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Jake Maier is a typical UC Davis student when he gets around campus on a bike, but he stands out when he is playing at quarterback for the Aggies.

UC Davis is Jake Maier’s third college in as many years. At this rate, the sophomore quarterback might as well keep his transcripts in his backpack so he will have them at hand if he decides next year to make it four in four.

The Aggies certainly hope Maier will put away his transcripts and opt to stay in Davis for two more years. With all that Maier and his teammates have accomplished this season, his wandering ways will likely come to an end.

UC Davis (5-5) has a shot at finishing with a winning record for the first time since 2010. All the Aggies have to do Saturday is beat Sacramento State (6-4) for the third consecutive year in the Causeway Classic. The Hornets will get their first look at Maier. By the end of the day, they might offer to help Maier pack if he will leave.

Quite a few folks in the Big Sky Conference would not mind if Maier went away. He could take his 3,344 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. And UC Davis could again be a Big Sky cellar dweller. A victory against Sacramento State would be the Aggies’ fourth in conference play this year, matching their total in the past three years.

Coach Dan Hawkins inherited a 3-8 team from Ron Gould, who was fired after going 12-33 in four years. The cupboard was not bare, but Hawkins had to find a starting quarterback from the two already on board or elsewhere.

Junior C.J. Spencer started three games in 2015. Senior Brock Dale started one last year. Maier arrived with just one junior college season under his belt. He did redshirt at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut in 2015, but that did not do much for Maier other than to make him realize that he had to get out of there.

Maier had traveled nearly 3,000 miles, leaving his family and friends in Southern California, to play at Sacred Heart. But then he did not play. And before too long, he came to the conclusion that there was no reason to stay.

“When you leave your comfort zone and go across the country, that’s a thing I think a lot of 18-year-olds would have a hard time with,” Maier recalled. “Those were trying times. It really made me grow up quickly. I think I needed to go through that. It taught me about life. I needed to learn something about myself and I definitely did.”

Fortunately for Maier, he came home in 2016 and found a new place to play at Long Beach City College. With his future in football at stake, he passed for 3,689 yards and 38 touchdowns to propel the Vikings to a 9-2 record.

“You’re basically playing for your career in one season at the junior college level,” Maier explained. “You have to humble yourself. You have to find a way to persevere. You have to work even harder than you ever have before.”

His perseverance has paid off in a second chance to play at a Division I college. As much as his time at Sacred Heart was humbling, Maier realizes he had to learn what it takes to play college football before he could do so.

“The high school version of me probably would have had a hard time with (leaving).  I might have just accepted my role there. I might have just ignored some of the things that bothered me,” Maier said. “In life, sometimes you have to make those drastic decisions and hope it works out for you. I’d like to think it did work out.”

His numbers attest to that. Among FCS quarterbacks, Maier is second in completion percentage (70.0) and third in passing yards (3,344). With Maier pulling the trigger, junior Keelan Doss has become one of the top wide receivers in the country. Doss is the Division I leader (FCS and FBS) in receptions at 102 and receiving yards at 1,326.

“I get the easy part,” Doss quipped. “All I have to do is catch it.”

Doss will return in 2018 unless he pulls a surprise and enters the NFL draft. Also coming back will be  two talented sophomores, wide receiver Aaron Moore (35 receptions for 480 yards) and tight end Wesley Preece (34 for 557). Preece has eight touchdown receptions, one more than Doss, and Moore has added five.

How about Maier? He is the right place at the right time.

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UC Davis junior Keelan Doss leaves North Dakota’s defense in his dust on a 65-yard touchdown catch Sept. 30.

Keelan Doss has no business playing football at UC Davis. The talented wide receiver should be putting his hands to good use at a university such as Oregon or San Diego State instead of competing against them. Just ask the Ducks and Aztecs.

More than 53,000 fans in Eugene got a good look at Doss in 2016 when he caught seven passes for 116 yards in the Aggies’ 53-28 loss to the Ducks. More than 46,000 were on hand Sept. 2 in San Diego when Doss had eight receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown as UC Davis kicked off its season with a 38-17 loss.

Such crowds are not possible at Aggie Stadium with a capacity of 10,743. Just more than 8,000 turned out Oct. 7 as Doss caught 15 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in a 41-38 loss to Eastern Washington. UC Davis has surpassed 9,000 just once since Doss arrived in 2014, and that was just two weeks ago.

And those 9,508 watched Doss have 11 catches for 199 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown, against North Dakota. The 6-foot-3, 206-pound Doss has had at least 100 receiving yards in five of six games this season. With a total of 870 yards, the junior has the distinction this week of leading all of Division I (FBS and FCS). Doss also happens to share the Division I lead in receptions per game at 9.3 with Steve Ishmael of Syracuse.

That might surprise the major college recruiters who pursued Doss when he was a senior at Alameda High School in 2013. Most of them lost interest, Doss recalled, when he sustained a finger injury and had to miss two games. Many of those recruiters must be kicking themselves given what Doss has become.

The Aggies never wavered. Pacific-12 and Mountain West conference teams faded away, but UC Davis stayed true. “Davis was genuine in talking to me. It was one of my only offers, and they really wanted me.” Doss said in a telephone interview this week. “That’s the big reasons why I came here. I wanted to perform for this school. I tell myself that I belong in the Pac-12 or one of the other Power Five (conferences). I use that as motivation.”

A foot injury in 2015 also fuels Doss, who missed that season after playing in 10 games in 2014 as a freshman. “It was really humbling. I missed those long days of practice. I took those days for granted. None of this is guaranteed. It made me work harder to get back,” said Doss, who returned in 2016 with 66 receptions for 911 yards.

Doss will surpass both of those totals if he maintains his 2017 pace on Oct. 21 when the Aggies, who have a bye this week, travel to Northern Arizona. Doss can’t wait to find out what offensive coordinator Tim Plough has in store for the Lumberjacks. The former Aggie was an assistant at Northern Arizona the past four seasons.

Plough has aired out the offense since returning to UC Davis, where he was the wide receivers coach in 2009 and passing game coordinator in 2010-2012. The Aggies are averaging 351 passing yards per game after managing 238 a game in 2016, when they were 3-8 in Ron Gould’s fourth and final season as head coach. Another former Aggie, Dan Hawkins, is now in charge. Doss is convinced UC Davis found the right coach. The Aggies have a shot at finishing with a winning record for the first time since going 6-5 in 2010 and have defeated two teams (San Diego and North Dakota) that made the FCS playoffs in 2016.

It did not take long for Doss and his teammates to sense that Hawkins was not going to play the hand he was dealt. After the graduation of quarterback Ben Scott, Hawkins could have gone with C.J. Spencer or Brock Dale since the two paid their dues in 2016 as backups to the Vanden High graduate. Hawkins instead opted to bring in sophomore Jake Maier from Long Beach City College. Five of Maier’s 14 touchdown passes have gone to Doss, who may be responsible for a few others by drawing so much attention from opposing defenses. Doss admitted to telling tight end Wesley Preece that he deserved a bit of credit after the sophomore’s three touchdown receptions Sept. 30 in the Aggies’ 48-24 win over North Dakota.

Be it North Dakota or Oregon, Doss does not measure the caliber of the opposition as much as he does the opportunity to perform. “I’m very competitive,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who we play. I always want to bring my best.”

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