A BRIEF PREVIEW
The Sacramento State football team finally returns home to host Cal Poly on Saturday, Oct. 6, at 6 p.m. The Hornets opened the season at Hornet Stadium on Sept. 1 and have since played three games on the road as well as had their bye. In all, it will be 35 days between which is the longest stretch between home games for Sacramento State since 1994 (Oct. 1-Nov. 12).
The Hornets enter the game with a 2-2 overall record and an 0-1 mark in league games. Sacramento State opened Big Sky play at No. 19 Montana on Sept. 22 and came up just shy of its first win at Washington-Grizzly Stadium with a 41-34 loss.
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 televised locally on CW31 and streamed on Pluto.TV and WatchBigSky. Dave Lewis and Aaron Garcia return to call the action.
Cal Poly holds a narrow 20-17 edge in the all-time series. Sacramento State has only faced UC Davis more times than it has squared off against the Mustangs. The Hornets snapped a four-game losing streak against Cal Poly last season with a dominant 49-14 win at Spanos Stadium.
OPPONENT PREVIEW: CAL POLY
Cal Poly dropped to 1-4 overall and 0-2 in Big Sky play following a 48-28 loss at home to Montana last Saturday. The Mustangs rushed for 412 yards and also had more first downs (32-18) and total yards (512-468) than the Grizzlies. Cal Poly did have two fumbles and also was stopped three times on fourth down.
After missing most of last season, senior Joe Protheroe has returned to lead the Cal Poly offense. The fullback is seventh in the FCS with 132.0 rushing yards per game. Protheroe enters with three consecutive 100-yard performances, including 139 against Montana, and is third among active FCS players with 3,121 career yards Khaleel Jenkins and Jake Jeffrey have split time at quarterback for the Mustangs. Jenkins ranks second on the team in rushing and has scored two touchdowns. Neither quarterback has throw a touchdown pass this year.
Matt Shotwell and Nik Navarro are the top two tacklers for Cal Poly. Shotwell has 41 total stops with 3.5 for loss. Navarro has 39 total tackles with six for loss.
Cal Poly is coached by Tim Walsh who is in his 10th season with the team. Walsh was previously the head coach at Sonoma State (1989-92) and Portland State (1993-2006).
MUCH NEEDED REST
Sacramento State enters this week having taken some much needed rest. The Hornets received five days away from the practice field the week following the Montana game before returning to their normal schedule on Sunday.
The team has won its last two games immediately following a bye. Last year, Sacramento State won 41-21 at Idaho State. In that game, Bryant Perkinson rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown and Kevin Thomson threw for 254 yards and a pair of scores.
In 2016, the Hornets rallied behind Jordan Robinson's 262 rushing yards and four touchdowns to hold off PSU. The Vikings had a chance to tie the game on the final drive but had their fourth-down pass sail over the head of the receiver in the end zone.
Those two wins reversed a streak in which Sacramento State had not won in the week following a bye since upsetting No. 12 Idaho State, 47-21, on Sept. 27, 2003. In the Hornets' defense, the team has faced a ranked opponent in seven of those 11 games, including three which were in the top 10.
The Hornets did have a pair of overtime losses during the stretch, falling at home against 12th-ranked Montana (51-48) in 2013 and Eastern Washington (42-35) in 2011.
The team did not have a bye in 2004 or 2005.
SEE DOT RUN, AND RUN, AND RUN
A week after leading the team with 162 all-purpose yards at Northern Colorado, Elijah Dotson had a career day at Montana. The sophomore rushed a career high 30 times for 234 yards and scored three touchdowns.
Dotson dominated the first quarter with 14 attempts for 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He scored on the team's first drive with a 59-yard rush and added a 1-yard touchdown to give the team a 14-7 lead. He added 85 more yards in the second quarter on five carries, including 66-yard touchdown rush. The Antelope HS graduate went over 200 yards and also set his career high during the third quarter.
Dotson became the first Hornet to go over 200 rushing yards in a game since Jordan Robinson had 262 against Portland State in Nov. 12, 2016. Overall, his 234 yards were the 16th most in school history. The performance is even more impressive when you consider that Montana was allowing just 75.7 rushing yards per game this season and limited Western Illinois to just 45 rushing yards the week prior.
