FOOTBALL LOOKS TO BOUNCE BACK IN ROAD GAME AT SOUTHERN UTAH

FOOTBALL LOOKS TO BOUNCE BACK IN ROAD GAME AT SOUTHERN UTAH

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A BRIEF PREVIEW
The Sacramento State football team will find itself in a familiar position this week as the Hornets return to life on the road. The team travels to Cedar City, Utah to face Southern Utah on Saturday, Oct. 13, at 5 p.m. PT. The game marks the fourth time in six weeks that Sacramento State has played away from home. The team is 1-2 in the previous three games.

The Hornets dropped to 2-3 overall and 0-2 in Big Sky Conference play after a 41-27 loss to Cal Poly. Sacramento State found itself in the exact situation last season through five games before winning five of its final six games.

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 streamed on Pluto.TV and WatchBigSky with the Southern Utah announcers calling the action.

Sacramento State holds a 9-8 lead in the all-time series against the Thunderbirds. The Hornets handed Southern Utah its only conference last season with a convincing 54-27 victory at Hornet Stadium. The teams have alternated wins in the last six meetings.

OPPONENT PREVIEW: SOUTHERN UTAH
Southern Utah is 0-5 overall and 0-2 in league games after playing one of the toughest schedules in the FCS. The T-Birds were upset in their season opener by North Alabama (who was playing its first FCS game). From there, the team suffered defeats at Oregon State and Arizona as well as Big Sky losses at Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington. SUU has not played a home game since Sept. 1.

Junior college transfer Chris Helbig started the year at quarterback and averaged 202.2 passing yards and 21.0 rushing yards per game while accounting for 10 total touchdowns. Helbig was injured against Northern Arizona and replaced by Aaron Zwahlen who has throw for 435 yards in two games with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

Jay Green (72.6) and James Felila (65.0) lead the SUU rushing attack. The team has had troubles stopping the run as the opposition is averaging 281.6 yards per game with 14 touchdowns.

Demario Warren is in his third season as the head coach. Warren grew up in Fairfield, Calif., and played at UC Davis. He was the T-Birds' defensive coordinator for two seasons before earning the head coaching position.

ALL GOOD THINGS COME TO AN END
Sacramento State's loss to Cal Poly snapped the team's five game win streak at Hornet Stadium. That streak was the longest by the Hornets since the team also won five between 2000-01.

The Hornets failed to come up with a turnover in back-to-back games for the first time since the fifth and sixth game of last season.

Kevin Thomson threw his first interception in over a calendar year. Thomson was picked off early in the fourth quarter for his first interception since Sept. 30, 2017 at Eastern Washington. The senior had thrown 177 passes between interceptions.

Sacramento State had its streak of recording at least two sacks snapped at 15 games. The Hornet cause was not helped by Cal Poly which attempted just six passes during the game. Sacramento State was able to get close to the Mustang quarterback, creating three hurries on the six throws.

PLAYING WITH NUMBERS
Last season, Sacramento State became one of the top defensive units in the FCS by limiting big plays, recording sacks, creating turnovers and getting off the field on third down. The Hornets finished the year as the national leader in sacks per game (3.91), were fourth in third down defense (.261) and sixth in turnover margin (+1.27 per game).

Due to a combination of factors, the team has not been able to replicate those numbers through the first five games of 2018. The biggest difference has come on third down defense where opponents are converting at a .443 clip. A closer examination shows the biggest disparity has come in 3rd-and-middle distance. Last season, Sacramento State help opponents to 10-of-48 (.208) when needing 4-6 yards on third down. This season, the opposition has converted 76.5 percent of the time (13-17) in the same situation.

The Hornets have also seen their sacks drop to 2.00 per game in 2018 and have a turnover margin of plus-0.40 per game.

Big plays, especially in the run game have also been a thorn in Sacramento State's side this season. In 11 games last year, the team surrendered just one rush over 50 yards and only 14 greater than 25 yards. This season, there have already been six of 50 yards and nine of 25 yards or longer.

The graduation of All-American defensive end Ben Sorensen following last season is one factor in the team's statistical difference. Couple that with the loss of projected starters George Obinna, Killian Rosko, Marcus Bruce, Elijah Wallace and Austin Clark to injuries as well as key reserves Josiah Erickson, Sione Liku and Miguel Garcia and the Hornets have almost as many new faces on the 2018 team than returners from 2017.

