GREELEY, Colo. — Kevin Thomson threw for 244 yards and a score, Elijah Dotson had 119 yards of total offense and the Sacramento State defense created three fumbles to lift the Hornets to a 28-25 win over Northern Colorado on Saturday at Nottingham Field.
Trailing 17-14 midway through the fourth quarter, Sacramento State (2-1) took its first lead on a 39-yard rush by wide receiver Andre Lindsey to make the score 21-17. The defense then stepped up as Leonard Hazewood IV sacked Keaton Mott with a blind-side hit and the loose ball was recovered by Elijah Chambers. The team took advantage of the turnover, riding Dotson down the field and the sophomore capped the series with a 3-yard rush.
Northern Colorado answered with a quick scoring drive of its own and added a two-point conversion to pull within three, 28-25. The Bears attempted an onsides kick but tight end John McGill was able to outjump the UNC attack and came down with the ball near midfield. However, Sacramento State lost yards on its ensuing series and was forced to punt with 36 seconds remaining. Owen Hoolihan followed with a booming punt that was muffed and the loose ball was gathered in by Abel Ordaz to secure the victory.
UNC scored the game's first points on a 13-yard pass to tight end Theron Verna midway through the first quarter. The Hornets responded in the final seconds of the quarter when Johnnie Rucker caught an 8-yard pass from Thomson in the back of the end zone.
The lead swung back to UNC late in the second quarter when Milo Hall scored his first career touchdown on a 1-yard rush. After halftime, the Hornets tied the game a second time with a 1-yard rush from Bryant Perkinson. That score was setup by a 44-yard pass to Jaelin Ratliff to take the ball deep into the red zone.
The Bears' final lead came with 4:51 left in the third quarter when Marques Combs mad e a 36-yard field goal. Northern Colorado sustained the drive with several third-down conversions but was forced to settle for the field goal.
The Hornets finished the game with 434 yards of total offense and averaged 6.7 yards per play. Dotson rushed for 81 yards on 21 carries and also had a 38-yard pass receptions. Thomson completed 16-of-30 passes for 244 yards and rushed for 56 total yards, including a run of 42. Ratliff led the receivers with four grabs for 94 yards while Rucker (46 yards) and Pierre Williams (44 yards) each had three catches.
Immanuel Anderson led the Sacramento State defense with 10 tackles, including two for loss and a fumble recovery. Mister Harriel added eight and Manoah Pearson had seven. The team had four sacks and 10 TFLs. Chambers (2.0), Hazewood (1.0), David Perales (0.5) and Dariyn Choates (0.5) combined for the sacks.
Mott threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns while completing 26-of-43 passes in relief of Jacob Knipp. Alex Wesley had a team-high 96 receiving yards and Noah Sol paced the Bears with four sacks. Hall was the leading rusher with 78 yards.
Sacramento State will conclude its three-game road series next week at Montana. The game, which will be aired nationally on ROOT Sports, will begin at 12 p.m. PT.
Head coach Jody Sears on the game….
"We just had to stick to our roots and stick to the game plan. Mentally, we had to stay engaged and not check out. It showed a lot of toughness and determination on our kids' part to do what they did. We are very proud of their toughness and heart."
On the strip sack by Leonard Hazewood IV…
"That was huge and he's really good player. What can you say…it was huge and probably the play of the game."
On Elijah Dotson…
"Absolutely great player. He got after (Northern Colorado) last year and you have to tip your hat to them for the game plan they had against him. That last (scoring) drive he showed his heart."
7:12 - Northern Colorado scored the first points of the game on an 11-play 91-yard drive. Quarterback Keaton Mott came on to replace Jacob Knipp at the start of the series and hit Alex Wesley for a 32-yard strike early in the drive to take the ball into Hornet territory. Trae Riek kept the drive alive by converting on 4th-and-1 and three plays later Mott hit Theron Verna for a 13-yard pass.
0:22 - Sacramento State tied the game on an 8-yard touchdown reception by Johnnie Rucker. Elijah Dotson sparked the series with a 38-yard reception down the sideline and followed with rushes of 9 and 5 yards on the next two plays. The touchdown pass to Rucker came on third down when Thomson threw a strike to the junior who was tightly covered in the back of the end zone.
1:13 - The teams traded punts for most of the second quarter until UNC was able to score in the final minutes. Hall moved the chains with rushes of 9 and 7 yards early in the drive and the big play came when Mott found Willie Fairman for a 31-yard pass down the left sideline which placed the ball at the 1-yard line. Hall finished the drive with a 1-yard rush up the middle.
9:45 - The Hornets tied the game a second time with a 1-yard rush from Bryant Perkinson. Jaelin Ratliff began the drive with a 44-yard reception down the middle of the field to take the ball to the 5. Perkinson plunged in from the left side three plays later.
4:51 - Northern Colorado swung the lead back in its favor on the ensuing drive. The Bears converted three third downs and also one fourth down to keep the drive alive. Sacramento State was able to stop the drive at the 20-yard line and UNC settled for a 36-yard field goal from Marques Combs.
6:23 - Sacramento State took its first lead of the game on a 39-yard reverse from Andre Lindsey. Elijah Dotson took the handoff from Thomson and then gave the ball to Lindsey. The Big Sky champion in the hurdles then showed his explosive speed and went untouched into the end zone.
2:53 - Leonard Hazewood IV delivered a crushing hit to Mott and Elijah Chambers recovered a fumble to set up the team's next scoring drive. Sacramento State rode Elijah Dotson during the series and the sophomore scored on a 3-yard punishing run up the middle to make it a two-score game.
1:35 - Northern Colorado was not done as the Bears covered 75 yards on seven plays in just 1:18. Mott threw an 8-yard pass to Noah Sol for the score and McCauley added a two-point conversion to pull UNC back within three, 28-25.
Sacramento State extended its streak with multiple sacks in a game to 14…Dariyn Choates and Isaiah Gable both played for the first time this season…the Hornets are now 5-1 all-time at Nottingham Field…the team had gone five consecutive games without a turnover until losing a fumble in the first half…Owen Hoolihan placed six of his eight punts inside the 20-yard line and had a long of 50 yards.