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FOOTBALL OPENS SEASON ON SATURDAY AT INCARNATE WORD

FOOTBALL OPENS SEASON ON SATURDAY AT INCARNATE WORD

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A BRIEF PREVIEW
The Sacramento State football team will begin its 2014 season when it travels to San Antonio, Texas to face Incarnate Word on Saturday, Aug. 30. The game against the Cardinals will kick off at 4 p.m. PDT from Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium.

There will be multiple ways to follow this week's game. Hornet fans can tune in to KTKZ 1380 AM (The Answer) to hear the radio call of Jason Ross, Steve McElroy and Danny Sullivan. Live audio streaming is also available via www.hornetsports.com and on the iHeart Radio application for mobile devices.

This week's game will not be televised but can be viewed through a live stream on the Incarnate Word athletics web site (www.cardinalathletics.com).

The Hornets are coming off a season in which the team posted a 5-7 overall record and 4-4 Big Sky Conference mark. Sacramento State suffered three losses by three points or less to Southern Utah, Northern Arizona and Montana — all of which advanced to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. The team was also victorious in a close game as it edged Portland State, 43-42.

Sacramento State returns 13 starters from last season's team, including preseason All-American wide receiver DeAndre Carter and three-year starting quarterback Garrett Safron. However, one major change for the team will be on the sideline as Jody Sears will make his debut for the Hornets. Sears will also serve as the defensive coordinator  for a unit which includes 15 players from the final two deep of 2013.

Incarnate Word will be making its official FCS debut on Saturday. The school began playing football in 2009 as an independent Div. II member. The Cardinals played in the Lone Star Conference from 2010-12 before transitioning to an FCS Independent last year. UIW officially joined the Southland Conference this offseason.

Last season, Incarnate Word was 6-5 with each of its wins coming over non-Div. I members and all of its losses coming at the hands of FCS schools. The Cardinals return their leading passer, rusher and receiver from that team. Trent Brittain completed 178-of-325 pass attempts for 1,893 yards and 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions as a freshman. Broderick Reeves rushed for 616 yards and 11 TDs while Casey Jennings caught 54 passes for 738 yards and five scores.

THE COACHES
Jody Sears is in his first season as the head coach at Sacramento State. Sears was previously the head coach at Weber State from 2012-13 and has been the defensive coordinator at Eastern Washington and Washington State.

Incarnate Word is coached by Larry Kennan who is in his third year with the Cardinals. Kennan is a football coaching veteran who began his career as the backfield coach at LaVerne in 1966. Kennan later went on to the NFL with Raiders, Broncos, Colts, Seahawks, Saints and Patriots. Prior to taking the UIW position, he had been out of coaching since 1997.

THE SERIES
This week's game will mark the first meeting between Sacramento State and Incarnate Word in any sport. The Hornets are 2-1 all-time against current members of the Southland Conference. The team is 2-0 against Abilene Christian and 0-1 against Stephen F. Austin.

IN THE BEGINNING
• Sacramento State is 24-35-1 all-time in season openers. However, that number has been altered of late as the team has began the season against an FBS foe in 11 of the past 12 years. While the Hornets were victorious at Oregon State in 2011, the team is 1-10 overall in season openers at FBS schools.
• This weekend's game will have a different twist as it will be Sacramento State's first season opener against a FCS team since hosting Saint Mary's in 2001.
• Since 2002, Sacramento State has began the year against an FBS foe all but once. That lone exception was in 2008 when the team welcomed Humboldt State on Aug. 30.
• The trip to Texas is also a rarity for the Hornets. The team has played only five times in the Lone Star state with the most recent action coming in a loss at UTEP in 2002.
• Sacramento State has also played at Abilene Christian (1991), Stephen F. Austin (1994), Texas State (1997) and West Texas A&M (1989).
• While the Hornet football team has not been to Texas in 12 years, the baseball team has nearly earned citizenship. In the last two years, the team has played at Texas, Dallas Baptist, UTSA, the WAC Tournament in Arlington, Texas A&M and UTPA.

