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UCD youth shines despite loss to Bobcats
It all started so promisingly. For two possessions on Saturday at Montana State, UC Davis looked like it was ready to compete against the best of the Big Sky Conference, a league the Aggies will join in 2012.
Quarterback Randy Wright was sharp. Receiver Tom Hemmingsen had glue on his hands. The defense, led by cornerback Jonathan Perkins, was ready.
And despite the strong start eventually turning into a 38-14 loss, UCD will be anything but a pushover in the minds of Big Sky teams like the Bobcats next season. That’s because Wright, Hemmingsen and Perkins are all sophomores. Other standout players like running back Colton Silveria — who led the Aggies in rushing on Saturday — and receiver Corey Galindo — UCD’s top pass-catcher against MSU — are playing college football for the first time.
And with youth comes mistakes and inconsistencies. After the Aggies’ fine start, the large holes the offensive line was able to open gradually shrunk. The sure-handed receiving corps had trouble catching the ball. Even Hemmingsen was called for an offensive pass interference, something that happens about once a career.
“We were driving the ball, and then we started shooting ourselves in the foot,” Wright said. “That killed every drive.”
Another thing that didn’t help UCD’s chances on Saturday was the 18,487 Bobcat fans, who were at a fever pitch. Due to some savvy marketing, the Bobcat faithful seemed to all have the same fashion sense: the stadium was a sea of gold. Everywhere one looked, it seemed like placer country. No wonder Montana’s state motto is “oro y plata.”
Even the Bobcat players got caught up in the act, wearing gold uniforms while the Aggies wore their home blue uniforms.
Since last season ended with a home playoff loss to North Dakota State, 5,200 seats were added to Bobcat Stadium. And more than 5,000 extra people added up to a whole lot more noise.
“The environment was fantastic,” MSU coach Rob Ash said. “It was so different than last year. It was better.”
No doubt it was better for the Bobcats (1-1), but the Aggies (0-2) seemed to have trouble communicating sometimes. Ten times they were whistled for penalties, many coming because they just couldn’t hear themselves think.
“It’s like they say, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ ” MSU quarterback Denarius McGhee said of the construction that enclosed one end of the stadium.
A crowd that size in Bozeman usually only comes to see in-state rival Montana. In fact, UCD’s quick start might have been due to the Bobcat players’ added excitement. After Wright hit Hemmingsen with a 24-yard touchdown pass in the first half, and after the Aggies forced MSU to punt on its first possession, the Bobcats settled down.
“We didn’t really make any adjustments,” said MSU defensive back Darius Jones. “We just did everything right after that.”
This week it will be the Aggie faithful’s turn to come out en masse as the team hosts San Diego in its home opener at Aggie Stadium. UCD is still looking for its first win of the season.
“We just have to learn from this and start playing better,” Hemmingsen said after Saturday’s loss. “Randy missed a few passes and the receivers didn’t run their routes right. Suddenly we were playing catch-up.”
And that just made the Montana State crowd louder.
By Paul Burns, Davis Enterprise