A BRIEF PREVIEW
The Sacramento State football team will start its eight game sprint to the finish of the Big Sky Conference regular season when it travels to Missoula, Mont., to take on 19th-ranked Montana on Saturday, Sept. 22, at 12 p.m. PT.
The Hornets concluded the non-conference portion of its season with a 2-1 record following a 28-25 win at Northern Colorado last Saturday. Sacramento State did not claim its first lead of the game until the fourth quarter and then closed the game out by recovering its third fumble with less than a minute to play.
Fans can tune in to ESPN 1320 AM 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 Tune-In app for mobile devices.
This week's game will be the first Big Sky Game of the Week on ROOT Sports. The broadcast will also be shown on the Audience Network for those with DirecTV. The broadcast team of Tom Glasgow, Jason Stiles and Jen Mueller return for the Emmy Award winning production.
Montana leads the all-time series against Sacramento State, 19-1. The Hornets are in search of their first win at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, having come up short in their first 11 visits.
OPPONENT PREVIEW: MONTANA
Montana is also 2-1 with wins over Northern Iowa and Drake and a recent loss at Western Illinois. The Leathernecks scored the final 14 points of the game behind a 58-yard punt return for a score and an 11-yard pass with 2:39 remaining en route to a 31-27 victory.
The Grizzlies have one of the top rush defenses in the country, allowing 75.7 yards per game. The unit limited WIU to 45 yards on 22 carries last weekend. Linebacker Dante Olson is off to a spectacular start with 40 total tackles, including six for loss and 3.5 sacks. Olson also has 3.5 sacks and has forced a fumble.
Quarterback Dalton Sneed has been the catalyst for the Montana offense. Along with throwing for 251.7 yards per game, Sneed leads the team with 55.0 rushing yards per contest. The junior began his collegiate career at UNLV in 2016 where he started six games before transferring to Fort Scott Community College in Kansas.
Jerry Louie-McGee leads five receivers who have caught at least 10 passes. Louie-McGee has 20 grabs for 212 yards while Samuel Akem has 202 yards on 18 catches along with three touchdowns.
Bobby Hauck returned for his second tenure as the Montana head coach last winter. Hauck went 80-17 in his previous seven seasons with the Griz before accepting the head coaching position at UNLV (2010-14).
FROM THE BEGINNING
Saturday's game at Montana will mark the 23rd season in which the Hornets will compete in the Big Sky Conference.
Unfortunately, the first game of league play has not been kind to the team as Sacramento State has gone 5-17. The team did record a win last season, handing Southern Utah its only loss in conference play with a 54-27 victory at Hornet Stadium.
The schedule maker has not been kind to the team as it has opened against a ranked Big Sky opponent nine times, including four in the top 10.
Sacramento State has only won one conference opener on the road, defeating Weber State, 31-3, in 2013.
HOOLIHAN EARNS NATIONAL POW
Punter Owen Hoolihan was named the STATS FCS National Special Teams Player of the Week as well as the Big Sky Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance in the team's 28-25 win at Northern Colorado.
The senior from Oberon, Australia, managed to pin the Bears inside the 20 on six of his eight punts, with four ending inside the 10. Hoolihan's biggest punt came with 36 seconds left on the clock as he crushed a 50-yarder which forced the UNC returner to retreat to the 6-yard line. The ball bounced off the returner's chest and was recovered by Abel Ordaz to seal the victory. He also had punts downed at the 5, 8 and 9 yard line during the game.
Hoolihan is in his first season at Sacramento State after graduating from Prairie View A&M. While with the Panthers, he was a second team all-Southwestern Athletic Conference selection in 2016.
Sacramento State has now had 10 players earn national player of the week honors at the FCS level. Hoolihan is the second to be national special teams player of the week, joining Brad Cornish who made four five goals against Weber State in 2014.
SEE DOT RUN
Sophomore Elijah Dotson has enjoyed his time against Northern Colorado. A year after producing a career high 124 rushing yards against the Bears, Dotson led Sacramento State with 81 yards on the ground and had 38 through the air last weekend.
Dotson had a large role in two of the team's four touchdowns. On the first scoring drive, Dotson caught a 38-yard pass down the right sideline and immediately followed with rushes for 9 and 5 yards to set up the 8-yard TD pass to Johnnie Rucker.
