No. 8 FOOTBALL PLAYS AT NORTHERN ARIZONA ON SATURDAY

No. 8 FOOTBALL PLAYS AT NORTHERN ARIZONA ON SATURDAY

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A BRIEF PREVIEW

  • After having its four-game win streak snapped last week, the No. 8 Sacramento State football team will travel to Flagstaff, Ariz., to take on Northern Arizona on Saturday, Nov. 9. The game will kick off at 1 p.m. PT (2 p.m. local time in Flagstaff).
  • The Hornets enter the week ranked eighth in both the STATS FCS media poll and the AFCA FCS coaches poll. Sacramento State (6-2 overall, 4-1 Big Sky) has been ranked among the top 10 for three consecutive weeks. Northern Arizona dropped to 4-5 overall and 2-3 in league games after losing at Eastern Washington.
  • This week's game will pit the two first-year head coaches in the Big Sky against one another. Sacramento State is led by Troy Taylor who previously was the offensive coordinator at Utah while NAU is guided by Chris Ball who came to the team after being the defensive coordinator at Memphis. Both coaches previously had Big Sky experience with Taylor being the co-OC at Eastern Washington (2016) and Ball the DC at Idaho State (1999).
  • 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 game will also be streamed on Pluto.TV with Mitch Strohman, Kevin Stephens and Cristiana Ramos providing the commentary. Pluto.TV is a free service available on computers, smart TVs, mobile devices and video game consoles.

OPPONENT PREVIEW: NORTHERN ARIZONA

  • The Lumberjacks have alternated wins and losses in their last four games, most recently suffering a 66-38 loss at Eastern Washington. NAU is 4-0 at home this year with wins over Missouri State, Western New Mexico, Northern Colorado and Portland State.
  • The Northern Arizona offense is centered around the arm of Case Cookus. The sixth-year senior has thrown for 3,153 yards and 26 touchdowns this season with seven interceptions. He is the active career leader in the FCS with 11,121 passing yards which ranks sixth all-time in the Big Sky Conference.
  • Six Lumberjacks have at least 40 tackles with linebacker Brooklyn Hardiman leading the team with 47 stops, including 4.0 TFLs and a sack. Six different players have interceptions this season.
  • Luis Aguilar is the team's leading scorer with 79 points. Aguilar is 40-of-40 on PATs and leads the Big Sky with 13 made field goals on 15 attempts with a long of 57.

THE GAME THAT NEVER HAPPENED

  • Sacramento State was set to meet Northern Arizona last year on Nov. 10. The game was set to be the final home contest for the Hornets, would have served as senior night, and been the first game the Lumberjacks played at Hornet Stadium since 2013.
  • That game, however, never began after poor air quality from the Camp Fire forced its cancellation. Both teams arrived at Hornet Stadium on Saturday ready to play but officials cancelled the game after the AQI soared well above healthy levels.
  • NAU is scheduled to return to Sacramento on Oct. 24 of next year.

WILLIAMS OVER 100 AGAIN

  • Sophomore wide receiver Pierre Williams recorded his fourth 100-yard game of the year with a five-reception, 135-yard performance against Weber State. Williams has also crossed the century mark this season against Southern Oregon (140), Northern Colorado (115) and Montana (153).
  • All four of his 100-yard games have come at Hornet Stadium. If you include the other home game against Eastern Washington, Williams is averaging 114.0 receiving yards per game. In the team's four road games, he is averaging 55.25 yards per game.
  • Williams began garnering attention with his performance on the scout team while redshirting in 2017. That year, he would routinely make highlight reel catches while matching up against starters who were four to five years his elder. Last season, he played a complimentary role to Andre Lindsey and Jaelin Ratliff but finished the year with 31 receptions for 553 yards and five TDs.
  • This year, he leads the team with 791 receiving yards  and six receiving touchdowns and is second with 43 receptions. Williams joined former All-American Fred Amey as the only players in school history to have at least 500 yards during their freshman and sophomore seasons.
  • The Patterson, Calif., native has also moved onto the Sacramento State top 20 list for career receiving yards and is close to the joining in the list in career receptions and career touchdowns.

