SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Sacramento State defense scored two touchdowns and had seven sacks and the offense added a 300-yard passer, 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver as the Hornets defeated #22 Eastern Washington, 48-27, on Saturday night at Hornet Stadium.
The victory over the Eagles was the first in 13 tries at home for Sacramento State and also marked the team's first win over a ranked opponent since defeating Cal Poly in 2012. The Hornets improved to 3-2 overall and started Big Sky Conference play with a victory for just the sixth time in program history. EWU fell to 2-4 overall and 1-1 in league play.
The Hornets trailed for just over two minutes in the game but the Eagles never allowed the team to put the game out of reach until the final minutes. After Eastern Washington recovered a fumble with 3:31 remaining the Eagles drove down the field, trailing by 14 points (41-27). On 1st-and-10 from the Hornet 16, Eric Barriere dropped back to pass and was sacked by Dariyn Choates who knocked the ball free from the quarterback. George Obinna scooped it up and had enough speed to rumble 66 yards for the score with 2:18 remaining in the game.
The defensive touchdown was the second of the game for the team as Miguel Garcia had a 27-yard interception return in the first quarter to give the Hornets a 21-7 lead at the end of the first period. Sacramento State had not scored two defensive TDs in a game since having a pair against Idaho State on Oct. 10, 2009. The unit also combined for 10 tackles-for-loss, including a season high seven sacks. No player had more than one sack and Marcus Hawkins paced the team with 2.0 TFLs. Sacramento State also had seven quarterback hurries as they pressured Barriere for most of the night. Despite the barrage, Barriere managed to throw for 309 yards and a pair of touchdowns and also rushed for 103 yards. He also missed portions of the second and third quarter due to an unspecified injury and was replaced by Gunner Talkington who finished 2-of-11 for 27 yards passing.
"To get 14 points from our defense on turnovers was outstanding," Sacramento State head coach Troy Taylor. "(Eastern Washington) is a team that has been doing it for a long time and I'm really proud of how we hung in there."
"That was the first time I scored a touchdown in my whole life," Obinna said. "It came down to trusting the drills we do and I did what I had to do. It felt great."
Kevin Thomson sparked the Hornet offense with 351 yards of total offense and accounted for five touchdowns. The junior completed 30-of-44 passes for 315 yards and three scores and also rushed nine times for 36 yards and a pair of touchdowns without being sacked. Thomson moved into fourth place in school history with 50 career touchdowns responsible for, passing former standout Ricky Ray who had 48 in his two seasons. Isaiah Gable led eight receivers who caught a pass with a career high seven receptions for 104 yards. Elijah Dotson added six receptions for 47-yards with a touchdown while also rushing for a season best 102 yards on 16 carries. Thomson, Dotson and Gable became the first Hornet trio to have 300/100/100 since Garrett Safron (463 passing/143 rushing), Nnamdi Agude (197 rec) and DeAndre Carter (184 rec) did it against Montana State in 2014.
Both teams traded punches in the first quarter as they combined for 28 points. Eastern struck first with a 7-yard pass to Taolo Limu-Jones on the first possession of the game. Sacramento State countered wiht a 5-play drive on the next series which was capped by a 41-yard pass up the seam to Gable.
After the teams settled in, the Hornets took the lead on a 1-yard sneak from Thomson for his 11th career rushing touchdown. On 2nd-and-goal from the 1, Thomson jumped over the pile and cross the plane of the goal line just before the ball was knocked out of his hands by the Eagle defense. Just two offensive plays later, Sacramento State added to its lead when Garcia intercepted a Barriere pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. The interception was the second for Garcia in his career and was it was the first pick six for the team since Immanuel Anderson traveled 21 yards against Northern Colorado in 2017.
The Hornets appeared to have carried its momentum into the second quarter forcing the Eagles into a 3-and-10 from their own 8-yard line. After nearly sacking Barriere, he broke through up the middle of the field and went untouched for a 92-yard touchdown on the longest play allowed by Sacramento State this season.
Elijah Dotson added to the Hornet lead with 3:50 remaining in the half when he caught a 20-yard pass down the left sideline for his third receiving touchdown of the season. Sacramento State, however, missed the extra point, keeping the score at 27-14 at halftime.
The second half started slowly as neither team was able to do much offensively until the Hornets scored with 5:15 remaining on a 7-yard pass to Parker Clayton to make the sore 34-14. Eastern Washington answered back on its next drive which was punctuated by a 1-yard rush from Antoine Custer, Jr. The Eagles then started the fourth quarter with a 27-yard pass from Barriere to Jayson Williams on 4th-and-4 to pull within a score, 34-27.
Needing to answer, Thomson guided the team on a season-long 13-play drive which ate 6:55 off the clock. The Hornets converted a pair of third downs during the series and were aided by a targeting call against Dehonta Hayes and a late hit on the same play which moved the ball to the 2-yard line. Thomson called his own number on the ensuing play for the team's final offensive touchdown.
Hawkins led Sacramento State with 10 total tackles for his second consecutive game with double digit stops.
Sacramento State will next travel to Bozeman, Mont., to take on Montana State on Saturday, Oct. 12. The Bobcats improved to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in conference play with an overtime win at Cal Poly on Saturday. MSU was ranked sixth in the STATS FCS media poll and seventh in the coaches poll this past week.