SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Quarterback Kevin Thomson accounted for 402 yards of total offense and seven touchdowns to help Sacramento State open Big Sky Conference play with a 54-27 win over Southern Utah on Saturday night at Hornet Stadium.
Thomson completed 14-of-26 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for 149 yards and four scores to spark the offense. The junior's seven total touchdowns tied Garrett Safron's school record set against Southern Oregon in 2013. His four rushing touchdowns are tied for the second most in school history and are the most by a Hornet quarterback. Only Charles Roberts, who had five rushing TDs against Idaho State in 1999, has rushed for more touchdowns in a game in school history.
The win improved Sacramento State to 2-2 overall and gave the team its first 1-0 start in the Big Sky since 2013. The Thunderbirds, which were receiving votes in the FCS coaches and media poss, dropped to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in league games.
Thomson led a group of seven Hornet ball carriers which rushed for 333 yards against a Southern Utah defense which entered the game having allowed just 123.7 yards per game. SUU most recently held nationally-ranked Northern Iowa to minus-16 rushing yards. Thomson's total is the most all-time by a Hornet QB, breaking Safron's mark of 146 against Montana State in 2014.
Redshirt freshmen BJ Perkinson and Isaiah Gable added 72 and 68 rushing yards, respectively. Overall, the Hornets carried the ball 59 times to tie for the second most in a game in school history. The 333 rushing yards ranks as the sixth most by a Sacramento State team.
When Thomson did throw, he found five receivers, including three who finished with at least 50 receiving yards. Andre Lindsey had 100 yards on just four catches with a pair of touchdowns. The 25.0 yards per reception average actually lowered Lindsey's season mark to 30.5 yards per catch. Isiah Hennie tied for the team lead with four catches for 57 yards and tight end Stone Sander had three grabs for a career high 78 yards.
Southern Utah started Aaron Zwahlen at quarterback in place of the injured Patrick Tyler. Zwahlen was 24-for-38 for 188 yards but was picked off three times. Austin Clark recorded his first interception of the season on the opening drive of the game. The team also had interceptions from Malcolm Thomas and Mister Harriel to raise its season total to 10 in just four games. All three interceptions led to touchdowns for the Hornets in the game.
Clark led Sacramento State with 12 tackles while Harriel and Marcus Bruce each added seven. George Obinna recorded two of the team's three sacks and the Hornets tallied five tackles-for-loss in the game.
Sacramento State will next travel to Eastern Washington to take on the Eagles on Saturday, Sept. 30, at 1:35 p.m. Following a week off, the team will host Idaho State on Oct. 14 for Homecoming.
Austin Clark on the victory:
This was a great win for the team. It gives us confidence and shows, not only ourselves, but the community the potential that this team has. The emphasis and been on us and not the opponent. We have all the puzzle pieces we need and if we can just put them all together you get wins like that.
Kevin Thomson on the run game and his performance:
We wanted to run the ball on first and second down and we were able to do that. The o-line did great and we were able to rotated several guys in the backfield. I'm just happy that we won the game. The stats are nice but it's more important that we got the dub and that's all I care about.
I was really concerned about their defensive line. They were in a really physical game last week and we looked fresh. We were able to run the ball for over 300 yards after they held a team to negative yards last week. I thought our offensive line really answered the bell because we were in their kitchen all week after a tough performance last week.
We keep challenging the team and they keep responding and when they do you get performances like this.
(Southern Utah) beat us two years ago 44-0. They beat up a bunch of freshmen that year and two years later a bunch of juniors were able to go out and score 54 points which makes me proud of them.
11:47 - After Clark's interception on the game's opening drive game the Hornets the ball at their own 40, Sacramento State used seven plays to find the end zone. The drive started with a 24-yard completion to Isiah Hennie and was capped when Thomson threw a 6-yard laser to Lindsey on a slant route.
2:57 - Southern Utah tied the game at the end of the first quarter with a 1-yard rush from Jay Green. The drive was setup by a 27-yard interception return from Jarmaine Doubs to give SUU the ball at the Hornet 1.
13:32 - Sacramento State took the lead for good when Thomson threw a fade to Johnnie Rucker in the back right corner of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown. Rucker was able to outjump the defender and keep a foot in bounds to cap an 11-play drive.
7:10 - Malcolm Thomas picked off his second pass in as many weeks the Hornets took a 20-7 lead on Thomson's 1-yard plunge. Sander started the drive with a career-long 33-yard reception but he was ruled out at the 1-yard line before diving for the pylon.
4:08 - Following a 3-and-out forced by the defense, Thomson connected with Lindsey for a 36-yard strike. The track champion was able to get behind the defense and scored his fourth touchdown of the year.
2:41 - The T-Birds kept the scoreboard rolling with Zwahlen threw a screen pass to Isaiah Diego-Williams who took advantage of a good block which occupied two Hornets and sprinted down the sideline for a 25-yard score.
0:05 - Sacramento State marched down the field and went into halftime with a 30-14 lead after Devon Medeiros' 33-yard field goal.
9:27 - The Hornets started the second half with a statement drive. The team travelled 88 yards on 13 plays which used 5:30. However, after having 1st-and-goal from the 8, the team couldn't get closer than the 1-yard line and had to take an 18-yard field goal from Medeiros to make the score, 33-14.
6:09- The lead was stretched to 40-14 when Thomson darted through the defense for a 59-yard rush. He originally moved to the right and then cut back up the middle of the field for the team's longest rush of the year.
14:06 - SUU began to make some noise early in the fourth quarter beginning with a 1-yard TD rush from James Felila on the opening drive of the quarter.
10:00 - The T-Bird defense forced a quick 3-and-out and the offense then went 65-yards on 12 plays before Felila scored his second touchdown of the quarter. The team's two-point conversion failed with Immanuel Anderson picked off the attempt in the end zone.
8:11 - Any thoughts of a Southern Utah comeback were put to rest when Thomson scored on a 7-yard rush. Sander again started the drive with a 40-yard reception which was aided by a face mask penalty which took the ball into the red zone.
4:38 - Harriel intercepted Zwahlen on the ensuing drive and Thomson scored from 9-yards out. Gable had the first four carries during the drive for 26 yards.
Dre Terrell, Harriel and Thomas all have multiple interceptions this season…Sacramento State now has double digit interceptions for the first time since recording 11 in 2014…Obinna had his first sacks since having two in the season opener at Idaho…Medeiros missed his first extra point of the season after the snap hit the ground. His attempt nearly snuck through before hitting the upright…the Hornets now lead the all-time series against Southern Utah, 9-8.