No. 12 Weber State football readies for annual ‘dogfight’ with UC Davis
Early or late in conference play, the near-annual matchup between Weber State and UC Davis seems to go a long way in deciding the Big Sky football pecking order.
“They’re definitely one of those top teams in the Big Sky and we know that, and they know the same thing about us that they need to be ready to go,” WSU head coach Jay Hill said. “These games, there’s always tons riding on it every year.”
Hill is 5-1 in his tenure against UC Davis, but the last two contests in the series came in 2021 and were split by final scores of 18-13 and 17-14.
“I told the guys we’re in the ring,” UCD head coach Dan Hawkins said Monday, as quoted by the Sacramento Bee. “We’re not an up-and-comer. We’re not Johnny Come Lately. We’ve won the conference championship and we’ve been in the playoffs, and (so has Weber State). We have to train like that, practice like that and play like that.”
Before 2021, Weber State staged two big wins that were harbingers of big seasons for the Wildcats: a 16-point road win in 2019 that was 36-13 until garbage time, and a 41-3 thrashing in 2017.
In Hill’s breakthrough playoff season, WSU coughed up a late 32-13 lead at Davis in 2016 before Taylor Hintze hit a walk-off field goal to win it for the Wildcats.
“We know them pretty good, they know us pretty good. It’s always a battle of discipline, toughness, execution,” Hill said. “Every year it just seems like it’s a dogfight. That’s what you’re going to get with a Coach Hawkins team. They’re very well-coached, they’re tough, they’re disciplined, they work hard.
“They study you, that’s the other thing. You can tell that they watch film, they know tendencies. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
MEET THE AGGIES
UC Davis went 1-2 in nonconference play, though the Aggies lined up a tough schedule. They opened at Cal (a 34-13 loss) and at South Dakota State (a 24-22 loss) before hosting San Diego in a 43-13 win.
It’s a tried-and-true backfield at Davis, with Big Sky preseason MVP Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. still toting the rock. He’s totaled 254 yards in three games on 6.9 yards per carry. Gilliam is also by far the most frequently targeted receiver through three games, catching 18 passes for 162 yards.
In three previous matchups with Weber State, Gilliam averages 65 rushing yards and 14 receiving yards per contest.
Gilliam is backed up by Lan Larison who averages 5.3 yards per carry on limited touches, but who also has nine catches for 169 yards. Trent Tompkins, who is also known to take snaps at QB in run packages, has 11 catches for 74 yards.
Tompkins scored the game-winner last fall with 27 seconds left to lift UC Davis to victory in Ogden.
Sophomore Miles Hastings is at quarterback, throwing a solid 261 yards per game on 65% completion, totaling seven touchdowns to three interceptions.
“They play hard, they compete, they execute. Their scheme is creative,” Hill said. “They make you play disciplined football and make you earn it, their defense makes you earn it.”
Defensively, UC Davis runs a 3-4 type scheme. The Aggies were not overwhelmed at Cal (the Bears had 415 offensive yards) and held South Dakota State to 250 yards.
The Aggies’ defense is led by redshirt freshman Rex Connors, a defensive back from Pleasant Grove, Utah, who has a team-leading 28 tackles and two interceptions so far this season. His brother, Porter, recorded an interception last week against San Diego.
Senior defensive back Devon King (21 tackles, three for loss) is also still there anchoring the UCD defense.
ODDS & PREDICTIONS
Jeff Sagarin, longtime college football computer ratings guru, ranks all of FBS and FCS together. His system ranks Weber State No. 98 out of 261 Division I teams. UC Davis is at No. 114 overall. Using his predictive element and accounting for home-field advantage, Sagarin favors Weber State by 1.5 points.
Bill Connelly, another longtime CFB statistician now at ESPN, publishes weekly predictions using his SP+ system. SP+ ranks Weber State No. 10 in FCS and UC Davis at No. 14. His formula predicts a virtual pick ’em: UC Davis 22.6, Weber State 22.1, to be precise.
DRatings predicts Weber State winning 29-26 at 62% probability.
It’s a 7 p.m. local kick in Davis, California (8 p.m. MT) and the heat wave headed for Utah next week is there now. Saturday calls for clear skies and a high of 92 degrees.
But sunset is right at 7 p.m. and, for football purposes, it should be a beautiful night. The forecasted temperature at kickoff is 83 degrees, going to mid-70s by halftime and low-70s at game’s end.
TV & RADIO
The game will stream exclusively on the ESPN+ subscription service, with Scott Marsh and Scott Gordon calling the action in Davis.
Steve Klauke and Jerry Graybeal will have the Weber State radio call locally on 103.1 FM and streaming online at www.1031thewave.com.