    Career Receiving Yards    Total    Needs
    11. Isiah Hennie (2014-17)    1,523    179
    12. Kevin Fontes (1981-82)    1,468    124
    13. Michael Johnson (1999-02)    1,420    76
    14. Ron Weaver (1988-89)    1,371    27
    15. Pierre Williams (2018-pres.)    1,344    ---

NEXT MAN UP

  • When Kevin Thomson was knocked from the game just before halftime, sophomore Jake Dunniway took the reins of the Hornet offense. Dunniway completed a 28-yard pass to Pierre Williams on his first throw of the game but was later intercepted in the end zone to end his first drive. Dunniway played the entire second half and finished the game 9-of-18 for 144 yards and a touchdown.
  • Dunniway was a highly touted high school quarterback at St. Mary's HS in Stockton, Calif. He led the Rams to league titles as a junior and senior after throwing for 2,584 yards and 4,066 yards, respectively. As a senior, he tossed 46 touchdowns and guided St. Mary's to a Sac-Joaquin Section Div. I title with a win over Folsom HS in the 2016 finals at Hornet Stadium.
  • Dunniway began his collegiate career at UC Davis where he redshirted in 2017. He transferred to San Diego Mesa JC last year and was named first team all-National Central League. That year, he threw for 2,888 yards and 27 touchdowns while completing 61.5 percent of his passes.

A NEW ALL-TIME SACK LEADER

  • With two sacks against Weber State, George Obinna moved past Zack Nash to become the all-time career sacks leader in Sacramento State history. Obinna now has 31.0 career sacks which broke Nash's mark of 29.5. Obinna also ranks second among all active FCS players in career sacks.
  • Obinna also jumped into fourth place on the career tackles-for-loss list as he raised his total to 41.5. The defensive end will likely finish the season ranked second in career TFLs.
  • Not to be outdone, Dariyn Choates also added a pair of sacks against WSU. Choates leads the team with 15.0 TFLs this season which is tied for the seventh most in school single-season history.  His 37 total tackles are the most among interior defensive linemen on the team and he ranks second with 7.0 sacks.
  • Sacramento State's season total of 36 sacks (4.00 per game) ranks third nationally and is first in the Big Sky. Thirteen different players have been credited with a sack with George Obinna leading the way. This year's total already surpassed last year's mark of 13. 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's average of 1.28 sacks per game ranks second in the FCS and leads the Big Sky.
  • The team is fourth in the FCS with 9.3 TFLs per game. Overall, Sacramento State has 84 TFLs as a team in nine games which is just shy than more than twice the amount of the opponents (43).
  • 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.
    Choates was named honorable mention all-Big Sky in 2017 after setting career highs with 9.5 TFLs and 5.0 sacks. Choates ranks second nationally and leads the Big Sky with 1.9 TFLs per game. He is also 15th in the FCS and third in the Big Sky at 0.88 sacks per game.
  • Below is where Obinna and Choates ranks in the Sacramento State record book:

    Career Sacks    Total    Needs
    1. George Obinna (2015-pres.)    31.0    ---
    2. Zack Nash (2008-11)    29.5    ---

    Career Tackles-For-Loss    Total    Needs
    1. Mike Brannon (2005-08)    52.5    11.5
    2. Matt Logue (2002-05)    45.5    4.0
    3. Anthony Daisley (1999-2000)    44.0    2.5
    4. George Obinna (2015-pres.)    41.5    ---     

    Single-Season Sacks    Total    Needs
    1. Zack Nash (2010)    13.0    1.5
    T2. Anthony Daisley (1999)    12.0    0.5
    T2. Jason Sandel (1995)    12.0    0.5
    T2. Stuart Bailey (1986)    12.0    0.5
    T5. Randy Rains (1986)    11.5    ---
    T5. Kelly Osborn (1984)    11.5    ---
    T5. George Obinna (2019)    11.5    ---

    Single-Season TFLs    Total    Needs
    1. Anthony Daisley (1999)    25.0    10.0/10.5
    2. Anthony Daisley (2000)    19.0    4.0/4.5
    3. Mike Brannon (2007)    18.0    3.0/3.5
    4. Zack Nash (2010)    16.5    1.5/2.0
    5. Ryland Wickman (1997)    16.0    1.0/1.5
    6. Christian Clark (2009)    15.5    0.5/1.0
    T7. Zack Nash (2011)    15.0    ---/0.5
    T7. Dariyn Choates (2019)    15.0    ---/0.5
    T8. Matt Logue (2005)    14.5    ---/---
    T8. George Obinna (2019)    14.5    ---/---

