FOOTBALL ROLLS INTO #6 MONTANA STATE FOR SATURDAY SHOWDOWN

FOOTBALL ROLLS INTO #6 MONTANA STATE FOR SATURDAY SHOWDOWN

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A BRIEF PREVIEW

  • The Sacramento State football team will look to continue its hot start to the 2019 season as the team travels to No. 6 Montana State for a Saturday afternoon game at Bobcat Stadium. The game will kickoff at 1:07 p.m. PT and will be the first contest that the Hornets will play in the afternoon this season. Despite playing in the sunshine, the game will be cool with the high expected to be in the mid-40s.
  • Sacramento State jumped to 3-2 overall and 1-0 in Big Sky Conference play after a 48-27 win over then-No. 22 Eastern Washington last Saturday at Hornet Stadium. The win marked just the sixth time that the Hornets have won their Big Sky opener in 24 tries. The team also defeated a ranked opponent for the first time since 2012. Although both of its losses have been to FBS programs, Sacramento State was left out of the top 25 of both the STATS and AFCA Coaches polls.
  • This week's game will pit the Big Sky's best rushing attack of Montana State against the conference's top rated rush defense in Sacramento State. The Bobcats average 264.7 yards per game on the ground which places them seventh in the FCS. The Hornets are surrendering 96.8 rushing yards per game which ranks 18th nationally.
  • There will be multiple ways to follow this week's game. Hornet 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.
  • The television broadcast of this week's game will originate through SWX Montana with Chris Byres, Mike Cllaghan and Aunica Koch. The game will be carried live locally on CW31 and can also be found online on PlutoTV.

OPPONENT PREVIEW: MONTANA STATE

  • Montana State has taken very different approaches to victories in its first two Big Sky games. The Bobcats fell behind 21-0 to Northern Arizona early in the second quarter before rallying for a 49-31 win two weeks ago. Last Saturday, MSU took a 21-7 lead into the fourth quarter at Cal Poly only to have the Mustangs score 21 unanswered points to force overtime. Montana State prevailed with a touchdown after CP missed a field goal.
  • The Bobcats average 45.5 rush attempts per game and boast six players with at least 158 rushing yards. Logan Jones leads the team with 416 yards and five rushing touchdowns. Isaiah Ifanse is averaging 86.7 yards per game but has been limited to three games due to injury.
  • Bryce Sterk ranks third nationally and leads the Big Sky with 1.42 sacks per game.
  • Jeff Choate is in his fourth season as the MSU head coach.

SACK STATE RETURNS

  • With seven sacks against Eastern Washington, the Hornets raised their season total to 16 through five games. The team's average of 3.20 per game leads the Big Sky and is tied for 10th in the FCS.
  • The seven sacks are tied for third in school single-game history and are the most since tallying 10 against Idaho State in 2011. Eight individuals combined for the total against the Eagles with no player recording more than one.
  • This season, 10 Sacramento State players have at least a half sack. The group is led by George Obinna and Dariyn Choates who have 4.5 and 2.5, respectively. The newest members of the group are redshirt freshman Jeremy Harris and true freshman Tyler Hardeman who combined for a sack against the Eagles.
  • The 16 team sacks surpassed last year's total of 13.. The individual leader from a year ago was Elijah Chambers who had 4.5. In 2017, the Hornets had 43 team sacks which ranked second in program history and was the most in the school's Div. FCS era.
  • Obinna was a first team all-Big Sky selection in 2017 and entered last season having been named to three preseason FCS All-America teams as well as preseason all-Big Sky. He suffered an injury in the first game against Saint Francis and returned two weeks later at Northern Colorado where he was lost for the season with an ankle injury.
  • Below is where Obinna ranks in the Sacramento State record book:

    Career Sacks    Total    Needs
    1. Zack Nash (2008-11)    29.5    5.5
    2. Mike Brannon (2005-08)    27.5    3.5
    3. Kelly Osborn (1981-84)    25.5    1.5
    4. George Obinna (2015-pres.)    24.0    ---

    Career Tackles-For-Loss    Total    Needs
    5. Zack Nash (2008-11)    40.5    8.0
    6. George Obinna (2015-pres.)    32.5    ---    

UNLIKELY TARGETS

  • Sacramento State's two leading wide receivers in the win over Eastern Washington were not two of Kevin Thomson's favorite targets during the four previous games. Isaiah Gable led the team with seven receptions for 104 yards and a score while Parker Clayton had four catches for 37 yards. The receptions and yards were career highs for both players.
  • Gable entered the game with 10 receptions before his breakout performance against the Eagles. He had a 41-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter and added a 32-yard grab later in the day.
  • The junior played running back during his first two seasons with the Hornets where he had 93 attempts for 427 yards and scored a touchdown. In those two years, he only caught two passes for 13 yards.
  • This season, Gable has 17 receptions for 239 yards and is averaging 14.1 yards per catch. He ranks third on the team in receptions, yards, touchdowns (2) and yards per game (47.8).
    Clayton capped his night with a 7-yard catch and run on a 3rd-and-4 play late in the third quarter. The true freshman came to the team as a walk-on from Folsom HS where he played under current Hornet assistants Kris Richardson, Bobby Fresques, Chris Parry and Sam Cole. Clayton quickly emerged as a possible starter early in training camp and was rewarded with a scholarship prior to the season.