COACHING DEBUT
• Jody Sears will be the 10th head coach in Sacramento State football history when the team takes the field on Saturday night. Only three previous Hornet head coaches were victorious in their first game at the helm. College Football Hall of Famer John Baker defeated Cal State LA 19-14 in 1957. Ray Clemons downed Pepperdine, 21-0, in 1961. Mike Clemons, Ray's son, bettered Cal State Hayward, 34-17, in 1993.
• Along with Sears, several other members of the staff will also be appearing for the first time on the Hornet sideline. Sammy Lawanson will coach the running backs after spending the previous two seasons at Arizona State. Jason Pollak will also transition from offensive assistant to wide receivers coach. Local prep legend James Montgomery will serve as the team's offensive assistant this season. Montgomery played for Sears at Washington State and was an assistant at Weber State.
    On defense, Anthony Parker will mentor the team's safeties. Parker was previously the Hornets' defensive coordinator. The defensive line is led by Solomona Tapasa who joined the team in February of 2014.

SAFRON HONORS CONTINUE
• After earning second team all-Big Sky honors last season, senior Garrett Safron found himself on nearly every preseason watch list and all-conference team heading into 2014. Safron also served as the team's representative for the Big Sky Kickoff media event in Park City, Utah during July.
• Last season, Safron rewrote the school single season record book with 294 completions, 460 attempts, 3,289 passing yards and 27 passing touchdowns. He also rushed for a team best 492 yards and seven touchdowns and set the single season mark with 3,781 yard of total offense. Following the year, he was named the team's offensive MVP and became the first Hornet QB to be named first or second team all-Big Sky.
• Safron also three of the most memorable single game efforts as he threw a  Big Sky record seven touchdowns against Southern Oregon. Midway through the year he completed 41 passes against Montana to take down the school mark and later added a 554-yard effort at Portland State to also set the Hornet record.
• The performance at Portland State helped the team to a 43-42 victory and was his fourth 300-yard game of the year. His seven career 300-yard games has him tied with Ryan Leadingham for the most in Sacramento State history.
• The Santa Monica, Calif., native has started every game over the past two seasons and is now either first or second in every career passing record at Sacramento State.

CARTER CLIMBS THE CHARTS
• Senior DeAndre Carter was the lone member of the Hornets to earn preseason all-Big Sky honors in a vote of the league's media. Carter was also a preseason All-American by several publications.
• Last season, the Fremont, Calif., native exploded for 934 yards and a school-record tying 14 receiving touchdowns in 11 games. He missed the final game of the after spraining his ankle at Portland State.
• Carter became just the third player in school history to catch at least three touchdown passes in a game twice, joining Mike Carter (no relation) and Eric Harrington. His first came against Southern Oregon where he had 12 receptions for 122 yards and five touchdowns. He added three more TDs at Weber State.
• Carter has caught a touchdown in eight of his last nine games and finished the year tied for fourth in the FCS with 14.
• Carter did not catch a touchdown pass as a freshman in 2011 where he had 11 receptions for 161 yards. As a sophomore, he got off to a great start, scoring touchdowns in each of the first four games. However, he did not find the end zone for the remainder of the season, finishing with 32 catches for 344 yards.

Career Receiving Yards    Total    Needs
T3. Mike Carter, 1968-69    1,834    395
T3. Lamont Webb, 1997-2000    1,834    395
5. Tony Washington, 2007-08    1,693    254
6. Scott Towne, 19997-2000    1,646    207
7. Kevin Fontes, 1981-82    1,468    29
8. DeAndre Carter, 2011-pres.    1,439    ---

Career Receiving Touchdowns    Total    Needs
1. Fred Amey, 2001-04    27    9
2. Morris Norrise, 2010-13    19    1
3. DeAndre Carter, 2011-pres.    18    ---

SACK STREAK CONTINUES
• When Trent Eskew sacked Randy Wright in the Causeway Classic, Sacramento State extended its streak with at least one sack to 30 consecutive games.
• The last time the Hornets were unable to get to the quarterback came in the team's 42-28 win over Montana on Sept. 24, 2011.
• Last season, nine different Sacramento State players recorded at least a half sack. The group was led by Darnell Sankey who had 6.0.

