RENO — A pair of Truckee standouts returned to their old stomping grounds Saturday at Mackay Stadium.
Although they did not play, Erik Holmer and Zak Pettit were on hand to watch as their UC Davis Aggies were thumped by Nevada, 36-7. Despite the loss, Holmer said it was the first time since he left for camp that he and Pettit had returned home.
The two former Truckee stars, who led the Wolverines to last year’s Division I-A Nevada state championship, the school’s fourth straight, will redshirt this season for the Aggies.
Holmer, who quarterbacked the 2012 Truckee club, has made the transition to linebacker as a preferred walk-on. Despite a season off from the position, Holmer said it feels good to be back hitting and playing defense.
Holmer played strong safety as a junior, more like a roaming linebacker in Truckee’s 4-4 scheme.
“We are practicing with the team and contributing to the scout-team defense,” Holmer said. “I’m playing mainly outside linebacker. My junior year I played a lot more defense and that is why I was recruited to play defense.”
His longtime teammate, Pettit, a terror in high school, earned a scholarship and remains at his familiar position of defensive end.
The two blew up the DI-A last season as Holmer threw for 1,768 yards with 19 TDs and 10 interceptions. Pettit, meanwhile, tallied 125 tackles — 38 for a loss — with 18 sacks and four forced fumbles.
“It’s really cool because all the guys are really talented,” Holmer said of college football. “Everyone’s bigger, faster, stronger. It’s definitely something to get used to.”
Their new home, though, has gone through a lull in recent years as UC Davis (0-2), a Football Championship School (formerly Division I-A), competes in the loaded Big Sky Conference. The conference boasts four nationally ranked teams, including Saturday’s opponent, No. 24 Northern Arizona (0-1).
The Aggies, meanwhile, are under new leadership with head coach Ron Gould in his first season. Gould spent 16 seasons at Cal and played at Oregon in the 1980s. UC Davis finished last season 4-7 and was picked 12th in the Big Sky media poll this season.
Holmer, though, said the new staff has brought excitement and energy to the once-proud program. His goals this season are to become comfortable with the playbook and get used the academic course load.
UC Davis, which is on the quarter system, does not begin classes until next week.
“All the coaches are great,” Holmer said. “They brought a new life to the team. All the older guys are pumped about the new coaching staff. They can see the changes … so hopefully the next four years will be good. Hopefully next year we will be out on the field.”