TWICE AS NICE

  • Along with a breakout performance in sacks and tackle-for-loss, the Hornet defense also found the end zone twice against EWU with an interception and fumble return for touchdowns. The game marked the first time in almost a decade that Sacramento State had two defensive touchdowns in a game. The most recent game prior to Saturday came on Oct. 10, 2009 against Idaho State where Durrell Oliver (37 yards) and Marquese Smith (83 yards) each had TDs off interceptions.
  • On Saturday, linebacker Miguel Garcia intercepted Eric Barriere in the middle of the line and went untouched for the remaining 27 yards into the end zone for his first collegiate TD. However, scoring is not foreign to Garcia as he was running back at Sanger HS and scored five touchdowns as a senior.
  • After Eastern pulled back within two scores late in the game, the Eagles drove to the Hornet 16-yard line and appeared poised to give the game a dramatic ending. Instead, Dariyn Choates stormed through the middle of the line, hit Barriere and knocked the ball back nearly 10 yards behind the quarterback. Defensive end George Obinna picked it up and scampered the remaining 66 yards for the game's final score. The touchdown was the first for Obinna at any level.
  • Prior to Saturday, the last time a Hornet returned an interception for a touchdown was Immanuel Anderson (21 yards) against Northern Colorado in 2017. The previous fumble return for a score came last season from Leonard Hazewood IV (33 yards) at Weber State.

MAKING IT A HABIT

  • For the third time this season, the Sacramento State offensive line did not allow a sack in a game. The Hornets have not surrendered a sack in any of its home games despite attempting 109 passes in those games.
  • The only sacks allowed this year have come at Arizona State and Fresno State where the team gave up three in both games.
  • The offensive line has had the luxury of starting the same five players in all five games this season with Troy Stiefel (left tackle), Nick Bianco (left guard), Wyatt Ming (center), Thomas Parker (right guard) and Brandon Weldon (right tackle). The team has also had the luxury of playing several reserves during the home games.

RANKINGS REHASH

  • With three convincing victories, including one over a ranked opponent and both losses coming in close fashion to an FBS school, Sacramento State drafted a decent resumé to earn a spot in the top 25 this week. Instead, the Hornets finished 26th in the STATS FCS poll and were 27th in the AFCA FCS Coaches poll.
  • The Hornets' win over then-No. 22 Eastern Washington was the team's first victory against a ranked opponent since downing No. 11 Cal Poly, 39-25, on Oct. 27, 2012. The Hornets have 12 wins all-time against ranked FCS teams, including a 24-21 victory at No. 8 Northern Arizona in 2002 — the highest ranked team to fall.
  • Sacramento State finished just one point shy of cracking the STATS poll for the first time since Oct. 1, 2011. The Hornets received 350 total points while Sam Houston State claimed the 25th spot with 351.
  • The computers had a more favorable outlook on Sacramento State than the human voters. The Hornets were 13th in the Massey Index and 18th in the Sagarin Ratings among all FCS programs.
  • Sacramento State will have plenty of chances during the remainder of the season to prove if it belongs in the top 25. After facing No. 6 Montana State this weekend, the team will also play No. 8 Montana, No. 4 Weber State and No. 24 UC Davis at home.

DOUBLE DIGIT ENCORE

  • For the second consecutive game, linebacker Marcus Hawkins recorded double digit tackles. The junior led Sacramento State with 10 total tackles which included eight solos. He also had two tackles-for-loss, including a sack.
  • Hawkins set career highs for unassisted tackles, TFLs and tallied his first career sack with the Hornets. His 10 stops matched his total from the Fresno State game and made him the first Hornet with multiple 10-plus tackle games this season.
  • The JC transfer from Fresno City College joined the program prior to the spring semester last year. While at FCC, he was the Valley League Co-Defensive Player of the Year after finishing the 2018 season with 88 total tackles, including 11.5 TFLs and 1.5 sacks.
  • Hawkins has started all five games for the Hornets at middle linebacker this season and ranks second on the team with 33 tackles. That total leaves him three shy of Allen Perryman for the team lead.

RESETTING THE CLOCK

  • Kevin Thomson entered this season ranked just outside the top 10 in career passing yards and career passing touchdowns but has skyrocketed up the list after the first five games of the year.
  • Thomson is currently the all-time leader in two career passing categories. His career pass efficiency of 158.1 is well ahead of the second place mark of 146.5 set by Tony Trosin (1998). Thomson has also averaged 9.08 yards per pass attempt and is well beyond the second place average of 8.24 from Ricky Ray (1999-2000).
  • The Auburn, Wash., native is also 11th in career attempts (516), seventh in  completions (301), fourth in career completion percentage (.583) and second in career yards per game (234.2).
  • Thomson has set his career highs for completions (32), attempts (50) and yards (361) and tied his high for passing touchdowns (5) this season.
  • He has throw for at least three touchdown passes in four of the team's five games this season. Against EWU he threw for three TDs and rushed for two to give him 50 touchdowns accounted for in his career.
  • Below is where Thomson ranks among the school's all-time leaders:

