QBs lead charge for UC Davis, Sac State

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Joe David­son

One is ready to shat­ter more ca­reer pass­ing marks at UC Davis on Se­nior Day, though Jake Maier is mostly known for his hu­mil­ity and team-first mantra.

Sta­tis­tics are sec­ondary to grander goals here.

The same can be said of Kevin Thom­son, Sacramento State’s third-year start­ing passer, he of equal pro­gram im­pact. He is ea­ger to get back into ac­tion after miss­ing the last game and a half with a neck strain, cour­tesy of a crush­ing sack against No. 3 We­ber State on Nov. 2.

Maier leads the Ag­gies (5-5) today at home against No. 10 Mon­tana State (7-3) in Big Sky Con­fer­ence play at 4 p.m. (On Pluto.TV). The goal for the 18 de­part­ing Ag­gies se­niors, headed by Maier, is to fin­ish a sea­son of prom­ise on a high note with this game and the Cause­way Clas­sic at No. 6 Sac State on Nov. 23.

In or­der to se­cure one of the 24 play­off berths for FCS teams, UCD would need to win out and root for other up­sets across the land. In col­lege foot­ball, noth­ing seems im­pos­si­ble. UCD made the play­offs last sea­son as a tri-cham­pion of the Big Sky and started this sea­son pre­sea­son No. 4. Sac State was 2-8 a year ago and likely just needs a split from here to se­cure its first play­off since 1988, if it hasn’t al­ready done so.

Thom­son may be a game-time de­ci­sion in Moscow in­side the Kib­bie Down as the Hornets (7-3) take on Idaho (4-6), also today at 1 p.m. (On CW31 TV) with the aim of inch­ing closer to the pro­gram’s first con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship since 1995.

Sac State knows it has depth at quar­ter­back after re­serve Jake Dun­ni­way daz­zled in lead­ing a re­mark­able come­back at North­ern Ari­zona last week, toss­ing two touch­down passes in the fi­nal 98 sec­onds to key a 38-34 vic­tory. In his first Hornets ca­reer start, Dun­ni­way com­pleted 27 of 44 passes for 383 yards and four touch­downs, the most pass­ing yards for a Sac State player in five years.

Thom­son did not make the road trip to Flagstaff last week, but he looked more like his old self this week in prac­tice. Dun­ni­way also took a lot of reps.

Dun­ni­way was a star at St. Mary’s High School un­der one­time UCD as­sis­tant coach Tony Franks. Dun­ni­way was a red­shirt at UCD in 2017, played at Mesa Col­lege in San Diego last sea­son and then trans­ferred to Sac State.

“We know we have nice depth,” Sac State coach Troy Taylor said. “Kevin looks good. He’s not com­pletely in the clear. He still has to go through pro­to­col, but he’s close and he’s ea­ger. He felt like he could have played last week.”

Maier is ready. He was sharp in a 45-28 vic­tory at Port­land State last week, pass­ing for 383 yards and four touch­downs. It was his sixth 300-yard pass­ing game this sea­son and 21st of his ca­reer. He hit Lance Babb for three scor­ing strikes.

Maier is 89 yards shy of ty­ing J.T. O’Sul­li­van for the most ca­reer pass­ing yards as an Ag­gie. Now coach­ing high school ball in San Diego, O’Sul­li­van passed for 10,745 yards from 1998-2001 after a stel­lar ca­reer at Je­suit. O’Sul­li­van and Maier are the only Ag­gies to pass for 3,000 or more yards in three suc­ces­sive sea­sons. Maier stands as the pro­gram’s next great passer, a legacy that started un­der famed coach Jim So­chor.

“He’s spe­cial, just spe­cial,” UCD coach Dan Hawkins said of Maier.

Ulonzo Gil­liam isn’t too bad, ei­ther. The sopho­more run­ner went for 242 yards at Port­land State, giv­ing him 1,055 for the year and 2,031 for his ca­reer. He earned Big Sky Con­fer­ence Player of the Week hon­ors. Gil­liam’s ef­fort came 25 years after Mike Ichiyama’s amaz­ing back-to-back 300yard rush­ing ef­forts for UCD, one of just three backs in NCAA his­tory — at any level — to do so.

Mon­tana State seeks its 21st con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship. the Bob­cats lead the Big Sky in rush­ing with 257.7 yards and rank third in rush­ing de­fense in al­low­ing 123.7 a game. UCD’s Nick Ea­ton of Whit­ney High is com­ing off an­other mon­strous de­fen­sive ef­fort, record­ing eight tack­les, two sacks and forc­ing two fum­bles against Port­land State. He earned his sec­ond con­fer­ence Player of the Week honor after do­ing so with a game-turning score against Cal Poly.

Sac State has also de­fended well be­hind de­fen­sive line­men Dariyn Choates and pro­gram ca­reer sack leader Ge­orge Obinna. The Hornets have 37 sacks this sea­son, sec­ond in the coun­try at the FCS level and first in the Big Sky. Sac State had 13 sacks in 2017.

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