Editor’s Note: This article appeared as part of our April’s Fools issue.
While the baseball season hits its stretch-drive just down the street, the scent of pigskin can be detected in the air.
The daunting UCSB football team dusts off antiquated equipment and laces up cleats as spring practice begins at Harder Stadium. The Gauchos are trying to put behind them the scars of last year’s devastatingly narrow loss to the greatly favored UConn Huskies in the Alamo Bowl.
The final score was UConn 42, UCSB 38.
Like a rolling stone gathering moss, a tumbleweed rolling through the Arizona desert and a runaway train steaming down the hill, the Gauchos got better as last season rolled on.
Led by then sophomore quarterback Jason Williams’ 31 touchdown passes, UCSB rolled off eight straight wins to close out the season. Santa Barbara also found confidence in its defense that held opponents to an average of only 12.3 points per game during the winning streak. Sophomore defensive end Eric Owens recorded eight sacks during the win streak and finished 3rd in the Big West with 12 on the season. Owens also had two sacks in the Alamo Bowl loss to UConn.
“Williams and Owens really emerged as team leaders toward the end of the season,” UCSB Head Coach Bill Snodgrass said. “I was impressed with how Williams handled the lack of depth on the offensive line and running game. He carried the offense on his shoulders toward the end of the season and became the quarterback we all thought he would be coming out of Mission San Jose High School.”
Williams attributes his success to hard work and pressure from his teammates to perform up to his abilities.
“[Sophomore running back] Tanaka told me I ‘ain’t got no marbles.’ I had to respond,” Williams said. “I finally realized it was my team and nobody else was good enough to take this team to where it needed to go. Like I said, I’m just looking for, like I said, the right situation in which, like I said, Jason Williams can succeed.”
Williams should finally get help from a running game and offensive line that has a year of experience under its belt. Junior running back Rocky Bleir looks to improve on his 3.5 yards per carry he averaged last season.
“Our success this year depends on Bleir and the offensive line forming some sort of running game,” Snodgrass said. “Without it, we won’t be in a bowl game this year.”