ALWAYS GOING FORWARD
Another week and another big game for Elijah Dotson. The sophomore rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown  against Cal Poly after recording a career high 234 at Montana in the prior game. Dotson is now second in the Big Sky in all-purpose yards per game (133.6), third in rushing yards per game (117.2) and third in rushing touchdowns (7).

The Sacramento native averaged 6.8 yards per attempt on 22 carries against Cal Poly with a long of 27 yards. He appeared to have his second touchdown of the game early in the third quarter with a 38-yard rush but it was called back for a holding penalty away from the play. He also added four receptions for 34 yards giving him 183 all-purpose yards.

In the last two games, Dotson has carried the ball 52 times for 383 yards and four touchdowns. He's averaging 7.4 yards per carry and has not been caught behind the line of scrimmage on any attempt.

Dotson dominated the first quarter at Montana 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 a 66-yard touchdown rush.

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.

He is the first Hornet to rush for over 100 yards in consecutive games since Kevin Thomson had 149 against Southern Utah and 121 at Eastern Washington last season. The last Sacramento State player to have three consecutive 100 yard games was Jordan Robinson who had four straight at the end of 2016.

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.

Dotson needs 100 yards to crack the top 20 in school history. He's also just three rushing touchdowns shy of 10th place on both the career and single-season list.

SHARING THE ROCK
Kevin Thomson threw for a career high 322 yards against Cal Poly and did so with no player catching more than four passes. Thomson connected with six different receivers who each had multiple receptions. Tight end John McGill, wide receiver Jaelin Ratliff and running back Elijah Dotson tied for the team with four grabs each. Freshman Pierre Williams hauled in three passes for a team best 83 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown catch and run. Rounding out the group were receivers Johnnie Rucker and Andre Lindsey who had two receptions.

In all, 12 players have caught at least one pass this season. Included in that group is Thomson who caught his own pass attempt which was blocked at the line of scrimmage at Northern Colorado.

A renewed focus on the tight end has also been apparent this season. McGill has 10 catches for 107 yards while true freshman Jarrell Anderson has four catches for 68 yards. McGill is just five yards and three receptions away for setting his career bests. The junior had 13 receptions for 112 yards and TD in 2016 before redshirting last season.

IN ENEMY TERRITORY
With 24 tackles-for-loss, including six sacks in the last three games, the Sacramento State defense has made a home in the opponents' backfield. The Hornets now  have 37 TFLs this season and its average of 7.4 TFLs per game ranks third in the Big Sky and is tied for 26th nationally.

Elijah Chambers and Immanuel Anderson lead the team with 5.5 TFLs. David Perales is third on the tam with 3.5. Nineteen players have at least a half TFL this season.

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 seventh on the all-time list with 279 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 231 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 18.29 yards per reception. The team's roster boasts nine players who have a catch of at least 25 yards, including four with grabs over 50 yards.

Jaelin Ratliff leads the team, is third in the Big Sky and fifth in the FCS with an average of 23.56 yards per reception. Ratliff had a 77-yard touchdown catch and run at Montana and now has six catches of at least 27 yards this season. He finished the game against the Griz with three receptions for a season-best 107 yards.

Andre Lindsey ranks 15th nationally at 21.42 yards per reception. The senior had two catches for 48 yards against Cal Poly and also rushed twice for a total of 15 yards.

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.

MR. EFFICIENT
Kevin Thomson heads to Southern Utah as the Big Sky leader in pass efficiency and is eighth in the FCS. Thomson owns a mark of 164.7 having thrown for 1,226 yards and seven touchdowns with only one interception.

Thomson threw for a career high 322 yards against Cal Poly. The senior completed 19-of-37 passes and also had two touchdowns. The game was his second 300-yard effort of his career.

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.

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).

KICKING IT
Devon Medeiros tied his career high with two field goals against Cal Poly and now has 22 for his career. Medeiros was good on attempts from 22 and 39 yards but had his 50-yarder miss wide left.

Dating back to last season, Medeiros has made 14 of his last 18 field goal attempts (all three misses this season have been from 45 yards or further). His .824 field goal percentage from last season was tied for third best in a single season and his .714 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.

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.

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 Harriel, Caelan Barnes, Elijah Dotson, Davaeon Johnson and 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).