College football: No. 12 Weber State tops tough-luck UC Davis

Xavier Mascareñas/

Jay Hill said it earlier this week in sizing up Weber State’s showdown at UC Davis.

“Every year,” the Weber State coach said, “it just seems like a dogfight with them.”

On Saturday night at UC Davis Health Stadium, the dogfight continued. No. 12-ranked Weber State held on for a tight, intense and entertaining 17-12 victory over the tough-luck Aggies in a Big Sky Conference opener in front of 8,822 fans.

UCD amassed 417 yards of offense against one of the best defenses in FCS, but the Aggies managed just one touchdown, a 19-yard strike from Mies Hastings to C.J. Hutton to account for the final score. That was with 5:33 left in the third quarter.

UCD (1-3) had one final shot after Cole Hansen recovered a Weber State fumble at the Wildcats’ 25-yard line with 2:20 left. Weber State wouldn’t buckle. The Aggies faced fourth and 13 with 54 seconds left when Hastings’ pass to Chaz Davis in the end zone was just a tad long. Weber State took over on downs, took a knee to run it out and flew back to Utah with a 4-0 record. It was also Hill’s sixth win in seven tries against the Aggies, who dropped a competitive 34-13 loss at Cal in a season opener and a crushing 24-22 setback at second-ranked South Dakota State before beating the University of San Diego 43-13 last week.

UCD coach Dan Hawkins said he told his team afterward, “The pain we all feel. It means we’re in it. That’s a good thing. ... I hope we all do hurt. It means you care. We have to figure out how to get better. ... We left some things on the table. Give Weber State credit. The margin of error is really small. They’re a good team, a good football program.”

Weber State has won or shared the Big Sky title four times since 2018, including sharing the honors with UCD in 2018. The Wildcats will compete for another if it keeps this up. The Big Sky also includes No. 2 Montana, No. 4 Montana State and No. 6 Sacramento State. UCD beat Weber State in Utah 17-14 last season.

This time, Josh Davis rushed for 100 yards and Dontae McMillan 52 and a touchdown for the Wildcats. Bronson Barron completed 20 of 30 passes for 201 yards and hit Davis for a 16-yard touchdown for a 7-3 lead with 3:53 left in the first quarter. UCD had field goals of 35 and 41 yards from Isaiah Gomez, who agonized over his attempt that hit the upright on the last play of the half that would have pulled UCD to within 14-9.

Hastings played perhaps his best game for the Aggies, completing 39 of 57 passes for 256 yards and no interceptions against the top intercepting team in the FCS (with 10 picks coming into Saturday’s game). Ulonzo Gilliam, Jr., UCD’s all-time career rusher, had 111 yards on 17 carries, and he had five catches for 35 yards.

It’s not often a team has three turnovers and wins a game this close, but that’s what happened for Weber State. UCD did not turn the ball over.

Hill, the Weber State coach, said he was impressed with Gilliam and Hastings and that those two concerned him. Of UCD, he said, “Got to give them a ton of credit. They did a ton of good things. If we make that many mistakes and pull off a win against a very, very good team on the road, that’s big.”