SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento State built a 31-point lead in the third quarter and was able to withstand a strong finish from UC Davis to hold on for a 52-47 win in the 64th annual Causeway Classic on Saturday in front of a season-high 11,828 fans at Hornet Stadium.
With the win, the Hornets closed their regular season with a 7-4 overall record and a 6-2 Big Sky Conference mark. The season marked the first time that Sacramento State won seven games over Div. I opponents and the league record was also the best since joining the Big Sky. The team will now await its playoff fate as the NCAA will announce the 24-team field on Sunday at 8 a.m. PT on ESPNU.
Sacramento State could do little wrong in the first half, scoring the game's first 14 points and taking a 17-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. The team added to its advantage in the second quarter with three touchdowns and took a 38-14 lead into the locker room at halftime.
In that half, the Hornets compiled 392 yards, including 210 on the ground. BJ Perkinson rushed for a score and also caught a TD pass from Kevin Thomson. The quarterback was 9-of-12 in the two quarters for 182 yards and threw for three scores while rushing for another.
Sacramento State took the opening drive of the second half and marched 62 yards down the field before a touchdown rush from Elijah Dotson gave the team a 45-14 just three minutes into the third quarter. After a UC Davis touchdown, Joseph Ajeigbe punched it in from 1-yard out to stretch the lead to 52-21.
That score ended up being the final points for the Hornets as UC Davis rallied of the next 26. Despite all the scoring, it was the Sacramento State defense that sealed the contest. The Aggies forced a punt and took over at their own 34-yard line with 3:13 left on the clock and no timeouts. UC Davis picked up two yards on first down on a scramble by Jake Maier. Keelan Doss added a 4-yard catch reception on second down setting up 3rd-and-4. Tehran Thomas made it 4th-and-1 after he was stopped just shy of the sticks by Marcus Bruce. A false start penalty moved the Aggies back five yards and Ben Sorensen was able to flush Maier from the pocket and his pass sailed out of bounds to give the ball back to Sacramento State on downs.
The 52 points by the Hornets were the most scored by the team in a Causeway Classic while the 99 combined points were easily the most between the two teams. Sacramento State finished the game with 591 yards of total offense. The team earned its sixth 300-yard rushing game of the season as it gained 315 yards on 54 attempts. The Hornets also passed for 276 yards and did not have a turnover in the game.
UC Davis set a season high in total yardage with 659. The Aggies, who had been pass heavy all season, were balanced with 334 rushing yards and 325 passing yards.
Individually, Thomson completed 13-of-20 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns. The junior also rushed for 69 yards and a score to give him 345 yards of total offense and account for four touchdowns. Elijah Dotson was the team's leading rusher with 92 yards on 15 carries. Perkinson added rushing 83 yards and Ajeigbe finished with 46 yards. All three running backs as well as Thomson were able to find the end zone on the ground.
Jaelin Ratlff was the team's leading receiver with four catches for 100 yards. Ratliff was helped by a 71-yard grab marking the second straight game he had a catch of at least 70 yards.
Maier finished 31-of-53 for 325 yards and two touchdown passes. Keelan Doss led the way with 13 garbs for 173 receiving yards. Thomas produced a career high 125 rushing yards on just 12 carries while Namane Modise (89 yards) and Justin Williams (86) were also effective.
Sacramento State had two players finish with double digit tackles. Mister Harriel led all players with 12 stops while Dre Terrell added 11, including 10 solos. The Hornets were also able to extend their streak to 11-consecutive games with at least two sacks as Ben Sorensen and Marcus Bruce were each credited with one.
Ryan Bua led UC Davis with 11 tackles. The Aggies also had two sacks.
Head Coach Jody Sears
"I'm really proud of these guys and the resiliency they've shown all year. They are one of the hottest teams in the nation and deserve to be in the FCS playoffs. Going 6-2 in one of the toughest conferences and getting seven Division 1 wins is something that has never happened here before. I really feel like they deserve a shot."
