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Early Lead Slips Away In 66th Causeway Classic

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Junior wide receiver Khris Vaughn collected six passes for 135 yards and a 76-yard touchdown while redshirt freshman linebacker Da’Von Frazier scored on a pick six in the end zone, but UC Davis saw its initial 17-3 lead wither to a 27-17 setback against No. 4/4 Sacramento State in the 66th Causeway Classic Presented by Pepsi, held at Hornet Stadium Saturday night.

The Aggies end their season at 5-7 overall and 3-5 in the Big Sky Conference. The Hornets improve to 9-3 for the year and clinch a share of the Big Sky title with Weber State.

“It was a heck of a game and probably a microcosm of our whole season,” said third-year UC Davis head coach Dan Hawkins. “We just have to capture a few details, play well, play hard and finish. Now we have to capture some details, and that all starts with me.”

Senior quarterback Jake Maier closed out his career by completing 20 of 36 passes for 233 yards and the TD strike to Vaughn early in the first quarter. The three-time Walter Payton Award candidate finishes as the all-time UC Davis record-holder with 11,163 career passing yards. Maier also holds Aggie career benchmarks of 1,495 attempts and 992 completions, while his 88 lifetime touchdown passes ranks second in school annals behind only NFL veteran J.T. O’Sullivan.

Sophomore Ulonzo Gilliam rushed for 61 yards and added eight catches for 62 aerial yards, marking his eighth game of 100-plus combined yards from scrimmage this season. His 2019 total of 57 catches ties his own school record for receptions by a running back. Gilliam’s final season total of 1,249 ground yards puts his seventh in UC Davis record book, while his career sum of 2,225 has him sixth on that school Top-10 list.

UC Davis struck first with a two-play, 21-second scoring drive that culminated on Vaughn’s touchdown. The sociology major from Redlands hauled in Maier’s pass at his own 46-yard line, then outraced Hornet linebacker Jeremy Harris down the east sideline. The 76-yard score marked the Aggies’ longest play from scrimmage this season, surpassing the 75-yard run by Gilliam at Portland State two weeks earlier.

Sac State’s Devon Medeiros and UC Davis’ Max O’Rourke traded field goals to keep UC Davis up by a 10-3 margin early in the second. Later in the frame, Aggie cornerback Jordan Perryman downed a Daniel Whelan punt at the Sac State 1-yard line. Two plays later, Hornet junior quarterback Kevin Thomson attempted to hit running back Elijah Dotson in the flat, a rushing Frazier leaped up and snared the ball in the end zone. The play marked the first UC Davis pick six since Vincent White ran back a 48-yarder against San Diego early in 2018, and boosted the Aggie margin to 17-3.

That proved to be the last UC Davis scoring play for the afternoon. Thomson scored from three yards out with 2:46 left in the half to cut the deficit to 17-10 at the break, then he proceeded to throw for a TD and run for a 33-yarder as part of his team’s 17-0 outburst in the second half. Thomson finished the game with exactly 300 passing yards while also leading his team with 116 ticks on the ground.

“Our defense was doing a pretty good job but we kept putting them back on the field,” said Hawkins, about the second half. “We couldn’t make a play offensively. We had too many three-and-outs. You start putting your defense out there over and over, and eventually, a good offense will find their rhythm.”

Meanwhile, UC Davis managed just 65 yards of offense in the third quarter and another 62 in the fourth. The Aggies had no red zone chances in the game, and did not approach closer than the 38-yard line after halftime.

One bright spot for UC Davis was the punting of the junior Whelan. Of his seven punts, five pinned the hosts inside the 10: Sacramento State had starting field positions of 1, 2, 7, 4 and 7 over the course of the game.

The Aggie defense also enjoyed some strong individual performances, in part because Sacramento State ran 101 plays (compared to 60 by UC Davis). Sophomore cornerback Devon King tallied a game-high 12 tackles to match his career high. Another corner, Jordan Perryman, tied his collegiate best of eight stops while adding a pass breakup and a tackle for loss. That lone PBU even came on a controversial play: a Thomson pass to B.J. Perkinson appeared to be intercepted at the Hornet 3-yard line. However, Perryman was ruled out of bounds, continuing the Hornets’ red-zone opportunity. Thomson scored on his 3-yard run two players later.

Maier’s was one of 18 Aggie playing careers that came to an end with Saturday’s Causeway battle, including a few others who made their marks on the UC Davis record book:

• Tight end Wes Preece ends up with 109 career receptions, 1,398 yards and 24 touchdowns, the latter of which puts him fifth on the all-time UC Davis career leaderboard and tops among tight ends.

• Kicker Max O’Rourke wraps his three-year UC Davis career with totals of 32 field goals and 237 total points. He tied Rafael Fernandez for fourth in the former category, and moved ahead of Fernandez and G.P. Muhammad for sixth all-time at UC Davis.

• Linebacker Eric Flowers had seven solo tackles (of nine total) on the day, raising his season total to 62. That ranks second in school history behind only the 63 Jason Hairston notched back in 1993.

Additionally, Whelan finishes the 2019 season with a 44.07 gross average, No. 2 in the school record book. He will enter his senior year with a 42.60 career average, well ahead of the current Aggie record of 41.12, set by Colton Schmidt from 2009-12.