    Career Passing Yards    Total    Needs
    4. Mike Sullivan (1981-83)    5,085    402
    5. Tony Corbin (1995-96)    4,866    183
    6. Kevin Thomson (2017-pres.)    4,683    ---

    Career Passing Touchdowns    Total    Needs
    1. Garrett Safron (2011-14)    86    45
    2. Ryan Leadingham (2001-04)    50    9
    3. Kevin Thomson (2017-pres.)    41    ---

DUAL-THREAT DOTSON

  • Junior Elijah Dotson had been limited to just 30 rush attempts and 96 yards through the first four games. Against EWU, he more than doubled that total, rushing for 102 yards on 16 attempts. The game was his seventh 100-yard output of his career which places him eighth in school history.
  • Although Dotson hasn't had his usual work load on the ground, he has become a much larger factor in the passing game. Against EWU, he caught six passes for 47 yards and had a 20-yard touchdown. He leads the team with 33 receptions, is tied for the team lead with three TD catches and ranks second with 361 receiving yards.
  • Overall, Dotson has 560 all-purpose yards and ranks second in the Big Sky at 112.0 yards per game. His career average of 111.2 ranks him seventh in school history and he needs 311 yards to crack the top 10 in career all-purpose yards.
  • Last season, Dotson led the team with 1,154 rushing yards, nine touchdowns and 1,314 all-purpose yards. He became the first Hornet running back to earn first team all-Big Sky honors since Charles Roberts who did it three years in a row (1998-2000). Dotson's average of 115.4 yards per game was the third highest in school history while his total of 1.154 yards placed him seventh despite the team playing on 10 games during the regular season. He also moved into fifth place in school history with an average of 6.2 yards per carry.
  • Below is where the Antelope HS ranks in the Sacramento State record book:

    Career Rushing Yards    Total    Needs
    6. Troy Mills (1990-91)    2,771    944
    7. Rob Harrison (1985-86)    1,924    97
    8. Garrett Safron (2011-14)    1,906    79
    9. Elijah Dotson (2017-pres.)    1,827    ---

    Career Rushing Touchdowns    Total    Needs
    T5. Jordan Robinson (2013-16)    25    9
    T5. Troy Mills (1990-91)    25    9
    7. Elijah Dotson (2017-pres.)    16    ---

QUICK HITTERS

  • CB Caelan Barnes, DB Marcus Bruce, DT Dariyn Choates, RB Elijah Dotson, OL Wyatt Ming and QB Kevin Thomson were named team captains following a vote of the players.
    Dotson is the only player on the team with a start streak which predates last season. Dotson started the final game of 2017 before earning the nod in all 10 games a year ago.
  • The 2019 Sacramento State football schedule was named the toughest in the Big Sky Conference and the ninth most difficult in the FCS by HERO Sports. The Hornets will play FBS Arizona State and Fresno State in the non-conference portion of its schedule before facing eight of the top nine ranked teams from the preseason Big Sky poll in conference play. The team's four home games will come against schools picked to finished 1-4 in both the preseason and media poll.
  • Four Sacramento State players were granted additional years of eligibility by the NCAA during the spring. The four, who were all listed as seniors in 2018, are comprised of kicker Devon Medeiros, offensive guard Wyatt Ming, defensive end George Obinna and quarterback Kevin Thomson. Ming played in just one game last season and Obinna in only two due to injuries. Medeiros was granted the extension after he was limited to two games during 2016. Thomson was given a nearly unprecedented two years of additional eligibility meaning he will go from being listed as a senior during the 2018 season to a junior in 2019. He missed his first three years of collegiate football due to an elbow injury.
  • Ming, Medeiros and Thomson are two of six players on the 2019 roster that have already earned their bachelor's degree. They are joined by offensive lineman Nick Bianco and graduate transfers Isaiah Bailey and Joey Lewis.
  • Bianco was named as one of the 185 semifinalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy. The award recognizes an individual as the absolute best football scholar-athlete in the nation for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary leadership.
  • The 77 points scored by Sacramento State in the season opener were the most in program history and tied for the most in the FCS this season.
  • The 50-0 win over Northern Colorado was the team's first shutout since a 14-0 contest at UNC in 2011 which was played in heavy rain. The last home shutout was a 30-0 win over SF State in 1994.
  • The 2019 defensive coaching staff may be new to the Hornets but they are no strangers to the Big Sky Conference. The trio of Andy Thompson (DC/LB), Cherokee Valeria (secondary) and Kraig Paulson (DL) own a combined 50 years as experience as coaches and players in the conference.
  • The offensive staff is on the opposite end of the spectrum for Big Sky experience as running backs coach James Montgomery is in his sixth year with the team and head coach Troy Taylor spent one year as the OC at Eastern Washington.
HORNETS IN THE PROS: SEPT. 4-11
September 13, 2019 HORNETS IN THE PROS: SEPT. 4-11