In four games this season, Dotson has rushed for 437 yards and is averaging 109.3 yards per game and 6.33 yards per carry. He also has three touchdown rushes of at least 59 yards.
As a true freshman, he led Sacramento State with 1,107 all-purpose yards last season. He is again pacing the team with 251 yards through the first three games of 2018.
THOMAS STEPS IN NICELY
Making his first start of the season in place of the injured Elijah Wallace, senior Malcolm Thomas led Sacramento State with 10 total tackles, including a pair for loss at Montana. Thomas finished with five solos, which were also a team best.
The game marked the second time that Thomas has had double digit stops as he recorded 11 against Portland State in 2016.
A four-year member of the team, Thomas now has 136 career tackles with 12 for loss. He had a career high 51 tackles in 2016 before tallying 43 last season. In 2017, he also had a pair of interceptions, including one for a touchdown against Weber State.
Thomas was far from the only member of the team pressed into a starting role at Montana. Sacramento State took the field without four projected starters in the unit, including three all-Big Sky selections in defensive end George Obinna, linebacker Marcus Bruce and cornerback Dre Terrell.
Other notable absences for the Hornets at Montana included defensive ends Killian Rosko, Josiah Erickson and Sione Liku, linebackers Miguel Garcia and Wallace as well as offensive lineman Wyatt Ming and running back Bryant Perkinson.
IN ENEMY TERRITORY
With 20 tackles-for-loss, including six sacks in the last two games, the Sacramento State defense has made a home in the opponents' backfield. The Hornets now have 33 TFLs this season with 10 coming in each of the last two games. The team's average of 8.3 TFLs per game leads the Big Sky and is tied for 16th nationally.
Most recently, Malcolm Thomas and David Perales led the team with two tackles behind the line of scrimmage at Montana. No other player had more than one, but 11 were credited with at least a half TFL during the game.
Elijah Chambers, who had one TFL as a freshman, leads the team with 5.5. He is followed by Immanuel Anderson (4.0) and Perales (3.5). A total of 17 Hornets have a TFL this season.
Sacramento State was also able to extend its streak to 15 consecutive games with at least two sacks. Anderson and Leonard Hazewood IV combined on the first sack of the elusive Dalton Sneed during the third quarter. Shortly after, Oscar Nava tallied his first career sack with a solo stop. The Hornets now have 10 sacks this season and are tied for 36th in the FCS.
Chambers' 4.5 sacks (1.13 per game) ties him for first in the Big Sky and 11th in the FCS this season. Only Weber State's Legrand Toia has matched Chambers' total among Big Sky teams 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.
THE SHORT AND LONG OF IT
Sacramento State has made quick work of most of its scoring drives this season and the game at Montana was no different. Ten of the team's 21 scoring drives this year have lasted 90 seconds or less, including five which came in less than a minute.
The team has nine scoring drives which required no more than four plays. Three of those came against the Griz last weekend.
The Hornets do own one exceptionally time consuming drive. The team use 7:26 and needed 14 plays to travel 75 yards for a touchdown at San Diego State.
Sacramento State opponents only have four scoring drives which took less than 90 seconds. Instead, 10 of the 17 drives used at least nine plays.
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 eighth on the all-time list with 265 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 now has 225 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 third in the FCS with 18.72 yards per reception. The team's roster boasts nine 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 third in the FCS with an average of 27.00 yards per reception. Ratliff had a 77-yard touchdown catch and run at Montana and now has five catches of at least 29 yards this season. He finished the game with three receptions for a season-best 107 yards.
Andre Lindsey also had three catches and finished with 67 receiving yards. Lindsey is averaging 20.90 yards per catch and is 17th in the FCS this season.
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 11 100-yard games in their careers. However, they have yet to both go over the century mark in the same game.
Kevin Thomson heads into Cal Poly as the Big Sky leader in pass efficiency and is fifth in the FCS. Thomson owns a mark of 177.8 having thrown for 904 yards and five touchdowns without an interception.
Thomson had just 10 completions at Montana but threw for 259 yards and a touchdown. That performance came a week after he had 244 passing yards and a TD pass at Northern Colorado.
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.
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).
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