On the evolution of the team
"When you build a program you are going to have to take your lumps and we did that the last couple of years. Everyone was trying to figure out why we couldn't win but we stuck to our standards and the guys in the locker room stuck to them and believed in one another and now we get to reap the benefits of what they've been sewing."
"I love everything about this program. We haven't changed a thing even from when we weren't winning and I wouldn't want to change it now. We love each other and want to play for each other. We try not to get too high or too low and just keep the train moving. Hopefully we get the chance to keep playing."
9:15 - Sacramento State scored a touchdown on its opening drive. Isiah Hennie hauled in a 22-yard pass from Thomson on 3rd-and-7. The pair also connected on 3rd-and-4 early in the drive for a gain of 13 yards.
6:39 - After forcing a 3-and-out, the Hornets added to their lead on the next series with a 25-yard pass to Perkinson. Sacramento State opened the series with a 30-yard rush from Andre Lindsey to take the ball to the Aggie 32. On 3rd-and-3, Thomson found Perkinson on the wheel route down the left sideline.
4:09 - UC Davis got on the board on its next possession. Justin Williams capped an 8-play, 79-yard drive with a 15-yard rush. The Aggies also had a pair of receptions for at least 20 yards during the series.
0:19 - Sacramento State capped the first quarter scoring with a 20-yard field goal from Devon Medeiros. The Hornets moved the ball to the 3-yard yard line but were stopped on third down and settled for the short field goal. Medeiros tied the school single-season record with the make, giving the junior 14 field goals this year.
11:09 - Sacramento State scored on its opening drive of the second quarter to take a 24-7 lead. Perkinson carried the ball on each of the four plays on the drive and scored on a 42-yard dash.
8:25 - Williams found the end zone for the second time with a 1-yard rush. Modise had the big play in the series with a 48-yard rush to the Sacramento State 3-yard line.
2:32 - Both teams slowed for a couple of series before Thomson found Lindsey for a 53-yard connection late in the quarter. The strike happened on 3rd-and-8 as the Big Sky hurdle champion was able to get behind the Davis secondary for his seventh touchdown of at least 40 yards this year.
0:26 - After Sorensen sacked Maier on fourth down near midfield, Sacramento State was able to score once more before halftime. Thomson executed the two-minute drill to perfection, hitting Johnnie Rucker for a 32-yard gain and then calling his own number on an 8-yard rush.
12:06 - Sacramento State started an explosive third quarter with a 6-play drive which featured five rushes. Ajeigbe rushed for 23 yards on the second play of the series and Dotson added a 22-yard rush to take the ball inside the 10. The true freshman scored two plays later from the 3 to put the Hornets on top 45-14.
10:10 - UC Davis started its second-half surge on the next possession. The Aggies had three plays of at least 10 yards during the drive and scored on a 2-yard shovel pass from Maier to Ethan Hicks.
9:01 - Ratliff's 71-yard catch came two plays into Sacramento State's drive. The junior was originally ruled to have scored but the ball was moved back to the 1-yard line after an official review. That call allowed Ajeigbe to push his way in to stretch the lead to 52-21.
5:24 - A 13-play, 75-yard drive pulled the Aggies within 24. Williams scored his third touchdown of the game with a 19-yard.
0:00 - UC Davis turned to Doss for the final score of the period. The junior came on a fly sweep and took his first career rushing attempt to the end zone on a 42-yard touchdown.
8:52 - Doss kept the drive alive with a 33-yard catch on 3rd-and-5 on UC Davis' first possession of the fourth quarter. Thomas added a 25-yard rush and later scored on a 5-yard carry. The Aggies elected to go for a two-point conversion but the pass was intercepted in the end zone.
3:35 - After forcing the Hornets to punt, UC Davis used nine plays to cover 86 yards and draw within five. Thomas and Doss each had gains of at least 20 yards early in the drive. The Hornets appeared to stop the Aggies on fourth down but were flagged for pass interference in the end zone giving UC Davis a first-and-goal from the 2. Maier then hit Wesley Preece for a touchdown pass.