ben Scott returned to practice. He had to leave in the fourth quarter against Northern Colorado with neck and shoulder injuries, and former Inderkum standout C.J. Spencer, a redshirt freshman, played well in a pinch-hitting role.

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP