Southern Utah missed opportunities early, and UC Davis was able to take the momentum in the second quarter and keep it in keeping SUU without a touchdown since the fourth game of the 2001 season when Western Oregon took a 16-3 win in Cedar City.
The Thunderbirds drove inside the 20 twice in the first period but came away with just three points from the two opportunities as both drives stalled, leading to short field goal tries.
“We weren’t able to take advantage of those early opportunities and it wound up giving them confidence,” SUU Coach Ed Lamb noted.
The Aggies’ Jonathan Perkins came off the edge to block the first attempt, a 29-yarder, but Colton Cook knocked the second one through from 30 yards to give SUU a 3-0 lead.
UC Davis got on the board in the second quarter when Manzanares ran 16 yards up the middle on third and short, then moved out to a 14-3 lead on another Manzanares run, this time from inside the one-yard line.
The Aggies moved out to a 21-3 lead on a 19-yard pass from Randy Wright to T.J. King early in the third period but the Thunderbirds appeared to have a second wind as they went to the hurry-up offense and drove to the Aggie 20 yard line.
That drive stalled out as well, however, and SUU missed another scoring opportunity when Cook’s 33-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.
“In every phase of the game we were outplayed,” Lamb said. “Their players brought more energy and that starts with [the coaches]. The record favors us, the media favors us but those things don’t win games; we didn’t match their energy level.”
The Thunderbirds finished with a season-low 45 yards rushing but threw for a season-high 281 yards as Aaron Cantu completed 29-of-50 passes – with eight going to Fatu Moala for 90 yards – but he was intercepted twice and sacked four times.
Wright completed 16-of-25 passes for 193 yards without throwing an interception and the Thunderbirds were able to get to him for a sack just once.
Southern Utah dipped to 4-2 on the season and 1-1 in Big Sky play while UC Davis improved to 2-4 and 2-0 in conference games.