RANKINGS REHASH

  • Sacramento State dropped two spots to eighth in both the STATS FCS media poll and AFCA FCS coaches poll following the loss to No. 3 Weber State. The Hornets are now ranked for four straight weeks for the first time since moving to Div. I in 1993.
  • The No. 6 ranking was the highest for Sacramento State in program history. The previous high prior to this year was 12th in 2011 after winning at Oregon State.
    Sacramento State has already knocked off three ranked opponents in No. 22 Eastern Washington, No. 6 Montana State and No. 5 Montana. The game against No. 3 Weber State marked the first time since 2010 the team has played at least four games against top 25 teams and the first against three top 10 teams since 1996.
  • Prior to this year, the Hornets had not beaten a top 25 team since a 39-25 win against No. 11 Cal Poly in 2012. The previous highest ranked team before this season was a 24-21 win at No. 8 Northern Arizona in 2002.

OUT OF NOWHERE

  • Four of Sacramento State's top five tacklers this season combined to play in four games a year ago. The group is led by linebacker Marcus Hawkins who has 61 total tackles. Hawkins came to the team as a midyear transfer last spring from Fresno City JC. This year, Hawkins has at least three tackles in every game and has had six contests with seven or more stops.
  • At Fresno City, Hawkins was the Valley League Co-Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore. That year, he had 99 total tackles which included 11.5 TFLs and 1.5 sacks.
  • Josiah Erickson ranks second on the team with 43 total tackles. The defensive end also ranks third among Hornets with 10.0 tackles-for-loss, which includes a pair of sacks. Erickson missed all of last season while recovering from an injury suffered midway through the 2017 season. The junior had been limited to only 10 games in his first three seasons with the team.
  • Marcus Bruce has been credited with 43 total tackles to rank third on the team. Bruce now has 179 career tackles which are the most among active players. The nickelback was a third team all-Big Sky selection in 2017 after recording 57 stops with 2.0 TFLs and recovering four fumbles.
  • Bruce broke his wrist during training camp last season and was forced to redshirt. He was able to take advantage of the new rule last season, playing in four of the final five games and ending the year with 28 tackles.
  • Linebacker Jeremy Harris completes the group with 39 tackles which ranks fifth overall on the team. Harris did not play in a game last season while redshirting. He made his first start against Montana and has 13 total tackles in those games.
  • The one player in the top five in tackles that has plenty of experience is safety Caelan Barnes. The senior has started 25 games during his career, including the last 19. Barnes has 165 career tackles.

SHARING THE BALL

  • Sacramento State has completed passes to 15 different receivers this season, including seven who have caught at least 10 passes. Elijah Dotson leads the group with 57 receptions while Pierre Williams has a team high 791 receiving yards on 43 grabs.
  • Eleven of the 15 players who have caught a pass this year have also caught a touchdown. Among the four who have not had a TD is Kevin Thomson who brought in his own batted pass attempt earlier this year. Williams has a team-high six receiving touchdowns and is followed by four from Dotson and tight end Marshel Martin.
  • True freshman Andrew Hem has the highest productivity rate this season, catching a 40-yard touchdown pass against Montana on his only target of the year.

SEASON OF FIRSTS

  • The first half of the 2019 season has already seen Sacramento State record several firsts in program history.
  • The win against EWU was the first at home against the Eagles in 13 tries.
  • The victory at Montana State was the first since joining Big Sky Conference.
  • The win over Montana was the first for a ranked Hornet team against an FCS opponent. It was also the first home victory when ranked in the FCS top 25.
  • The team has defeated three ranked FCS opponents for the first time in a single season.

