SACRAMENTO, Calif. — One of the primary goals of the Sacramento State football coaching staff heading into Saturday's first football scrimmage was to get a look at all available players. And after the nearly 80 play practice concluded it was mission accomplished.
The Hornets tested their entire roster throughout the controlled scrimmage, using four quarterbacks, three running backs and a dozen receivers on the hot Saturday morning at Hornet Stadium. The defense also rotated players frequently, showcasing its talented group of freshmen and transfers which will aid several returning starters.
"Like I told the team, there were good things in all aspects of the game," Sacramento State head coach Marshall Sperbeck said. "It was a great opportunity for some of our younger guys to get some work."
After the opening drive stalled, junior Garrett Safron led the offense on a five play, 65-yard series which ended with a one-handed over-the-shoulder catch by DeAndre Carter for a 15-yard touchdown. The defense matched the excitement when Todd Davis broke through to block the extra point attempt by Jesse Aguilar and Robert Beale returned the ball 85 yards for a two-point conversion.
True freshman Jihad Vercher was next up at quarterback but had his first two drives end with three-and-outs. Vercher's third attempt was helped by a 29-yard run from fellow true freshman Jordan Robinson to take the ball across midfield.
After failing to advance, Aguilar stole the spotlight with a 52-yard field goal. The JC All-American from Fullerton JC contributed a 47-yarder on the next series and had the distance for a 54-yard attempt later in the day. On that attempt, Aguilar was able to overcome a bad snap but pushed the ball wide left.
"Jesse had a good day," Sperbeck said. "We were able to work on (special teams) and put him in some tough situations and he was able to come through."
Aside from those two field goals, the defense was able to control the middle part of the scrimmage. The unit combined for 11 tackles-for-loss, including six where the quarterbacks were whistled down for sacks.
One of the biggest plays for the defense came late in the scrimmage where the offense started on its own 35-yard line without a timeout and only 55 seconds remaining. On the first play, Safron's pass was deflected and intercepted by safety Robbie Kendall. The Butte JC transfer also had a pair of pass break-ups during the day.
"Robbie's a very good player and has a nose for the ball," Sperbeck said. "He's been making plays all camp and continued to show that today."
The offense bounced back in the same scenario moving the ball downfield and winning the series with a 28-yard field goal from Aguilar. The drive was kept alive when Safron found Morrise Norrise for a 21-yard gain on 4th-and-5.
Vercher also rallied the team for a late touchdown. He inherited a situation where the offense needed a touchdown and started on the defense's 45-yard line. Facing 4th-and-3 from the 16, he lobbed the ball over the defense to an open Blake Robertson.
In the goal line segment of the scrimmage, sophomore Dejon Coleman scored on the first play from the 4-yard line. The defense then held firm, keeping the offense out on its next six plays.
The defense had a touchdown of its own when Dexter Alcala scooped up an errant snap which went over the head of true freshman Daniel Kniffin and returned it just over 20 yards.
Robinson was the team's leading rusher with 13 attempts for 55 yards. Carter paced the receivers with five grabs for 80 yards.
NOTES: Following the scrimmage, the team held its annual Bee a Hornet event which allowed kids 12-and-under on the field to run through drills with the players and coaches…running back Ezekiel Graham, wide receiver Austin Dotson and tight end Cole Hikutini did not compete in the scrimmage…the team is slated to have its final scrimmage on Wednesday morning…the team's season opener will come on Thursday, Aug. 29, at San Jose State.
Robinson 13-55; Warren 7-17; Coleman 7-11, TD.
Safron 9-15-1-127-1; Vercher 7-14-0-68-1; McDade 1-4-0-3-0; Kniffin 3-7-0-14-0.
Carter 5-80, TD; Robertson 4-31, TD; Norrise 3-47; Broadnax 3-31; DePalma 1-11; Harrison 1-7; Mosi 1-7; Warren 1-2; Robinson 1-(-4).