FOOTBALL PREPARES FOR 54TH-ANNUAL PEPSI CAUSEWAY CLASSIC ON SATURDAY
The Sacramento State football team will conclude its only set of consecutive home games this season by hosting UC Davis in the 54th-Annual Causeway Classic presented by Pepsi on Saturday, Nov. 3, at Hornet Stadium. The game against the Aggies will kick off at 2:05 p.m..
The contest can be heard locally on KSAC 1240 AM with Steve McElroy handling the play-by-play and Walt Gray adding the color commentary. For those outside the greater Sacramento area, the game will also be available on the internet at www.hornetsports.com and on KSAC’s website (www.1240talkcity.com).
For the second consecutive season the game will take place in November. Prior to last season, the game had taken place in September or October from 1994-2005.
Sacramento State dropped to 1-7 on the season after suffering a 38-30 loss to Eastern Washington last Saturday at Hornet Stadium. The Hornets fell behind by 21 points in the third quarter but rallied to pull within one score on two occasions. Freshman Jason Smith threw for 396 yards to record the second-best passing total in school history. Junior linebacker Mike Brannon also moved into the record book with 3.5 sacks against the Eagles.
UC Davis enters the game with a 3-6 overall record after losing 28-21 to South Dakota State on Saturday at Aggie Stadium. The loss for the Aggies guaranteed that the team will not finish with a winning record and snapped the school’s 37-year streak with a winning mark. Against the Jackrabbits, quarterback Matt Engle passed for 257 yards and three touchdowns and Brandon Tucker had 149 all-purpose yards. However, UCD was unable to overcome a 21-0 halftime deficit.
The Aggies lead the all-time series, 38-16, and have won the past seven meetings. The two teams have played every year since 1954, including twice in 1988.
• Sacramento State, which had not scored a touchdown in over 200 minutes, found the end zone four times in a 39-minute span against Eastern Washington.
• Quarterback Jason Smith threw for 396 yards against EWU. Smith tied Marcel Marquez for the second-best single-game performance in school history.
• Linebacker Mike Brannon and receivers Tony Washington and Torrell Baker also recorded career days. Brannon tied the school record for sacks (3.5) while Washington (146) and Baker (95) eclipsed their receiving yardage highs.
• The game will not be televised this season after airing on Comcast Sports Net last year.
With a Win...
• Sacramento State will have defeated UC Davis for the first time since 1999.
• The Hornets will snap their four-game losing streak.
• UC Davis will lose its seventh game of the year, marking its highest loss total since 1969.
• Sacramento State will improve to 2-2 at home this season.
With a Loss...
• Sacramento State will fall to 1-8 on the year, its worst season since posting a 2-9 mark in 2005.
• The Aggies will win their eighth consecutive Causeway Classic.
Causeway Classic Quick Facts
• Despite this being the 54th-Annaul Causeway Classic, Saturday’s game will mark the 55th meeting between the two schools. In 1988, the teams met twice, with Sacramento State winning in both the regular season (31-28) and the first round of the Div. II playoffs (35-14). The first of those two victories ended an 18-game losing streak against the Aggies.
• The game was not referred to as the Causeway Classic until 1983. Former Sacramento State sports information director Mike Duncan is credited with creating the moniker.
• The Causeway Classic has drown 481,831 total spectators over the past 53 years. The two largest Sacramento State football crowds have come against UC Davis. In 1999, 20,993 attended the game while the 2001 contest drew 17,328.
• No current member of the Hornet football team has beaten UC Davis. However, defensive coordinator Lou Baiz recorded victories as a player. Baiz was a linebacker from 1988-90 and was 4-0 against the Aggies.
• The Causeway Classic press conference will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 31, at the Cal Expo Marriott. The conference, which will feature Sacramento State head coach Marshall Sperbeck, UC Davis head coach Bob Biggs and selected players from both teams, will begin at 11 a.m.
Let if Fly
Freshman Jason Smith nearly moved to the top of the Hornet record book with his best passing performance of his short career. The Brentwood, Calif., native completed 29-of-41 passes for 396 yards and three touchdown. The completions, yardage and touchdowns all set career highs.
Not only did Smith record his first 300-yard passing game, his yardage total tied Marcel Marquez for second place in school history. (Marquez’s effort came last season at Idaho State). His total was also just 10 yards shy of Tony Corbin’s mark of 40 which came against Saint Mary’s on Nov. 4, 1995.
The 396 team passing yards also ranks fourth in school history. The team record came in 1996 when the Hornets threw for 432 yards against Eastern Washington.
Junior Mike Brannon has made the move from defensive end to linebacker look rather easy. The Cordova HS graduate produced his best career day against Eastern Washington, tallying 16 total tackles. Brannon finished the game with 11 solo stops and five assists. He also had 4.5 tackles-for-loss, including 3.5 sacks. His sack total tied him with Tyson Butler for the school record. Butler had 3.5 QB takedowns against Eastern Washington on Oct. 29, 2005.
On the year, Brannon now ranks third on the team with 61 tackles. He has also moved to the top of the team list with 13.5 tackles-for-loss and six sacks.
