SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Garrett Safron completed 31-of-38 passes for 303 yards and a career high four touchdown passes to lead Sacramento State to a 35-29 victory over No. 11 Cal Poly, Saturday night at Hornet Stadium.
The Hornets improved to 6-3 overall and 4-2 in league play while handing the Mustangs their first loss of the season (7-1 overall, 5-1 Big Sky).
Sacramento State began the night with high emotions as the team was led onto the field by the father and younger brother of the late John Bloomfield. The Hornets took the opening drive and moved into Mustang territory before T.J. Knowles fumbled and the ball was returned 58 yards by Nick Dzunbar. That turnover led to a 2-yard touchdown by Brandon Howe just 1:53 into the game.
Cal Poly quickly added to its lead when Morris Norrise was stripped of the ball on the Hornets' next play which led to a 32-yard field goal from Bobby Zalud.
"I just told team to relax," Sacramento State head coach Marshall Sperbeck said of the team's turnover-prone start. "I told them that they hadn't stopped us yet and we were beating ourselves."
The Hornets responded with a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive which ended with Safron connecting with Norrise for the first of two scores. On the play, the ball was thrown to the back right corner of the end zone where Norrise hauled in the pass with one hand and was able to keep a foot inbounds.
Sacramento State took its first lead of the second quarter with a 28-yard pass to Shane Harrison with 12:44 showing in the second quarter. The team's advantage jumped to 21-10 midway through the quarter on a 15-yard touchdown run by Ezekiel Graham.
The team's exchanged punt before the Big Sky's leading rusher Deonte Wililams sparked the Mustangs late in the period. The senior darted 76 yards up the right sideline, sidestepping defenders along the way before being tackled at the 1-yard line. Quarterback Andre Broadous plunged in on the ensuing play to make it a four-point game.
The Hornets answered with an 8-play drive which travelled 75 yards and ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Safron to Knowles with 25 seconds remaining in the half.
Cal Poly received the ball in the second half and drove to the Sacramento State 36 before Broadous was stripped by Markell Williams and the ball was recovered by Ryan McMahon. The Hornets, however, could not capitalize on the turnover and pinned CP at the 10-yard line.
The Mustangs followed with a 17-play drive which consisted of nothing but running plays and marched 90 yards for a touchdown. The team had three rushes of 10-plus yards and the drive was capped by Broadous' second 1-yard score of the game. A two-point conversion pass failed, making the score 28-23 in favor of Sacramento State.
The Hornets ended the third period with another punt and saw Cal Poly take the ball into Sacramento State territory with their ground attack. On 2nd-and-7 from the Hornet 47, Broadous fumbled the snap and the ball was recovered by linebacker Cody Allen.
Sacramento State scored for the final time with 3:09 to play when Safron and Norrise connected on a 32-yard touchdown pass. With the reception, Norrise moved into second place in school history with 122 career receptions.
Cal Poly kept things close when Broadous found Willie Tucker for a 44-yard catch and run for a touchdown with 2:10 to play. Tucker caught the ball on the left sideline, broke free of the initial tackle and then moved across the field before running up the right sideline for the score.
The ensuing onsides kick was recovered by Allen and freshman De'jon Carter picked up 19 yards on 3rd-and-9 to seal the victory.
Both teams put up big offensive numbers as Cal Poly finished with 473 yards of total offense compared to 450 for the Hornets. The Mustangs rushed for 387 led by 168 from Williams who surpasses the 1,000 yard plateau for the year. Broadous finished 4-of-10 for 86 yards and also rushed for 24.
Safron's effort was his third 300-yard game of the year and his first since passing for 312 in the win at Colorado. Coleman led all Hornet rushers with 70 yards. Norrise caught seven passes for 97 yards.
Defensively, three Hornets finished with double-digit tackles. Davis led the all players in the game with 14. Williams had a career high 13 stops and McMahon added 12.
Sacramento State will play its regular season home finale on Saturday, Nov. 3, against Montana State. The game against the Bobcats is scheduled for 4 p.m. and will be televised by ROOT Sports.
NOTES: Safron became the first Hornet to throw four touchdowns in a game since Jeff Fleming had five against Montana State in 2010…Cal Poly entered the game as the Big Sky leader in third-down conversion but was held to 5-of-15…the Mustangs did convert 4-of-6 fourth down tries…the Hornets recorded three more sacks and now have 27 on the year…Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh, who coached at Sonoma State and Portland State, lost to the Hornets for only the second time in 15 tries.