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UCD sees themselves as equals in matchup with Montana State
UC Davis football fans, who hear head coach Bob Biggs talk about Saturday’s game at Montana State will start swelling up with Aggie pride. All that is left is for the UCD squad to back up their coach in a hostile Bozeman, Mont. environment against the sixth-ranked team in the Football Championship Subdivision.
“My attitude is every FCS game is an important game, regardless of who you are playing or how they are ranked. This week it happens to be Montana State,” Biggs said. “I just think that our expectations have to be that whenever we play anybody — ranked or unranked — we are now at a point where we need to be one of those teams. These are opportunities to show that.
“The expectation is that we are at that point where we should be one of the better teams, they should be talking about us in the same breath that we are talking about them.”
It’s clear that the 19th-year coach has a high opinion of the talent on this Aggie team. And to him, last week’s performance against Arizona State — even in a 48-14 loss — was proof.
Against the powerful Sun Devils, UCD showed spunk in the run game, poise at quarterback and real skill on the defensive side of the ball. Facing a Bobcat squad that also played an Pac-12 team in Week 1 — a 27-10 loss to Utah — the Aggies fell a similar effort by them in Week 2 will produce a key FCS win.
“I don’t think Montana State’s better than we are athletically, and so consequently I fully expect that we should have the same expectation to win that they have,” Biggs said. “That’s how we have to go out at and play.”
Even with an inexperience group of receivers, UCD is clearly confident that last year’s Great West Rookie of the Year Randy Wright can be dangerous in the passing game. But it was the running attack, powered by a strong performance from the offensive line, that showed the biggest signs of improvement against the Sun Devils.
Experienced players like center Ray Wilburn, guard Sean Davies and tackle Robert Ayotte teamed with redshirt freshman Ian Joseph and Jimmy Kunkel to do more than hold their own against ASU’s talented defensive front. The line was especially key to both touchdowns, first opening a hole against what was essentially a goal-line defense on a fourth-and-two that Nick Aprile ran through and ended up 48 yards away in the end zone.
Later, Wright’s pass protection was so good on one play that he could have pulled out a barbecue and grilled a steak. Instead, the sophomore QB chose to hit Tom Hemmingsen for 38 yards down the right sideline, setting up tailback Josh Reese’s one-yard TD run.
The Aggies will need that kind of protection and balance against a tough Bobcat defense.
“They play hard, they’re active with their linebackers (and) they blitz enough to keep you honest,” Biggs said. “They are like a quality FCS program, they are going to be well-coached and play hard.”
On the other side of the ball, it is quarterback DeNarius McGhee that make the MSU offense tick. McGhee is coming off of spectacular freshman season in 2010 and is a a dangerous play-maker. But Biggs thinks his guys have what it takes to deal with the Bobcats’ versatile weapon and points to an underwhelming performance against Utah (16-for-29, 183 yards, two interceptions and one TD).
“Yes he’s unique, but against a quality team last week he looked very average.,” Biggs said ”Does he have the ability to make plays?Absolutely. And we have to be aware of that and certainly we have to contain his ability to make those big plays.
But, again, he has to make (those) plays but we’re gonna make plays to. He’s a good player, but we have good players too.”
Aggie senior linebacker Jordan Glass, one of those good players Biggs mentioned who is part of the unit that will be charged with slowing down McGhee, says his team has a plan:
“He’s a great player and we just can’t give him a lot of time back there,” Glass said. “Whether we are coming on a blitz or just sending just the (defensive line) we’ve got to get to him and force him into some bad decisions, get pressure on him and contain him and not let him get out and run around.”
The former Elk Grove standout added that the UCD players have been looking forward to this game for a long time.
“Everyone marked this on the calendar as soon as they saw it and it will be a great challenge for us, especially with how well they did last year and how highly ranked they are,” Glass said. “It’s just to see where we are at and everyone’s really excited to step up to the challenge.”
Notes: Biggs said happily that everyone is healthy. … Montana State will be a regular opponent for the Aggies when UCD joins the Big Sky in 2012. The Aggies are scheduled to play the Bobcats in each of the next three seasons during conference play. … MSU is coming off of a great 2010 season during which it went 9-3, was a co-champion of the Big Sky and qualified for the FCS playoffs. Biggs said that the confidence the Bobcats gained last year is a big part of what makes them such a quality opponents.
By Chris Saur, Davis Enterprise