Football Can't Overcome Mistakes in Big Sky Loss to North Dakota

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento State amassed more total yards and first downs but was doomed by three turnovers and two failed fourth-down conversions in a 35-13 loss to North Dakota on Saturday in front of 10,774 at Hornet Stadium.

The victory improved UND to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in Big Sky Conference play. The Hornets dropped to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in league action.

North Dakota took the opening kickoff and drove 81 yards, taking a 7-0 lead on a 32-yard catch and run from Marcus Hendrickson to Jameer Jackson. On the play Jackson caught the ball just in front of the line of scrimmage, broke a tackle, and dashed the remainder of the way up the left side of the field for the score.

Sacramento State's first possession ended with an interception near midfield but from the point, the Hornet defense clamped down limiting UND to just 18 yards on its next five drives.

During that stretch, Sacramento State tied the game on an 11-yard pass from Garrett Safron to DeAndre Carter with 6:24 to play in the first quarter. The touchdown was Carter's fourth this season with one coming in each game.

The score remained tied until midway through the second quarter. North Dakota stopped the Hornets on 4th-and-7 from the UND 36-yard line and promptly drove 64 yards on eight plays to take a 14-7 lead on a 5-yard run by Mitch Sutton.

Sacramento State looked poised to tie the score as the team moved the ball inside the 10-yard line before Safron was unable to handle the snap and the ball was recovered by UND's Ross Brenneman at the 6-yard line. An interception by linebacker Jeff Badger gave Sacramento State one more chance to score before halftime but Edgar Castaneda's 52-yard attempt was blocked.

The second half picked up where the first ended for the Hornets as Safron was intercepted at the 11-yard line, thwarting another scoring opportunity. The Hornet defense stopped North Dakota on fourth down only to have UND answer with its own stop on 4th-and-1 at the Hornet 42. Sacramento State attempted to sneak the ball with Safron over the left side of the line but was stopped short of the marker.

From that point, momentum swung to North Dakota which scored touchdowns on its next three drives to put the game out of reach. Sutton provided runs of 5 and 1 yards with a 20-yard diving catch by Jackson in the middle.

The final points of the game came from freshman Shane Harrison who caught a deflected pass by Mason Magleby for his first career touchdown.

The Hornet offense wracked up a season-high 492 yards of total offense with 255 coming on the ground and 274 through the air. Junior Ezekiel Graham dominated the first half, rushing for 116 of his career-high 140 yards in the first two quarters. Safron finished 19-of-33 for 163 yards with two interceptions and a touchdown. Magleby led the final drive and completed 6-of-7 passes for 74 yards.

The Hornet defense did a nice job against UND's high-powered passing offense but was hurt by the rushing attack. North Dakota entered the game averaging 337 passing yards per game but was held to 147 on 14-of-23 passes. Wide receiver Greg Hardin, who ranked fifth in the FCS in receiving yards per game and led the subdivision with seven touchdowns in the first three games, finished with three grabs for 22 yards without a touchdown.

Sutton eclipsed his total through the first three games of the year with 23 attempts for 162 yards and three touchdowns. Jake Miller added 73 rushing yards as part of the team's 294 yards on the ground.

Four Sacramento State defenders set career highs in tackles led by safety Ryan McMahon who had 14. Linebacker Todd Davis (13), defensive back Markell Williams (9) and safety Dijon Washington (9) were close behind.

The Hornets will return to the road for another two games, starting with a Sept. 29 game against Idaho State (1-2). The team will also play at Southern Utah before returning home on Oct. 13 to face Weber State.