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A BRIEF PREVIEW
Fresh off a 41-21 Homecoming victory over Idaho State, the Sacramento State football team will take to the road for two consecutive games starting with North Dakota on Saturday, Oct. 21. The game will have the earliest start time of the year for the Hornets, kicking off at 10:30 a.m. from the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D.
Sacramento State improved to 3-3 overall and 2-1 in Big Sky Conference games with a dominating performance against the Bengals. The Hornets rushed for over 300 yards for the third consecutive game and finished 572 yards of total offense with five players scoring touchdowns.
A win over North Dakota would give the Hornets a 3-1 record in the Big Sky for just the third time in school history. The last time the team started a conference season by winning three of its first four games came in 2013 when the team finished the year 4-4 in Big Sky play.
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 and Tune-In apps for mobile devices.
The game can also be viewed on WatchBigSky as well as Pluto TV.
OPPONENT PREVIEW: NORTH DAKOTA
North Dakota has been ravaged by injuries during the 2017 season. The Fighting Hawks, who were picked to finish first in the Big Sky preseason coaches and media polls, are currently 2-5 overall and 1-3 in the Big Sky following a 41-17 loss at Montana.
UND has had 14 players who had started multiple games in their careers miss contests this season due to injury. The team lost preseason All-Americans Deion Harris before the season started and has been without preseason Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year Cole Reyes for the past few games. Quarterback Keaton Studsrud was the latest to miss action as he did not play at Montana due to a knee injury.
North Dakota continues to rely on a high powered rushing attack. Brady Oliveira leads the team with 443 yards and a TD. John Santiago has rushed for 417 and three scores and Studsrud has 152 yards and two TDs. The team has averaged 186.7 rushing yards and 195.5 passing yards per game.
The Fighting Hawks are coached by Bubba Schweigert who is in his fourth season. Schweigert was the Big Sky and FCS Regional 5 Coach of the Year in 2016.
TAKE IT INSIDE
Sacramento State will play the second of three games this season indoors when it heads to the Alerus Center on Saturday. The Hornets opened the year inside the Kibbie Dome against Idaho and will play at Northern Arizona next week.
Playing indoors has not been a bad thing for the team. Sacramento State is 1-0 all-time at the Alerus Center and has four wins at both ISU and NAU.
FIRST TIME, LONG TIME
The Hornet offense was able to record a couple of rare feats in the game against Idaho State. Sacramento State rushed for 318 yards and finished with 572 yards of total offense.
The rushing performance marked the first time in school history that Sacramento State had over 300 rushing yards in three consecutive games. The streak began with 333 against Southern Utah before the team rushed for 307 at Eastern Washington.
Sacramento State led the Big Sky in rushing four times between 1998-2002. All-American Charles Roberts led the charge in three of those seasons and finished his career with 29 100-yard games, including 13 with 200-plus. Amazingly, the Hornets never had three-straight games with 300 rushing yards during that stretch.
Saturday's contest also marked the third consecutive game with 500 yards of total offense. The only other time this century that the team has done that came in 2014. Prior to that, the feat happened in 1999.
Not only has Kevin Thomson been very good in the last three games, he's been extremely consistent. Thomson threw for 253 yards against Southern Utah and Eastern Washington before raising his total all the way to 254 yards against Eastern Washington.
The junior is now averaging 217.5 passing yards per game and 70.3 rushing yards per game. His average of 287.7 yards of total offense per contest would rank as the third highest in school history. Only Garrett Safron averaged more yards of total offense as he had 353.4 in 2014 and 315.1 in 2013.
Thomson had his most accurate passing performance as a Hornet last weekend against Idaho State. He completed 18-of-23 passes and also had two touchdowns without an interception. Those numbers led to an efficiency rating of 199.72. Thomson currently has an efficiency of 154.62 through six games. Safron currently holds the school record of 151.8 from 2014.
After consecutive 100-yard rushing games, Thomson rushed for 85 yards against the Bengals. He was also able to score the team's first touchdown giving him eight scores over the last three games.
Thomson continues to lead the team with 422 rushing yards on the season and is the only player on the roster to rush for at least four TDs. His average of 70.3 rushing yards per game places him sixth in the Big Sky for all games while his mark of 118.3 in conference games is the second best in the league.
Thomson became the first Hornet QB to have consecutive 100-yard games in school history and joins Garrett Safron as the only Sacramento State signal callers to have multiple 100-yard rushing games in their careers. Safron had four games over the century mark during his career from 2011-14.
Ricky Ray holds the Sacramento State single-season record with 10 rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. Ray set that mark in 2000 with many coming on short quarterback sneaks.
What has set Thomson apart has been his ability to break the big play. The Auburn, Wash., native has had 59-yard and 54-yard TD runs over the last three games.
Throughout the season, Sacramento State has rotated ball carriers. The constant rotation has been helpful in keeping the Hornet running backs fresh and has led to the team's success carrying the ball. Senior Joseph Ajeigbe and freshmen Elijah Dotson, Isaiah Gable and BJ Perkinson have each been the team's leading rusher among running backs in the six games this year.
Perkinson had his best game against Idaho State where he had 155 rushing yards on 17 carries. He averaged 9.1 yards per carry against the Bengals and scored his first career touchdown.
Dotson led the backs in the first two games of the year with 46 yards at Idaho and 74 against Incarnate Word. Ajeigbe had a team-high 40 yards against Incarnate Word and 21 yards against Weber State. Gable posted a career high 89 yards at Eastern Washington.
None of the four had a rushing attempt for the Hornets last season.
