SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Garrett Safron completed 17-of-25 passes for 251 yards and five touchdowns and Darnell Sankey led the team with 10 tackles and also returned an interception for a touchdown to lead Sacramento State to a 49-13 win at Incarnate Word on Saturday night at Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium.
The 49 points were the most scored by the Hornets in a season opener in school history. While the 36-point margin of victory was the largest since a 69-19 win over Saint Mary's in 2003.
Safron picked up where he left off last season as the senior quarterback threw four or more touchdowns for the sixth time in his career and the third time in the last five games. Safron connected with seven receivers, including junior Nnamdi Agude who had a career high six receptions for 111 yards and a pair of scores. Prior to tonight's effort, Agude had only had three receptions during his his first two years with the team. Junior Dominic Coulter (2 rec, 27 yards) and senior Joey DePalma (2 rec., 7 yards) also caught passes for the first time as a Hornet. Senior DeAndre Carter added two more touchdowns to take sole possession of second place in school history with 21.
Defensively, Sankey led all players with 10 tackles, including five solos. The junior also shared one of the team's four sacks, recovered a fumble and returned a touchdown 59 yards on his first career interception. True freshman Joey Banks had six tackles and was one of 24 Sacramento State players to be credited with a tackle during the game.
After being stopped on its first drive of the game, the Hornets offense exploded during the remainder of the first half. Safron started the scoring flurry with a 4-yard screen pass to Jordan Robinson which gave the team a 7-3 lead nearly five minutes into the fame. Following a second UIW field goal, Sacramento State scored the next 28 points.
Carter was wide open up the middle of the field for a 33-yard connection with 1:26 left in the first quarter. That score was set up after junior Garrett Steele blocked a punt. The Hornets kept the ball after the TD when Brad Cornish's kickoff was knocked down by the wind and recovered by Steele at the 24-yard line. Junior Nnamdi Agude capitalized on the miscue with a leaping 24-yard touchdown for his first career score.
In the second quarter, Brandon Kellermann made the score 28-6 when he followed his line into the end zone from the 1-yard line on 4th-and-goal. UIW appeared to gain some momentum when Cornish's 56-yard field goal attempt was blocked late in the half. However, Sankey stripped the running back and Jaycee Totty recovered the fumble to give Sacramento State another chance. Safron hit Agude for three passes to begin the series before finding Carter in the front right corner of the end zone for a 24-yard TD pass.
Safron threw his fifth touchdown pass early in the second half with a 20-yard high-arcing pass to Agude in the back of the end zone. The drive appeared to stall when the team was stopped on 4th-and-1 but a face mask penalty against the Cardinals set up the TD. On the ensuing drive, UIW drove past midfield before Darnell Sankey intercepted Taylor Woods and sprinted up the middle of the field for a 59-yard touchdown.
Ramon Cotto was the bright spot for Incarnate Word. The freshman kicker boomed 47 and 49-yard field goals in the first quarter. The Cardinals' were dealt a blow when starting quarterback Trent Brittain was knocked out of the game with an ankle injury midway through the first quarter. The team also scored early in the fourth quarter on a 49-yard pass from Woods to Joseph Sadler who was left uncovered in the middle of the field.
Sacramento State will play at Cal on Saturday, Sept. 6, at noon. The game will also be televised on the Pac-12 Network.