The Sacramento native single-handedly gave the Hornets a 28-17 lead late in the fourth quarter. Dotson carried the ball five times for the entire 44 yards of the drive. He started with rushes for 17, 10 and 12 yards and scored on a 3-yard rush up the middle.
Dotson led Sacramento State as a true freshman with 1,107 all-purpose yards last season. He is again pacing the team with 251 yards through the first three games of 2018.
PUSH 'EM BACK
Sacramento State added to its already impressive total with 10 tackles-for-loss at Northern Colorado. The Hornets were led by Immanuel Anderson and Elijah Chambers who each had a pair of TFLs. In all, nine players had at least a half stop behind the line of scrimmage.
This season, Sacramento State has 23 tackles-for-loss in its three games. The team's average of 7.7 per game is tied for the second best in the Big Sky, trailing only Montana State (8.0).
Elijah Chambers, who had one TFL as a freshman, leads the team with 5.0. He is followed by Anderson and Elijah Wallace who have each been credited with 2.5. A total of 15 Hornets have a TFL this season
Sacramento State ranked fourth in the FCS and led the Big Sky last season with 80 tackles-for-loss. The team was led by defensive ends Ben Sorensen and George Obinna who each had 12.5 TFLs.
NEXT MAN UP
All coaches will preach your team is only as good as your depth and Sacramento State is putting the adage to the test this season. The Hornets have had four projected starters on defense and one on offense miss games this season as well as several other key contributors.
The injury troubles began during training camp when defensive end Killian Rosko (knee) and linebacker Marcus Bruce (wrist) both went down. Rosko was likely to start at defensive end while Bruce earned all-Big Sky honors a year ago and had appeared in 32 consecutive games.
In the season opener against Saint Francis (Ill.), George Obinna left the game during the first series and sat out the following week at San Diego State. He returned at Northern Colorado where the preseason All-American recorded his first tackles of the year.
Starting guard Wyatt Ming (leg) was also lost against the Fighting Saints. Ming has yet to return to the lineup this season.
All-Big Sky cornerback Dre Terrell is the latest to join the wounded as he's missed the previous two games.
Others to miss time this year include defensive ends Josiah Erickson and Sione Liku, linebacker Miguel Garcia, center Brandon Boccaleoni, running back Bryant Perkinson and kick returner Isaiah Capoocia.
ANDERSON, PEARSON CLIMB THE LIST
The linebacking duo of Immanuel Anderson and Manoah Pearson both moved into the top 20 in school history in career tackles last season. The pair has started games since their freshman seasons and are both poised to end their career among the best in school history.
Anderson is currently ninth on the all-time list with 257 tackles. The senior began his career as a safety before taking over the rover position last season. He led the team with 107 tackles in 2016 and added 59 a year ago, including 10 for loss. The Vallejo, Calif., native has recorded a tackle in all 35 games of his career and has nine games with 10-plus stops.
Pearson jumped up two spots on the career list after recording eight tackles at Northern Colorado. He now has 217 stops to rank 13th. The Carson, Calif., native has made at least 52 tackles each season. He earned honorable mention all-Big Sky last season and has seven career games with double digit tackles.
AIRING IT OUT
Sacramento State currently ranks eighth in the FCS with 17.23 yards per reception. The team's roster boasts six players who have a catch of at least 25 yards, including three with grabs over 50 yards.
Jaelin Ratliff leads the team, is second in the Big Sky and 17th in the FCS with an average of 24.11 yards per reception. Ratliff had a 44-yard catch at Northern Colorado and now has four catches of at least 29 yards this season.
Andre Lindsey was limited to just one reception for nine yards at UNC and saw his average fall to 20.29 yards per catch this season. The Bears, however, couldn't prevent Lindsey from another Big Sky as he took an end around for a 41-yard touchdown rush to give the team the lead in the fourth quarter.
The duo finished last season ranked first and second, in the FCS in yards per reception. Lindsey was the national leader at 30.2 ypc while Ratliff averaged 26.5 yards per grab. Both players eclipsed the previous Sacramento State single season record of 23.21 ypc by Kevin Fontes which had stood since 1982.
Lindsey wrapped up the year with 25 receptions for a team high 756 yards and seven touchdown catches. He also showcased his speed with a rushing TD during the year. Lindsey went on to win the Big Sky individual title in the 60-hurdles during the indoor track & field season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA West Preliminary in the 110-hurdles outdoors.