In three conference games this season, The Hornets are averaging 319.3 rushing yards which leads the Big Sky. Montana State (294.0) is second while Cal Poly, which is a fixture among the league leaders, is currently third at 259.3.
Overall, Sacramento State is fourth in the Big Sky and 19th nationally at 216.8 rushing yards per game. The team has not averaged 200 rushing yards per game since 2000 when it finished the year at 207.9.
The 333 rushing yards against Southern Utah were the sixth most in the school's Div. I history and the most since 335 against Idaho State in 2007. The 59 carries are tied for the second most by a Hornet team.
Making the total more impressive is the fact that the 333 rushing yards came against a Southern Utah defense which entered the game having allowed 123.7 rushing yards per game and had held nationally-ranked Northern Iowa to minus-18 yards the previous week.
GET OFF THE FIELD
The Hornet defense continued to shine on third down against Idaho State limiting the Bengals to just 1-of-11. Those numbers dropped the team's season number to 23-of-85 (27.1 percent).
Sacramento State currently leads the Big Sky and is fourth in the FCS in third down defense. The national leader in the FCS is Illinois State at 22.2 percent. The Redbirds are followed by Campbell (24.0) and NC Central (26.9).
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
The Sacramento State defense was much maligned last season, ranking towards the bottom of the Big Sky and FBS in several statistical categories. Fast forward a year and the Hornets are ranked among the top four in the Big Sky in turnover margin (t-first), opponent third-down conversion (first), sacks (first), total defense (second), rushing defense (second) and interceptions (third).
One big factor in the team's transformation has been the ability to limit the big play. Last season, Sacramento State allowed 29 rushing plays and 27 passing plays of at least 25 yards. Through the six games this year, the opposition has only five rushes and 13 passes beyond 25 yards. EWU did raise that total in the last game with two rushes and three pass plays of at least 25 yards.
Additionally, Sacramento State allowed 14 100-yard rushers in 11 games a year ago. This year, Idaho's Austin Duckworth has been the only player to get over the century mark (142).
DOING THEIR JOBS
Success in football comes in the trenches and Sacramento State's offensive and defensive lines were highly effective against Idaho State.
The Hornet offensive line did not surrender a sack against the Bengals while the defense got to the Idaho State quarterback six times.
The o-line kept a clean sheet for the second time in the last three weeks. The unit is tied for second in the Big Sky after allowing just seven sacks all season. Four of those sacks came in the opener at Idaho.
The line has had consistency all season with Jonathan Bade, Lake Aiono, Ivan Espiritu and Taylor Tappin starting all six games. Wyatt Ming missed the opener but has the started the last five.
On the other side of the ball, Sacramento State has had a minimum of two sacks in all six games. The six sacks against the Bengals were a season high and tied for the sixth most in the school's Div. I-AA/FCS history.
Leading the charge was George Obinna who was officially credited with 2.5 sacks. Dariyn Choates added two, Ben Sorensen had one and Seperini Aumua had a half.
Obinna now has a career high 6.5 sacks. His average of 1.08 per game leads the Big Sky and ties him for fifth in the FCS. The junior has jumped into seventh place in Sacramento State history with 17.5 career sacks. His next QB takedown will move him past Anthony Daisley for sixth place. Zack Nash holds the school record with 29.5 sacks between 2008-11.
RATLIFF BACK OVER 100 YARDS
Junior Jaelin Ratliff has posted his two best receiving games over the last two weeks. Ratliff set his career high with 142 receiving yards at Eastern Washington only to break that mark with 149 yards against Idaho State.
Ratliff now leads the team with 451 receiving yards this season and is tied for the team lead with three receiving touchdowns. He is averaging 25.1 yards per catch which places him sixth in the FCS but only second on the team behind Andre Lindsey's mark of 29.7 ypc which leads the FCS.
The Stockton, Calif., native had never had more than 116 receiving yards in game prior to this season. He now has four games with over 100 receiving yards.
HENNIE LEAVING HIS MARK
Senior Isiah Hennie is believed to be the first player in school history to return a kickoff and punt return for a touchdown in his career. Hennie had an 89-yard kickoff return against Menlo in 2014 and a 67-yard punt return against Eastern Oregon in 2015. He added a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown against Cal Poly in 2016. Now Hennie is leaving his mark in the school's career receiving records.
Entering the game at North Dakota, Hennie is fifth in school history with 122 career receptions. The San Diego native has also moved into the top 15 in career receiving yards at Sacramento State.
Below is where Hennie ranks among the school's all-time leaders:
Career Receptions Total Needs
4. Shane Harrison (2011-15) 134 12
5. Isiah Hennie (2014-pres.) 122 ---
Career Receiving Yards Total Needs
10. Kevin Fontes (1981-82) 1,468 115
11. Michael Johnson (1999-2002) 1,420 67
12. Ron Weaver (1988-89) 1,371 18
13. Isiah Hennie (2014-pres.) 1,353 ---
NEW NAME, SAME RESULTS
Junior Immanuel Anderson (formerly known as Manny Scott-Anderson) may be going by a new name but continues to add to his career tackles total. Anderson had six tackles at EWU and continues is climb up the school's career tackle list.
Anderson has started 27 of the 28 games in his career. Last season, he led the team with 107 total tackles which placed him second in the Big Sky during the regular season and 10th in school single-season history.
Below is where Anderson ranks among the school's all-time leaders:
Career Tackles Total Needs
11. Camron Mbewa (2000-03) 236 26
12. Ramon Payne (2001-04) 212 2
T13. Carlos Williams (1996-99) 210 ---
T13. Immanuel Anderson (2015-17) 210 ---
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