Every college football team has a trick play in which a running back attempts to throw a pass. Lan Larison has throw six passes for UC Davis, completing three for 38 yards. Those paltry numbers do not strike fear in opposing defenses, but they know better than to ignore the junior.
Larison played quarterback at Vallivue High School in Caldwell, Idaho, where he attracted attention for his running prowess. His statistics as a senior in 2018 bear that out. Larison rushed for 2,373 yards and 27 touchdowns. In his spare time, Larison passed for 788 yards and nine touchdowns.
UC Davis made it clear when Larison arrived in 2020 that there would be little chance he would ever play quarterback. There was always the possibility of Larison throwing the ball on a trick play. And that led to a trick play in which Larison acts as if he will throw and then tucks the ball away to run.
That very play produced the Aggies’ first touchdown in Saturday’s 37-23 victory over Portland State. Larison was aligned behind quarterback Miles Hastings on second-and-goal at the 4-yard line. Hastings went in motion to the left, leaving Larison to take a direct snap. Larison cocked his right arm as if to pass and then bolted untouched to the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Larison had only just begun. He ran for two more touchdowns for the first hat trick of his career. He also had his second consecutive 100-yard game by running for 136 on 25 carries. Larison carried the ball 49 times in those two games after missing three games with an injured right knee.
The injury occurred in the third quarter of the 27-24 loss to Eastern Washington on Sept. 23. Larison’s departure likely cost the Aggies a shot at beating the Eagles for the first time in 11 meetings. He left after gaining 54 yards on nine carries to fuel a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that put the Aggies ahead at 24-20 with 6:24 remaining in the third quarter.
A 300-yard game was well within Larison’s reach after he finished with 255 yards on 22 carries, including a 78-yard touchdown dash in the second quarter. Mike Ichiyama is the only UC Davis player to rush for 300 yards in a game, doing so in 1994 against San Francisco State and Chico State .
Larison leads the Big Sky Conference by averaging 119.3 rushing yards per game. He ranks third in rushing yards (716) despite missing three games. Larison ran for 416 yards in 2022 as the understudy to senior Ulonzo Gilliam, who graduated as the Aggies’ all-time leading rusher with 4,364 yards.
UC Davis will need Larison to be at his best to stand any chance of making the FCS playoffs. The Aggies are 5-4 with two games to go and it usually takes seven victories to earn a postseason ticket. UC Davis and Sacramento State are among the six teams tied for fourth place in the Big Sky at 3-3.
Montana State, Montana and Idaho share first place at 5-1. Montana rolled past Sacramento State 34-7 on Saturday night in Missoula. The Grizzlies became the first team since Arizona State in 2019 to shut out the Hornets in three quarters of a game. Sacramento State is 6-3 and will likely get to seven wins when it faces Cal Poly (3-6) next Saturday at Hornet Stadium.
The Causeway Classic on Nov. 18 at UC Davis Health Stadium could very well determine whether UC Davis or Sacramento State makes the playoffs. The Hornets have advanced to the postseason in each of the past three full seasons. Sacramento State did not play when the 2020 season was wiped out by COVID-19 and turned into five games in the spring of 2021.