SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Sacramento State football team fell just short of completing a monumental comeback in a 31-24 loss to Weber State in a non-conference game on Saturday at Hornet Stadium.
The loss dropped the Hornets to 1-2 on the year while the Wildcats moved to 2-1.
Weber State led 24-0 just four minutes into the second quarter following a trick-play touchdown and a blocked punt return in the first quarter and a second touchdown pass to Drew Batchelor in the second quarter.
From there, Sacramento State rattled off 21 unanswered points to pull within a field goal. Jaelin Ratliff struck first with a 42-yard touchdown grab and the Hornets scored on the next play from scrimmage when Malcolm Thomas returned an interception 15 yards for a TD to make the score, 24-14, at the half.
Andre Lindsey started the second half with a 3-yard rush for a score but that ended up being the team's final touchdown.
After WSU gained some cushion with a 1-yard sneak from quarterback Stefan Cantwell to start the fourth quarter, Sacramento State scored its final points on a 36-yard field goal from Devon Medeiros.
The defense created one final opportunity as it forced a three-and-out which gave the offense the ball at its own 16-yard line with 1:49 remaining. Kevin Thomson started the drive with a 12-yard rush for a first down but had attempts on the ensuing first and second down batted down. Thomson found Johnnie Rucker for a 4-yard gain on third down and his fourth-down attempt deflected off the hands of his diving target to end the comeback attempt.
A week after setting one of the top quarterback efficiencies in school history, Thomson struggled to find his rhythm, completing just 7-of-24 attempts for 130 yards. Ratliff was his favorite target, grabbing three passes for 76 yards and a score. Thomson was the team's leading rusher with 44 yards and did not get tackled behind the line of scrimmage during the contest.
Cantwell was 14-of-23 for 109 yards with a TD and an interception. He also rushed for 56 yards to give him 165 yards of total offense. Treshawn Garrett led Weber State with 99 rushing yards of which 51 came in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, Mister Harriel and Austin Clark became the first Hornets to have double digit stops this season. Harriel, who had never had more than five tackles in a game, finished with 16 total tackles. That mark included 11 solos with four tackles-for-loss and two sacks. Clark had a season high 10 tackles and also had a pass breakup.
Landon Tice, who was playing for the first time this season, and Jawian Harrison led Weber State with seven tackles.
Sacramento State concludes its three-game homestand against Southern Utah (2-1) on Saturday, Sept. 23, at 6 p.m.
Malcolm Thomas on his interception for a touchdown:
We were showing a blitz on the other side and switched at the last minute. The quarterback was looking my way so I tried to bait him. He ended up throwing it and I was able to undercut the route and make the play.
Kevin Thomson on the team's resilience:
We battled back but couldn't finish. We saw some stuff that needs to be corrected and will learn from it. The defense sparked us but it was good to see that we could battle back but we need to finish.
Coach Sears on the game:
The first quarter was disappointing. We had a roughing the passer on third down which would have gotten us off the field and then we didn't block well enough on the punt. The guys got punched in the face and were staggered but came back. There is a lot of good to grow from but at the same time you have to make plays and as coaches we have to put them in position to make plays.
7:56 - Weber State marched 75 yards on 15 plays to score the game's first points. The Wildcats converted a 4th-and-1 during the drive and turned to a trick play on 3rd-and-goal for the touchdown. On the play, tight end Andrew Vollert took the ball on a reverse and threw to the end zone where Drew Batchelor was uncovered. The Wildcats made the score 8-0 when Stefan Cantwell called his own number on a two-point conversion. Earlier in the drive, Weber State took advantage of a roughing the passer call on third down to keep the drive alive near midfield.
6:39 - After forcing the Hornets to a 3-and-out, the Weber State special teams added to the Wildcat lead. Jonah Hale was able to block Blake Cuzzupoli's attempt at the 14-yard line and sprint to the end zone where he was able to roll onto the ball for a touchdown. The Wildcats were again successful on a two-point attempt to pull ahead, 16-0.
11:33 - Weber State extended its advantage to 24-0 with another long drive. The Wildcats travelled 52 yards on eight plays and scored on a 12-yard pass from Cantwell to Drew Batchelor. On the play, Batchelor was able to gain separation from the defender and made a leaping grab on a high arcing pass which travelled from the right hash to the back left corner of the end zone. WSU went deep into its playbook for another two-point conversion with Vollert coming on an end around, taking the handoff from Cantwell and then lofting the ball to defensive tackle McKay Murphy.
6:02 - Sacramento State got on the board with another big play. After a short punt gave the Hornets the ball inside Weber State territory to start the drive, Sacramento State was not able to move the ball and ended up with a 3rd-and-16 from the WSU 42. Thomson was flushed from the pocket and was able to keep the play alive long enough to find Jaelin Ratliff in the middle of the field at the 5-yard line. Ratliff then dragged the defender the rest of the way for the score.
5:55 - The Hornets pulled closer just one offensive play later when Malcolm Thomas picked off a pass to the right flat and returned it untouched down the sideline for the defensive score and pull the Hornets within 10, 24-14. The interception was the seventh of the season for Sacramento State in only three games.
9:28 - Sacramento State started the second half with an 11-play, 80-yard drive to pull within three, 24-21.The Hornets converted on 3rd-and-8 and 3rd-and-12 during the series, including a 27-yard pass to Andre Lindsey on the latter play. Lindsey capped the drive with a 3-yard rush on an end around where he came from the left and scored around the right end.
11:10 - Weber State continued a drive which began in the third quarter and relied heavily on the rush. Treshawn Garrett picked up three first downs and rushed for 33 yards on the drive to take the ball to the 1. Cantwell then went in straight behind center to make the score, 31-21.
10:17 - The Hornets made it a one score game with the help of a 70-yard kickoff return by true freshman Elijah Dotson to take the ball to the Wildcat 18-yard line. However, the offense lost a yard on the next three plays and turned to Devon Medeiros who made a 36-yard field goal.
Dotson has returned a kickoff at least 46 yards in all three games. The Antelope HS graduate had 46-yard returns in the first two games and broke the 70-yarder tonight.
The defense recorded 12 tackles-for-loss for a combined 41 yards. Eight players had at least a half-TFL in the game.
All seven of the team's interceptions this season have come from players who did not have a career interception prior to this season.
The game marked the end of a four-game non-conference series between the two teams. Sacramento State and Weber State will face each other in a Big Sky game in Ogden, Utah, in 2018.