The pair, who are both natives of Stockton, Calif., have combined for 10 100-yard games in their careers. However, they have yet to both go over the century mark in the same game.
CHAMBERS OF SACKS
With some notable absences on the Hornet defensive line, sophomore Elijah Chambers has emerged as the team's top pass rush threat this season. Chambers recorded a sack in the win over Saint Francis, had 1.5 sacks in the first quarter against the Aztecs and added two more at Northern Colorado. His total of 4.5 leads the Big Sky and ties him for seventh in the Big Sky.
Chambers appeared in 10 games as a true freshman a year ago and wrapped up the year with 10 total tackles without a sack. Getting to the quarterback is nothing new for the defensive tackle as he recorded five sacks and 20 TFLs as a senior at San Jacinto HS in 2016. That season, he was the Mountain Pass League Defensive Player of the Year and earned all-Southern Section honors.
His second sack against the Bears extended the team's streak of multiple sacks in a game to 14. Last year, Sacramento State led the FCS with 3.91 sacks per game (43 total).
Senior kicker Devon Medeiros had his streak of seven consecutive field goals come to an end when his 48-yarder hit the left upright at San Diego State. Medeiros remains the team's leading scorer this year with 19 points.
Dating back to last season, Medeiros has made 10 of his last 12 field goal attempts. His .824 field goal percentage from last season was tied for third best in a single season and his .720 career mark is the fourth best in program history.
Medeiros was named second team all-Big Sky last season after tying the school record for field goals and recording the second most points by a kicker in program history. Medeiros was 14-of-17 on field goals during the year to pull even with Brad Cornish, Bret LeVier and Scott Brown in the Hornet record book. He also made 52 PATs to finish the season with 94 points.
MAKING A NAME FOR HIMSELF
Kevin Thomson heads into Montana as the Big Sky leader in pass efficiency and is eight in the FCS. Thomson owns a mark of 175.6 having thrown for 645 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.
Against Northern Colorado, Thomson completed 16-of-30 passes for 244 yards and a score. His 30 pass attempts were the most in his Hornet career.
Thomson began his season by completing his first eight pass attempts and finished 11-of-12 against Saint Francis for 224 yards and two touchdowns in one half of work. Most recently, he was 11-of-18 for 177 yards and TD at SDSU.
The Auburn, Wash., native has completed 63.3 percent of his passes this season and ranks fourth in the FCS with 10.75 yards per pass attempt.
Last season, Thomson missed three games in the second half of the season with a fractured back but still managed to throw 17 touchdown passes during the season which tied him for sixth in program history. His efficiency of 171.8 was 20 points better than anyone in program history and he also set the school record with an average of 10.45 yards per pass (previous record was 8.37 ypp).
JUST THE FACTS
In a vote by the team members, Sacramento State will have four captains this season. The quartet is comprised of Immanuel Anderson, Mister Harriel, George Obinna and Kevin Thomson.
The Hornets have a pair players who have already earned their bachelor's degree and are currently pursuing a master's. Punter Owen Hoolihan and linebacker Leonard Hazewood IV are both graduate transfers to the team after earning their degrees.
Sacramento State had three players on NFL rosters for the opening week of the season. Wide receiver DeAndre Carter (Eagles) and linebacker Todd Davis (Broncos) were both on the active 53-man rosters for their teams. Linebacker Darnell Sankey was on the practice squad for the Detroit Lions.
The Hornet roster features 30 players who prepped at high schools in the Sac-Joaquin Section. Among those 30 are five who graduated from Antelope HS. The groups is comprised of Mister Harriel, Caelan Barnes, Elijah Dotson, Davaeon Johnson and Leonard Hazewood IV.
Sacramento State football and men's basketball games moved to ESPN 1320 this season. All five home games will also be televised locally by CW31.
Safety Austin Clark was forced to retire from football due to injury and is now serving as a student assistant.
JB Hall is the only new member of the coaching staff. Hall spent the last three seasons as the cornerbacks coach at Montana.
Sacramento State was ranked 19th in the preseason top 25 by Street & Smith's and 19th by Athlon Sports.
The Hornets have a pair of twins in Cory and Colin Payne and Jett and Jordan Stanley. Sacramento State previously had another set Payne twins in Anthony and Nicholas Payne (no relation between the sets).
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