PAVING THE WAY
• The most experienced position group for the team is the offensive line which boasts five players who started games last season. Combined the five have started 64 games during their careers.
• In the middle of the line is senior John Wallace. A transfer from UMass prior to last year, Wallace played every offensive snap for the team last year.
• Senior Derek Nielsen returns at guard after missing the final four games of 2013 with an ankle injury. Nielsen had started his first eight games at Sacramento State after transferring from Oregon State.
• The tackles are manned by juniors Lars Hanson and Aleksandar Milanovic. Like Wallace, Hanson also played every offensive snap for the Hornets in 2013. The 6-8, 300-pounder has started 17 consecutive games and 19 during his career.
    A native of Vienna, Austria, Milanovic has started 21 games as a Hornet. At 6-7, 300-pounds, he and Hanson combine for one of the largest bookends in the FCS.
• Sophomore Casey Dakin returns as the primary backup at guard. Dakin started four games last season.
• Redshirt freshman Lake Aiono is the lone new member of the starting group. Aiono (6-2, 325) prepped at South Hills HS in West Covina, Calif.

IN THE TRENCHES
• The defensive line boasts nearly as much experience as its counterparts. The group returns six players who saw significant playing time last season.
• On the ends, seniors Ben Cowger and Jaycee Totty are expected to earn the starting nods while junior Ronald Ussery and redshirt freshman Ben Sorenson will also contribute. Totty ranks second among returners with 6.5 tackles for loss.
• In the middle of the line, junior Nick Mazza returns after starting all 12 games a year ago. Mazza tallied 35 stops, including 4.5 for loss, in 2013 but missed all of spring ball after having Tommy John surgery.
• Fellow senior Nathan Castro and juniors Antonio Hayes, Peter Nonu and Brandon Tuliaupupu will also be in the mix. The group was dealt a blow with senior JJ Castillo was lost for the season with a knee injury late in camp.

REAPPEARING ACT
• The Hornets will feature a pair of starting linebackers who were not there last season. Junior Darnell Sankey transitioned from defensive end to middle linebacker during the spring. Sankey ranked third on the team with 65 total tackles and led the squad with 9.5 TFLs and six sacks.
    Sankey was the FCS Defensive Player of the Week last season after having 10 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery at Weber State — a team which was coached by Jody Sears.
• Sankey was originally a linebacker for the Hornets out of high school but shifted to defensive end.
• Senior Henry Fernandez is back after missing all of 2013 with a back injury. Fernandez had 37 tackles in 2012, including a career high 10 in the team's win at Colorado.
• Behind the pair is redshirt fresham Allan Alvaro and true freshman Tyler Meteer who was the Sacramento Bee's High School Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.

SHARING THE ROCK
• Sacramento State returns eight of its top nine returning rushers from 2013. While no one on the team rushed for more than 500 yards, the Hornets still managed to compile over 1,600 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.
• Safron was the leading rusher with 492 yards and seven touchdowns. The QB joined graduated running back Ezekiel Graham as the only players with runs of at least 50 yards.
Brandon Kellermann began last year as a blocking back and special teams player but evolved into a starter where he rushed for 330 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Jordan Robinson is the likely starter among the group. As a freshman last year, he rushed for 159 yards and three TDs and also had 141 receiving yards.
Demetrius Warren and De'Jon Coleman complete the group of returners. Warren had 212 yards and a TD in 10 games while Coleman had 26 yards on just eighth carries in three games.

STEP ON UP
• One of the biggest questions surrounding the team will be who will join Carter among the top receivers on the team in 2014. Carter (934) and Robinson (141) are the only returners who had more than 100 receiving yards a year ago.
• At receiver, juniors Nnamdi Agude, Justin Cox and Dominic Coulter are the leading candidates to grab a starting job. Agude has played in the last two years and has three career receptions for 24 yards. Cox missed all of last year with a foot injury. As a redshirt freshman in 2012, he had 11 receptions for 90 yards. Coulter is a transfer from Nevada who measures 6-3, 235.
    True freshman Isiah Hennie could also work his way into the unit. Although just 5-7, 150 pounds, Hennie has shown the ability through camp to make the tough catch in the middle of the field. The San Diego, Calif., native could also work as a kick/punt returner.
• The team also returns a pair of tight ends in senior Chris Broadnax and redshirt freshman Stone Sander. Broadnax has started games the last three seasons, including his 5-catch, 92-yard, one touchdown performance in the win at Colorado. Sander played in the first three games last year before breaking his clavicle. He had two catches for 16 yards in that span.

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