DAY 15 (Aug. 15): Cougar Football Fears No Foe
Azusa Pacific’s 2012 football season not only brings the challenge of taking on a full 10-game NCAA Division II conference schedule, it also puts an NCAA Division I scholarship program on the Cougar slate for just the fourth time in program history.
The season opener is a Thursday night contest Aug. 30 at UC Davis, which competes in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) of Division I. Like Azusa Pacific, which is entering its first year in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, UC Davis is also entering its first year in a new conference. The Aggies, who were 4-7 overall last year, start their inaugural season in the Big Sky Conference.
Azusa Pacific is 0-3 in games against Division I FCS programs, although the most recent was a 30-28 heartbreaker at nationally-ranked Nicholls State (La.). Prior to that, the Cougars lost on the road to Cal State Northridge in 1997, 63-21, and in 2005 at Sacramento State by a 41-19 count. An annual series with University of San Diego, a Division I FCS non-scholarship program, was put on hold this year with the 44-game all-time series knotted at 22-all.
The 2012 campaign will be UC Davis’ 10th football season since transitioning from NCAA Division II to the Division I FCS. The Aggies appeared in the Div. II playoffs 18 times in a 26-year stretch (1977-2002) before the transition, and since the move, the Aggies have played seven games against Div. II foes including four games against current GNAC members. Last year, UC Davis suffered a 23-17 defeat to eventual GNAC champion Humboldt State, although the Aggies had won four of their last five against Div. II foes.
Since moving up to Div. I, UC Davis has twice hosted Div. II programs to open the season. In 2003, Grand Valley State edged the Aggies in overtime, 9-6, and in 2007 it was Western Washington that pulled off the 28-21 season-opening upset in Davis.
Azusa Pacific kicked off fall camp last week with a program-record 126 players, and the Cougars are coming off of back-to-back NAIA playoff appearances as they enter their first year of NCAA Div. II competition. The 10-game GNAC schedule opens with a Sept. 8 visit to defending conference champion Humboldt State.