Sports

UC Davis needs NCAA to make history with FCS selections


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UC Davis Aggies head coach Dan Hawkins watches game action against Eastern Washington during the first half of the NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, at UC Davis Health Stadium. EWU beat UC Davis 38-20 in the Big Sky Conference game.

xmascarenas@sacbee.com

Needing a win to secure a spot in the FCS playoffs, the UC Davis football team repeatedly spiked its chances Saturday in a 27-7 loss to Sacramento State.

The Aggies were forced to wait to find out if the loss cost them a spot in the brackets, which are released at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. A win would have made them a shoe-in.

UC Davis coach Dan Hawkins might have bit through his lower lip when he was asked if his team, ranked 10th in the country entering the game with Sacramento State, had done enough to earn a spot in the playoffs. This was no time for happy thoughts.

“I don’t know, that’s up to them,” Hawkins said. “We can’t control them. We’ll see what they think.”

While Hawkins wasn’t interested in propping up his team after a humbling loss, his rival coach had no problem cheering on the Aggies. At the start of a news conference, Sacramento State coach Troy Taylor said, unprompted, it was a lock the Aggies would make the cut.

“They’ll be in the playoffs, they deserve to be in the playoffs,” Taylor said.

Hopefully for UC Davis, the selection committee didn’t watch Saturday’s game in making that decision.

While Sacramento State had no turnovers and five relatively harmless penalties, the Aggies repeatedly stumbled while the game was in doubt.

UC Davis seemingly stopped Sacramento State’s first drive at the UC Davis 35-yard line. But Aggies defender Jordan Perryman decided to talk about the nice tackle he made on a Sacramento State receiver and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Hornets went on to score the first of their three touchdowns.

Trailing 10-0 early in the second quarter, UC Davis showed signs of life on offense. The Aggies faced a second-and-10 at the Sacramento State 33-yard line when quarterback Miles Hastings threw to a well-covered receiver; Marcus Hawkins picked it off at the 23-yard line.

The mistakes piled up in the third quarter as the Aggies tried to dig out of a 24-0 halftime hole. UC Davis tried a double pass, tossing a lateral to receiver Carson Crawford — who played quarterback in high school. With a receiver open deep over the middle, Crawford instead opted to throw to a shorter target. That didn’t work out, as Sacramento State’s Ariel Ngata took it away for the Hornets’ second interception.

And when UC Davis finally did make another incursion into Sacramento State territory, with the game well out of hand at 27-0, Hornets linebacker Tali Finefeuiaki did a great job in coverage and picked off a Hastings pass at the Sacramento State 14-yard line.

Naturally, the stats are damning. UC Davis had three yards of offense in the first quarter. The Aggies added just 85 more in the second quarter.

But there are other numbers to consider when it comes to the 24-team FCS playoff brackets. For starters, the Aggies beat Tulsa, an FBS team, in the season opener. Then they went 8-3 overall and 5-3 in the Big Sky Conference, the toughest league in FCS play. The problem is the Aggies are in fifth place in the Big Sky, and the selection committee has never taken five teams from any conference. The Big Sky has sent four teams to the playoffs just three times.

Aggies player Chris Venable kept it simple when asked what it would mean to the program if they went to the playoffs. The Aggies just got dressed down by their neighbors across the causeway; this was a time to stay humble.

“Trip or not a trip, I think we can just control what we can control and just do what we can do,” Venable said.

The selection show is at 9:30 a.m. Sunday on ESPNU.

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James Patrick has covered the beer scene from Maine to California. (OK, mostly just those two.) He’s worked at newspapers in six states as a sports reporter, sports editor, social media editor and newspaper carrier. He’s as comfortable drinking a High Life as a wild-fermented raspberry sour.





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