Just how many Aggies do we have to beat this year? By my last count it was three. The UC Davis variety will bring their dog and pony show the blue turf on October 3rd, in a game that promises to pit two teams with menacing looking horses in their logos against each other. Beyond that, it will pit little else.
In a departure from usual scheduling practices, the Broncos will eat this particular cupcake on the 5th game of the season, rather than the first. By the time the Aggies roll into town (presumably in those little cars that the Shriners drive), the Broncos will already have tangled with both Oregon and Fresno State and will in essence, have a pretty good idea of what their BCS fate is. For the Aggies' sake...I hope the Broncos haven't lost any games by October 3rd.
I won't speak too ill of UC Davis as it is coach Pete's and coach Tuivai's alma mater. Petersen quarterbacked the Aggies in the 80s and still ranks in the top ten in many statistical categories for them. Coach Pete's 2.53 interception percentage is still a school record. Regardless of their distinguished alumni, UC Davis is still a Division 1-AA opponent, and one that Boise State has never lost to...the Aggies won't prove much of a threat to Boise State's (knock on wood) 4-0 record come October, but that doesn't mean it won't be fun to watch them try. Plus, we'll get to see a lot of the freshman play after half-time...Hooray!
The Aggies had a bit of a disappointing season in 2008, going 5-7 and getting roundly spanked by rival Cal Poly. The season started out on an optimistic note for Davis when they dropped a close 13-10 decision to San Jose State...but two more close losses to Central Arkansas and Montana and a game against Northeastern that got away from them saw them start their October in a 1-4 hole. The Aggies proceeded to go win their next four contests before dropping the last three on their schedule. Not a season to write home about—but plenty of bright spots foretell that 2009 could go differently for the Aggies. They open at Fresno, so Broncos will be able to get a little taste of what they, and the Bulldogs, are all about this year
When the Aggies have the ball
The Aggies appear to have a pretty good quarterback in junior Greg Denham. Denham, in his first full year as a starter, completed about 65% of his passes for about 3500 yards and 27 TDs. Denham throws the ball a lot (451 attempts in 2008) and gets the ball where it needs to be more often than not. The Aggie O-line keeps him relatively safe as well, giving up only one more sack (14) last season than the Broncos WAC-leading O-line gave up last season. Denham's favorite target from 2008, Brandon Rice, will be gone, but Chris Carter and Bakari Grant will return. Carter and Grant were responsible for 13 TDs and nearly 1500 yards of offense last season, and should have more of a connection with Denham in '09.
The Aggie running game will look to improve on a lackluster 2008. Obviously, with Denham slinging the ball left and right, the opportunities were limited—but Davis' top rusher last season barely cracked 500 yards and the average YPC of the unit is hovering around 4 yards. Leading rusher Joe Trombetta will return, as will Brandon Tucker, who led all rushers in scoring. At 6' 220 lbs., Trombetta is a big back who may be able to soften up D-lines as games drag on. Don't count on Trombetta getting a lot of touches against the Broncos, however—and don't even think that he can soften up our D-line...he may have a very informal introduction to Billy Winn and Mike Atkinson.
The Aggies scored 44 TDs in 2008, and 142 of those points came in the 1st quarter. If the Aggies hadn't had such dismal 3rd quarters (only 56 points all season), their record could've been quite different. As the Aggie offense goes, so go the Aggies.
When the Broncos have the ball (often)
UC Davis yielded about 27 points per game in 2008 and generally kept teams in their scoring stratosphere. In fact, only one loss by the Aggies in 2008 saw them give up more than 30 points (a 51-28 loss to Cal Poly). Homegrown DE Patrick Michelier notched 51 tackles and 5 sacks in '08, and will return for more this season. Top linebacker Tyler Pringle graduated, but LB Dozie Amajoyi wasn't far behind, and Aggie fans are glad to see him return for the squad. The Aggie secondary did decent in 2008, grabbing 18 INTs, and returning 2 for scores. Senior CB Jeremy Scott will lead the crew in 2009, after a solid '08 season that saw him notch 42 tackles and break-up 7 passes. Fellow Senior Kenneth Brown looked good in 2008 and should make WRs work this season for their catches.
The Aggies are rightfully excited about Sophomore place kicker Sean Kelley. Kelley hit 10 of 13 field goals as a freshman in 2008, and failed to miss a single extra point all season. Kelley's leg wasn't really tested last season as the coaching staff only asked him to kick one field goal over 36 yards, but his consistency is there and he could develop into a All-Great West caliber kicker during his tenure at Davis.
Punt and kick returns will be a focal point for the Aggies in the Fall as they failed to really seize great field position during the 2008 campaign. Top punt-returner Sean Creadick will return, but he's not a big-time threat (yet) with only 89 PR yards on the year with a long of 22. Sophomore Josh Reese played capably as kick-returner as a frosh but will need to improve on his 19 yard return average to give Denham and crew better scoring opportunities.
Coach Bob Biggs has helmed the Aggies' ship for 16 seasons and amassed a 124-61-1 record. Their last conference championship was a bittersweet 6-5 co-championship in 2005, and the squad has not won more than 6 games since. Everyone knows that the Aggies will need a major miracle to keep the contest close, so I don't see much reason in going into specific strategies there. UC Davis is a middle-of-the-road Division 1-AA team that looks to have the tools to be an above average one in the next few seasons. Improving or not, they will not stay within 30 points of what could be one of the best Broncos squads ever. Hopefully, they can leave Boise with minimal injuries, a fat paycheck, and the knowledge that they just got schooled by one of their own.