Busy 2nd half of the week for me so I’m getting this up a little early, the Griz are hitting the road for the 1st of 3 games (in 4 weeks) that they’ll play against all of the California-based conference teams. UC Davis was looking like a pushover with some early stumbles but has rebounded to win two games in a row and currently sits at 2-0 in conference.
UC Davis Aggies: 2-4 (2-0 Big Sky)
7-10 loss @ South Dakota: It must’ve been a grueling game, both teams combined to be 7-25 on converting 3rd downs, South Dakota controlled the clock but couldn’t make points out of it, additionally the teams missed 3 field goal attempts. South Dakota was up 7-0 at the half and 10-0 into the 4th, UCD finally got on the board with a TD at the 3:50 mark in the 4th. The problem though was that USD never gave the ball back, gaining 3 first downs on a clock-killing and game winning possession. USD ran for almost 200 yards but passed for just 91 on only 17 attempts.
7-36 loss @ Nevada: Nevada piled up 535 yards of total offense with a fairly balanced attack in this game, meanwhile UCD had just less than 300 total yards. Nevada snagged two picks, controlled the clock for over 35 minutes, and went 11 of 19 on 3rd downs. UCD’s one touchdown came on the heels of a 60 yard kickoff return and 3 plays later a long pass play for a TD.
10-21 loss vs NAU: It was a tight game right up to the end. Tied 7-7 at the half Davis went up in the 3rd 10-7. Then with 9:00 to go in the game NAU took a pick-6 to the house to go up 14-10. UCD re-grouped but the same thing happened with a minute to go, another pick-6 for NAU to end the game at 21-10. NAU’s run game was shut down, just 66 rushing yards and only 125 passing yards to go with it. UCD wasn’t much better though. NAU had 191 total yards, UCD 245. Both teams were a combined 6-31 on 3rd down and 0-3 on 4th down. The weather report showed 86 and clear, I was wondering if it was initially being played in a storm or something considering the low stats.
10-41 loss vs PSU: PSU’s defense held the UCD offense to a combined 258 yards, meanwhile PSU rushed for almost 430 yards and passed for 174. The score could’ve been worse if it weren’t for the 3 interceptions PSU tossed. UCD even had 37:11 in TOP but still could only muster 10 points.
30-13 win vs ISU: ISU came into the game 2-1 and feeling pretty good, but UCD suddenly turned a corner. UCD looked in control early, jumping out to a 16-0 lead and taking that into the half. Not much happened in the 3rd qtr but in the 4th both teams came alive. ISU suddenly hits a fieldgoal, makes a stop, scores a TD, and then kicks another fieldgoal a minute after the TD is scored after UCD fumbles the ball, it’s now 16-13 UCD. UCD then takes the ball and goes 74 yards for a TD, stops ISU to a 3 and out, and scores another TD, suddenly it’s 30-13 and the game is out of reach. UCD had its best showing on offense so far in the season as well, rushing for 224 and passing for 231. Their main running back, Manzanares had 208 rushing yards!
21-3 win @ SUU: This game surprised me. SUU was 3-1 and 1-0 in conference coming off a close win against Sac and had previously beat South Alabama (an FBS team). UCD flat out dominated the game, they ran for 200 and passed for almost 200, they held SUU to 45 rushing yards and 280 passing, forced two turnovers (plus a turnover on downs), saw SUU miss two fieldgoals, and UCD controlled the clock. Gabe Manzanares had another huge day carrying the ball with 175 rushing yards. He’s rapidly emerging as one of the better running backs in the Big Sky.
Players to Watch
#41 Gabe Manzanares, running back: Gabe is the focal point of the offense. He’s a throwback Bobby Hauck kind of back. Ideally UCD wants him to get 30+ carries per game. His last 3 games he’s had 33, 34, and 39 carries. So far this year he’s got 546 rushing yards, 5 TDs, and 125 receiving yards as well.
#17 Randy Wright, quarterback: Wright is a big guy at 6-4, he’s started the last two games (both wins) and so far has not thrown an interception. All of the team’s thrown interceptions were by the now backup QB, #11 Jimmy Laughrea (who is more of a rushing QB). Wright’s stats show that he averages 115 passing yards/game, but in the two wins that he played in he averaged just about 200 yards.
#5 Tom Hemingson, wide receiver: Hemingson is the leading receiver on the team, he’s got 285 yards and 2 TDs this year, both team bests. He’s also the main punt returner and has ripped off a long of a 51 yard return so far.
#82 Cory Galindo, wide receiver: Another tall WR for our guys to cover, he’s 6-4 and has 143 yards this year so far. He’s 2nd best on the team in receptions with 18.
#3 TJ King, wide receiver: King has a receiving TD and 180 yards so far this year.
#4 Aarynn Jones, safety: Jones leads the team in many categories, tackles (37), interceptions (2), and PBUs (6). He’ll be all over the field presumably.
#2 Charles Boyett, safety: Opposite of Jones Boyett also has 37 tackles, he’s got 1 interception and 3 PBUs this year. His name may sound familiar if you follow Oregon football, his brother was their starting safety for a few years and was recently cut from the Colts.