RESETTING THE CLOCK

  • Kevin 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 8.99 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 fourth in career completions (375), sixth in career attempts (626), third in career completion percentage (.599) and second in career yards per game (234.6)
  • Thomson has set his career highs for completions (32), attempts (50) and yards (361) and tied his high for passing touchdowns (5) this season.
    Below is where Thomson ranks among the school's all-time leaders:

    Career Passing Yards    Total    Needs
    2. Ryan Leadingham (2001-04)    8,376    2,745
    3. Kevin Thomson (2017-pres.)    5,631    ---

    Career Passing Touchdowns    Total    Needs
    1. Garrett Safron (2011-14)    86    37
    2. Ryan Leadingham (2001-04)    50    1
    3. Kevin Thomson (2017-pres.)    49    ---

    Career Total Offense    Total    Needs
    1. Garrett Safron (2011-14)    11,619    5,104
    2. Ryan Leadingham (2001-04)    8,455    1,940
    3. Kevin Thomson (2017-pres.)    6,672    ---

    Career TDs Responsible For    Total    Needs
    1. Garrett Safron (2011-14)    102    36
    2. Kevin Thomson (2017-pres.)    66    ---

    Single Season Passing TDs    Total    Needs
    1. Garrett Safron (2014)    34    10
    2. Garrett Safron (2013)    27    3
    3. Kevin Thomson (2019)    24    ---

    Single Season Passing Yards    Total    Needs
    5. Garrett Safron (2012)    2,540    117
    6. Tony Corbin (1995)    2,532    109
    7. Kevin Thomson (2019)    2,423    ---

    Single Season Completions    Total    Needs
    3. Garrett Safron (2012)    246    47
    4. Ryan Leadingham (2002)    220    21
    5. Ryan Leadingham (2001)    214    15
    6. Kevin Thomson (2019)    199    ---

    Single Season TDs Responsible For    Total    Needs
    1. Garrett Safron (2014    38    7
    2. Garrett Safron (2013)    34    3
    T3. Garrett Safron (2012)    31    ---
    T3. Kevin Thomson (2019)    31    ---

DUAL-THREAT DOTSON

  • Elijah Dotson continued to show his versatility, with a team-high 175 rushing yards and 51 receiving yards at Cal Poly. The junior finished the game with a season-high 226 all-purpose yards and has now been over the century against every non-FBS opponent this season.
  • Overall, Dotson has 1,080 all-purpose yards, ranks 35th in the FCS and second in the Big Sky at 120.0 yards per game. His career average of 113.7 ranks sixth in school history.
  • 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    665
    8. Elijah Dotson (2017-pres.)    2,106    ---

    Career Rushing Touchdowns    Total    Needs
    T5. Jordan Robinson (2013-16)    25    6
    T5. Troy Mills (1990-91)    25    6
    7. Elijah Dotson (2017-pres.)    19    ---

    Career All-Purpose Yards    Total    Needs
    6. Lamont Webb (1997-2000)    3,716    305
    7. Jordan Robinson (2013-16)    3,700    289
    8. Bryan Hilliard (2007-11)    3,540    129
    9. Elijah Dotson (2017-pres.)    3,411    ---

    Career Touchdowns    Total    Needs
    6. Jordan Robinson (2013-16)    30    5
    T7. Fred Amey (2001-04)    29    4
    T7. Troy Mills (1990-91)    29    4
    9. Elijah Dotson (2017-pres.)    25    ---

HE IS NOT ALONE

  • Running back Elijah Dotson has two 100-yard rushing games and a pair of 100-yard receiving games this year. In each of those contests there has been another 100-yard performer for the team.
  • Against Northern Colorado, Dotson had 158 receiving yards while Pierre Williams added 115. Two weeks later, Dotson rushed for 102 yards against EWU and Isaiah Gable had a career high 104 receiving yards. Williams and Dotson each had over 100 receiving yards against Montana with 153 and 124, respectively. At Cal Poly, it was quarterback Kevin Thomson who rushed for 107 yards to join Dotson in triple digits.

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.
  • 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.
  • Sacramento State had an interception and fumble return for touchdowns against Eastern Washington. The team had not had two defensive TDs in a game since 2009.
  • Sacramento State has already had five Big Sky Athletes of the Week this season which is the most for the team since 2012. The school had six selections in 1998 and 1999.
  • Devon Medeiros set the Sacramento State career record for PATs during the 2019 season. Medeiros currently has 116 extra points which betters Scott Brown's record of 107.
  • 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