UC Davis gave the Herd some problems, but per usual the Bison prevailed
The top-ranked Bison played host to fourth ranked UC Davis on Saturday in a battle between two FCS heavyweights. This was the first top-5 matchup in the FCS this year, and it featured two teams with legitimate title hopes.
The game did not disappoint.
The Aggies went three and out and the game’s first possession. The Bison marched right down the field, capping off their first drive with a Ty Brooks two-yard TD run. UC Davis responded by scoring the game’s next 10 points, making it was clear this would not be another classic Bison blowout.
Leading the Aggies and one of the best passing offenses in the country was quarterback Jake Maier. After a slow start, Maier was able to hang 194 first half passing yards on the Herd.
On the flip side, Trey Lance and the Bison pass offense struggled in the first half. The exciting start quickly turned into a punt fest. It was not until midway through the 2nd quarter that the Bison were able to break through.
Brooks provided the spark on a 57-yard run. At the end of the run, Brooks extended the ball to the pylon and appeared to have scored. The stadium pyro-technicians even set off the fireworks thinking Brooks had got into the end zone.
Alas, Brooks was called out at the one. “I know I scored,” Brooks said with a smile after the game.
The Herd was then stuffed twice at the goal line, making it 3rd and goal. Lance then took the ball on a roll-out, was contacted and stood-up, but kept his feet and charged his pay to pay dirt on the second effort.
Davis and the Herd were both able to get field goals less than a minute before the half ended, giving the Bison a 17-13 heading into the break.
The Bison received the second half kickoff, but quickly turned the ball over on a Christian Watson fumble.
The Aggies now had the ball deep in Bison territory with a chance to take the lead. Eventually, Davis faced a fourth and one.
The Aggies elected to go for it but were stopped as the momentum pendulum swung back in favor of the Herd.
The Bison were able to get a field goal after a turnover on downs, set up by a 45-yard strike from Lance to Watson. The field goal made it 20-13 at the midway point of the 3rd quarter.
The Aggies simply refused to go away. They responded with a field goal of their own and forced the Bison to punt on their next two possessions.
Fast-forward and there were less than 10 minutes in the game. The Aggies were driving. The Bison defense appeared tired, and there was a clear uneasiness throughout the crowd.
Maier led the Aggies deep into Bison territory, needing a touchdown to go ahead with around six minutes left in the game.
On 3rd and goal, Maier tried to force the ball but was picked off by Bison strong safety Michael Tutsie.
The crowd erupted in what almost felt like a sigh of relief. That was Tutsie’s team-leading fourth pick of the year, and perhaps the biggest play of the year for the Herd so far.
The Bison were stalled after a couple first downs and were forced to punt again. On the first play of UC Davis’ next possession, the Aggies tried to set up a screen play. Maier’s pass was tipped by Derrek Tuszcka and fell into the lap of Bison DT Cole Karcz.
The Bison now had the ball inside the UC Davis’ 50, needing a touchdown to ice the game.
The Bison’s rushing attack brought the Herd to the Aggies ten-yard line. Lance then took the ball on a keeper, destroying a defender on his way to a game-sealing touchdown run.
Coach Matt Entz mentioned after the game that Lance was maybe letting out some ‘frustrations’ on that run. This assessment appeared to be accurate because the defender Lance ran over was injured when the play was over.
After a quick UC Davis possession, the Bison milked the clock away to secure their 4th victory of the season.
This was a good test for both teams. UC Davis now knows they can play with the best, and the Herd finally had to go through a little adversity.
UC Davis was not phased by the Bison mystique or the crazy road environment. They had a quarterback that could stand in the pocket, face down pressure and deliver strikes. They are a team that could make a deep playoff run in December.
For the Bison offense, this was Trey Lance’s most frustrating game yet. Things did not as come as easy as the other three games. I believe this is a good thing. It’ll be learning from games such as this one that will help him succeed in November and December when playoff seeds/games are on the line.
The Bison defense was phenomenal, as always. They made a few adjustments at halftime and only allowed three points in the second half. They forced two clutch turnovers and may have bent but they never broke.
The Bison will now enter their bye week. The bye week becomes an opportunity for the Herd. They just got done with a challenging non-conference schedule and get a week to rest before the Missouri Valley gauntlet begins.