Music – not revenge – motivates UC Davis for next playoff game
Hip hop music blasted out of the speakers and reverberated off the Aggie Stadium seats on Wednesday morning, the sounds as piercing as the winter chill.
The tunes were to simulate loudness, reminding UC Davis football players to make good eye contact with each other with good hand signals while communicating plays. One can only yell so loud over a roaring crowd.
The audio session was in preparation for real noise and real cold that awaits the Aggies (10-2) on Saturday in an NCAA FCS quarterfinal game at Eastern Washington (10-2) in Cheney, which can be confused with Siberia this time of year.
Eastern Washington fans generally get whipped into a frenzy rooting on their football heroes who have made playing on their red surface at Roos Field their own personal thrill show over the years as an FCS powerhouse.
The Eagles rolled the Aggies 59-20 on Nov. 10 in Cheney when it was cold, windy, snowy and dreary. It will be less windy but plenty frigid in the rematch of Big Sky Conference programs who tied Weber State for the league championship. The forecast for kickoff is 29 degrees.
UCD and spirited coach Dan Hawkins expect to skip to their own tune as the Aggies continue to navigate new waters as first-time Division I playoff participants.
Hawkins is a man of many interests beyond the nuances of blocking and tackling. This includes music. He rolls with all of it.
“I can listen to anything,” Hawkins said with a laugh. “I don’t like a lot of cussing (in songs). I can do hard rock. I can do opera. I can do country. Boy bands, hip hop, Frank Sinatra … we might even get some Christmas music going here.”
UCD hummed a bad tune the last time it faced Eastern Washington, an early 10-0 lead quickly dissolving under an avalanche of six turnovers. It was UCD’s poorest effort of the season and it has been a rallying cry this week. But no one is calling it a revenge game.
“If we play the revenge factor, it’ll get us off our game,” said Aggies AllAmerican Aggies receiver Keelan Doss. “We just play.”
Weather may be a factor, but it goes both ways, Hawkins reminded.
“It won’t be a massive factor like the Green BayDallas Ice Bowl,” he said.
Besides, Hawkins and his players will add: It’s not so cold when you win.
“You don’t even feel it when you’re winning,” Doss said.
The task is twofold for the Aggies in the rematch. They cannot afford to have so many turnovers, nor can they allow anywhere near the 669 yards the Eagles piled up if they expect to extend the 100th season of UCD football.
UCD is coming off of a 23-16 win over Northern Iowa in its playoff opener, its first at the FCS level and 20th overall in program history, the previous outings coming in Division II.
Eastern Washington is tied for first among FCS programs with six defensive touchdowns scored and is second in total offense at 543 yards per game. The Eagles have competed in 27 FCS playoff games in program history, 19 of them at home, including last week’s 42-14 rout of Nicholls State.
Eastern Washington is 7-0 all time against UCD, but that doesn’t concern Aggies quarterback Jake Maier.
“I really like our chances,” said Maier, who had two interceptions and no touchdown passes in the Nov. 10 game. “We have to play a cleaner game this time. We have a lot of pride here.
“We know our program has been built on excellence and championship football since the 1960s and ’70s. We have nothing to lose.”
Follow The Bee’s Joe Davidson: jdavid[email protected], @SacBee_JoeD