#18 Nick King, defensive end: Odd number for a D-end but his stats do the talking. He’s got 5 sacks already this year and 5.5 TFLs. He’s 6-3, 245, and has 34 tackles and a forced fumble this year. He’s going to be like the d-linemen NAU has so our tackles had better be prepared.
#33 Steven Pitts, OLB: Pitts has 33 tackles so far this year and is 2nd in sacks with 2, he’s also got 4 tackles for a loss and 1 recovered fumble.
General Stats (some are rounded)
– UCD is averaging 14.2 points per game while the UM defense is allowing 17.8 points per game. The UCD defense is allowing 20.7 points per game while the UM offense is scoring 37 points per game.
– UCD is averaging 319 yards per game (144 rushing / 175 passing) on offense while the UM defense is allowing 318 yards per game (116 rushing / 203 passing). The UCD defense allows 378 yards per game (185 rushing / 193 passing) while UM offense averages 461 (199 rushing / 262 passing).
– UCD is +1 in turnovers while the Griz are +4
– UCD’s offense only scores TDs in the red zone about 50% of the time, likewise their defense only allows TDs in the red zone 50% of the time. Compare to the UM defense that allows TDs only 36% of the time and the UM offense that scores TDs in the red zone 65% of the time.
– UCD only converts about 31% of 3rd down attempts (UM converts 50%) however I do notice that the Griz allow 3rd down conversions on almost 40% of all attempts.
– It looks to me like UCD covers punts really well (1.6 yards per return) but kickoffs not very well (almost 30 yards per return).
– Looking at it’s per quarter scores UCD really lights it up in the 2nd qtr, 41 of their 85 points scored this year have come in the 2nd qtr. Meanwhile their defense appears to allow scores early and in the end, with the 1st qtr and 4th qtr accounting for almost 63% of their allowed points.
– It must be a down year for kickers in the Big Sky. More kicking woes, UCD is 5-10 kicking this year, their kicker has made a long of a 45 yarder but has been pretty cold of late, missing 3 against ISU and not even having an attempt against SUU.
– UCD runs the ball on average almost 45 times per game compared to just 34 pass attempts per game.
Keys to a Grizzly Victory
– Throw out the stats, as I’m sure the team has done. UCD has looked much better in their most recent two games than in their first 4. They’ve changed their QB and that’s seemed to have made a difference. In the last two games they’re averaging close to 400 yards per game of balanced offense.
– Stop Manzanares. Having not seen any UCD but rather just read up on the Aggies games I’m unsure what kind of overall effort will be needed to keep this guy in check. He’s the center piece of the offense, if he gets going then UCD has a great chance to win. The safeties and corners are going to have to have a better game tackling him than they did against DJ Adams.
– Watch the shorter/medium pass routes. It looks like UCD doesn’t throw a lot of deep passes, they’re going to rely on the run and safer/shorter passes. Our corners can presumably not be 9.9 yards off the receivers all day.
– Take advantage of special teams mis-matches. Worst is looking settled down, meanwhile their kicker is not doing the best. They give up good returns on kicks and their punter doesn’t kick the ball very far.
– Win in the trenches. It looks like the biggest wins came from teams that ran the ball well against UCD. If the Grizzly O-line shows up and plows the way that will go a long ways to a Grizzly win.
– Tighten up on 3rd down. 40% conversion rate by our opponents isn’t good, tighten up and shut that down.
– Get to the QB, SUU and ISU really didn’t do that, just 2 sacks total in those games. Meanwhile in their 4 losses UCD gave up 7 sacks. Use blitzes and don’t just rely on the front 4 to get there, hopefully that lesson was learned against NAU.
– Don’t just stretch the field in the passing game. Shorter routes, screens, etc – keep this quicker defense on its heels and guessing.
– Improve on tackling. No one was happy about the tackling effort against PSU, coaches, players, or fans. This game will give the D a great chance to show improvement.
All in all this game should be an interesting one. By all statistical accounts this game should be a blowout, UCD’s offense hasn’t mustered much to date and they’ve had issues with higher powered offenses. However, they’re on a 2 game winning streak highlighted by a new QB that hasn’t made an error yet. Their defense has been rather stingy and they’re at home, for homecoming, so it’ll be a little more rowdy in there than usual.
It’s funny because as I look at this I feel that I’m pulling the same takeaways in some way that I did going into the NAU game. A powerful running back that is a threat carrying and receiving, a rather untested QB, a smaller/quicker D-line/front 7, and we all know how that turned out. This game will allow the Griz to hopefully learn from past mistakes. Don’t just rush the front 4, take some risks on blitzes, don’t just air it out downfield and scrap the shorter passing game, keep JJ protected. If the team comes into this game with a similar game plan and mind-set as they did against NAU it could be big trouble.
I’m going to say that the Griz are still coming into this sharp and still feeling the sting of taking their last road game against a similar style offense for granted. Griz should win this, but it could be a slow start out of the gate. I see a final score in the range of 31-13 Griz, assuming they keep improving and building off the last game.