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Red-hot UC Davis hosts Dixie State in home opener

·3 min read

UC Davis won its opening football game this season by a foot, against a team favored by 23.5 points and then rolled host San Diego in storming to a 2-0 start, all of it on the road.

Ranked 12th in the FCS, the Aggies prepare for Dixie State of Utah on Saturday in a home opener that has sold out. The 19-17 victory at FBS-level Tulsa was the result of quarterback Hunter Rodrigues, a stout defense and the accurate leg of Isaiah Gomez, who drilled four field goals.

All of those elements continued to play out at San Diego, leading to a 53-7 rout over an opponent the Aggies held off on the final play in a thrilling victory in 2019.

Rodrigues this week repeated as Root Sports Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week after accounting for five touchdowns against San Diego, hitting tight end McCallan Castles for two scoring passes. He passed for a career-best 322 yards and four scores, hitting nine targets.

UCD backup quarterback Trent Tompkins earned Root Big Sky honors on special teams in a remarkable display of versatility. He ran in a two-point conversion, passed to Garren O’Keefe for another conversion and then returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown, tied for the second longest in school history with Jesse Oliva and behind Joe Genasci’s 91-yarder in 1991.

Ever the humble leader, Rodrigues sounded like a team guy this week when he explained, “I’m surrounded by a bunch of great players, and anyone could do what I do with the 10 guys I’m on the field with.”

Well, maybe. Countered UCD coach Dan Hawkins, “Well, let’s not say ‘anyone.’ Let’s not say that.”

Hawkins knew he had a quarterback in the spring season in Rodrigues, who impressed then and hasn’t slowed down a bit.

“He’s handling the protection game up front, getting us in and out of things, making clean throws, tough throws, making some plays with his legs and taking care of the football,” Hawkins said. “There’s a reason he’s been the two-time offensive player (of the week) in the league, and he’s deserving.”

Dixie State competed at the junior college level for years then moved up to Division II and is in its second year at the FCS level. The Trailblazers of St. George are 0-2, falling to Sacramento State 19-7 and FCS powerhouse Weber State 41-3. Dixie State is coached by former Sac State assistant coach Paul Peterson.

Dixie State (0-2) at No. 12 UC Davis (2-0)

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

On air: Sports 1140 KHTK; ESPN+

Fast facts: UCD scored six of its seven touchdowns at San Diego from 20 or more yards, the most in a game since the 52-17 rout of Fort Lewis to open the 2014 season. ...Trent Tompkins has scored on an 86-yard run at UCD, in the spring, and the 85-yard punt return last week. The only Aggie to produce two 80-plus scores in different methods was Calvin Ellison, who had an 89-yard kickoff return against Humboldt State in 1977 and a 99-yard touchdown reception from Mike Moroski in 1978.

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