At the Football Championship Subdivision level U.C. Davis is ranked 4th in the nation. The University of San Diego is a non-scholarship program. When they met on Saturday at Torero Stadium the Aggies were 21-point favorites.
The Toreros came two seconds short of pulling off an incredible upset.
USD fumbled at the goal line with two seconds left to suffer a heartbreaking 38-35 loss to Davis.
After falling behind 14-0 the Toreros got right back in the game when Michael Armstead returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. That set off a back-and forth game that saw neither team lead by more than seven points the rest of the way.
USD quarterback Reid Sinnett scrambled for a short TD to tie it 14-all before the Aggies used some trickery. Quarterback Jake Maier threw backwards to wide receiver Carson Crawford, who unleashed a 37-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Hyman that put U.C. Davis up 21-14 at halftime.
The Toreros got the ball to start the 2nd half and marched right down the field. Running back Emilio Martinez scored on an 11-yard run to tie it 21-all. Martinez finished the day with 115 yards on 26 carries, most of them coming in the 2nd half.
Davis took the lead back on a 4-yard TD run by Ulonzo Gilliam but USD knotted it again at 28 when Sinnett hit tight end Dalton Kincaid for a 20-yard touchdown pass. On their next possession the Aggies kicked a 28-yard field goal to go up 31-28 and give the Toreros a chance to take their first lead of the day.
Sinnett delivered with another TD strike to Kincaid to put USD on top 35-31. Davis went back on top with another short Gilliam TD run but their quick-strike spread offense left USD 3:35 to work with. A penalty on the kickoff forced the Toreros drive to start at their own nine yard line.
Three minutes and 32 seconds later USD was at the Aggies 4 yard line. Sinnett found Martinez near the goal line but as he was stretching to try and reach the end zone he was hit ... and lost the football less than a yard before breaking the plane. The fumble resulted in a touchback and the end of what was nearly a program-defining upset.
Still, this was the kind of game that gave the Toreros a chance to send a message to the rest of the nation:
They can play with anybody.
"We know we're that good," said Kincaid. "It's a little more heartbreaking than encouraging because we know we can beat them."
And if the Toreros get another shot at the Aggies ... say, perhaps in the FCS playoffs ... don't think they won't remember this particular Saturday afternoon.
"People said that they're a national title contender," said Sinnett. "If we were in that game I think we can make some noise in the playoffs."
The Toreros can get there by winning a 6th straight Pioneer League championship. They get a week off before hosting Harvard then start the conference season on October 5 at Torero Stadium against Marist.