FOOTBALL FINALS… Everything ended way too soon.
One minute it felt like we were about to kick off Aggie football season with trips to Berkeley and Brookings, South Dakota, and the next minute the final seconds were ticking before our local heroes could snap a last-second snap to attempt a potential game win Hail Mary vs. Sacramento State in the season finale in front of 23,000 fans at Hornet Stadium.
But it was over. That was made clear Sunday morning at a playoff “watch party” in the Bruce Edwards room at UC Davis Health Stadium, as dozens of Aggie football players walked out in stunned silence after failing to see “UC Davis” in one of the 24 slots popped up for playoff entrants.
There was hope that the strength of the Aggie calendar and narrow losses to No. 1 South Dakota State (24-22) and No. 2 Sacramento State (27-21) would sway the selection committee despite UCD’s 6-5 overall record would .
Unfortunately it shouldn’t be.
And while I can argue that a 6-5 team doesn’t make the playoffs, it’s hard to imagine how both Idaho and Montana made it to the finals against Aggie’s 6-5 team.
In the penultimate game of the season, the Aggies traveled to Moscow and drilled No. 15 Idaho, 44-26. UCD led 31-7 at halftime and have never looked back. One would think that late-season head-to-head games, especially ones as one-sided as this one, would weigh heavily in the selection committee’s judgement.
Montana, on the other hand, limped to the finish line and lost four of its last six games, including a 30-23 setback against Idaho and a final game 55-21 against Montana State. In fact, the much-hyped Brawl of the Wild morphed into the Maul of the Wild.
Worse, the Griz finished the Big Sky Conference 4-4 and in sixth place, while the Aggies were 5-3 and in fifth place. Again, you would think that the conference rating would weigh heavily in the selection committee’s judgment, especially with a team that failed to break .500 in Big Sky and ended up halfway down the league rating.
Montana and the Aggies shared six common adversaries. Montana was 2-4 against those six while the Aggies were 3-3. Again, what criteria could the committee use if not these?
This isn’t sour grapes or a partisan tirade from a hometown sportswriter who thought he was eating Thanksgiving leftovers in Fargo.
The committee picked five teams from Big Sky. By objective standards, UC Davis should have been one of them. If you take five from a league, look at the final standings and take the top five.
On the other hand, Montana has a sparkling 25,000-seat stadium surrounded by beautiful mountains in every direction.
UC Davis’ sparkling stadium has half the capacity and is surrounded by cows.
ABOUT THIS CAUSEWAY CLASSIC … Those who have had the privilege of playing competitive sport know that sometimes you risk having your heart broken. The thrill of victory is ever-present, but so is the agony of defeat.
The Aggies feel the latter after risking everything and narrowly going up against Sacramento State.
Hornet head coach Troy Taylor told me afterwards who knows what might have happened if the Aggies had just had a little more time there at the end.
The Aggies have to be commended for all the thrills they’ve given us this year and for being willing to take part in games like this.
The fans of these two schools were well served by those who wore green and gold and those who wore blue and gold. These are no longer hated rivals, but outstanding and talented athletes with a genuine respect for one another.
My Aggie heart is aching, but I salute the Hornets. The best of the sport was shown at Hornet Stadium last Saturday afternoon.
— Contact Bob Dunning at [email protected]