Despite being just a junior, Brannon is also beginning to appear on the career lists at Sacramento State. His 15.0 career sacks places him in sole possession of fifth place in school history. Last week, he vaulted past three players and is now just one sack behind Darren Arbet for fourth place. Anthony Daisley holds the Div. I-AA/FCS career record with 18.0 sacks and Kelly Osborn is the overall record holder with 25.5.
Brannon is also now fourth in school history with 35.5 career TFLs. The top three on the career list is a virtual who’s who of great Hornet linebackers: Matt Logue (46.5), Anthony Daisley (44.0) and Ryland Wickman (41.0).
The New Favorite
Throughout the year, Smith seems to have had a favorite target in each game. However, what makes things unique, is the fact that the Hornets have yet to determine a go-to guy. Early on the in the year, Ryan Coogler and Dylan Lane appeared to be Smith primary receivers.
In the last two weeks, Tony Washington has moved into the spotlight. Washington caught a career high three passes for 71 yards (then a career high) at Montana State. He followed that effort last week against EWU with nine grabs for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
The nine receptions were not only a career high for Washington, they rank seventh in school history and were the most by a Hornet since Fred Amey caught 15 passes at Eastern Washington on Oct. 30, 2004.
Baker’s Big Day
Torrell Baker has done a little of everything for Sacramento State since his arrival three years ago. After redshirting in 2004, Baker began his career as a wide receiver but was moved to running back last season. A change in coaches shifted Baker back outside to begin the 2007 season.
That change coupled with a nagging hamstring injury had limited Baker’s productivity until Saturday. Through the first seven games of the season, the Long Beach, Calif., native had caught just four passes for 56 yards. His last catch came in the team’s win over Northern Arizona on Sept. 29.
Against Eastern Washington, Baker caught seven passes for 95 yards. Both were easily single-game highs as was his 39-yard reception.
Keeping Up the Tradition
Since joining the Big Sky, Sacramento State has had a history of producing some of the best linebackers in the conference. Ryland Wickman, Anthony Daisley and Matt Logue have all earned All-America honors in the middle of the defense since 1996. With that said, however, no unit has been as strong as the 2007 corps.
Against Eastern Washington, the starting trio of Cyrus Mulitalo, Mike Hickman and Mike Brannon combined for 29 tackles, six tackles-for-loss, 3.5 sacks, a pass breakup and a blocked punt.
Brannon, who’s efforts have already been chronicled, led the unit with 16 tackles. Mulitalo ranked second on the team with eight stops and Hickman added five, including a TFL.
On the year, the trio all rank in the top five on the team in tackles. Mulitalo is the leading tackler with 74 stops, Brannon is third with 61 and Hickman is fifth with 44.
More on Mulitalo
For the second straight week, Cyrus Mulitalo was “held” to eight tackles. The middle linebacker is now averaging 10.3 tackles per game dating back to the start of last season.
In those 19 games, Mulitalo has had at least 10 tackles in 10 contests. His biggest game came against Northern Colorado where he had 21 tackles. Following the year, he was named honorable mention All-America and first team all-West Region.
If the San Leandro, Calif., native keeps on his current pace, he could challenge Ryland Wickman’s school record of 435 career tackles. Mulitalo entered the season with 142 and now stands at 216. He is now sixth in school history despite having just 22 tackles as a freshman. Mulitalo needs 20 tackles to move into fifth place (Camron Mbewa, 236).
Mulitalo has also been used at running back over the last six games. In that span, he has 15 carries for 30 yards. He scored his first rushing touchdown of the year on a 1-yard plunge against Eastern Washington.
Running the ball is nothing new for the junior. Last season, he had four carries for 10 yards and scored a touchdown against Portland State. In high school, Mulitalo set the Hayward Area Athletic League record with 2,839 career yards. He also scored 25 touchdowns as a senior for Arroyo HS.
Junior Travon Jones returned to the Sacramento State starting lineup after a two-week hiatus and responded with a career-high 141 yards at Montana State. The running back did most of his damage in the first half where he had 105 yards on 20 attempts.
He finished the game against the Bobcats with a career-best 26 carries and averaged 5.4 yards per attempt.
The 100-yard game was the second for Jones this season. The Fresno City College transfer also crossed the century mark at Portland State where he had 117 yards.
Jones currently leads the team with 432 rushing yards and is averaging 54.0 yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry. Last week against EWU, he also showed his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, grabbing six passes for 37 yards.
He has started four games at running back and will continue to split time with freshman Bryan Hilliard.
While Jones has reassumed the role as the starting running back, he has not been the only player to see time in the backfield. In fact, the Hornets have started four different running backs during the first eight games.
Against Fresno State, receiver Ryan Coogler started in the backfield due to the fact that the rest of the crew was not cleared by the NCAA 48 hours before kickoff.
Two weeks later, freshman Evander Wilkens started against Portland State. However, it was Jones who stole the show, rushing for 117 yards against the Vikings His performance made him the first Sacramento State player to cross the century mark since Kris Daniels tallied 132 against Montana State on Nov. 5, 2005.
At New Mexico, Jones was given his first start but the ground game struggled against the Lobos. Jones ended up sharing the team lead with junior Eric Velez as both players had 33 yards.
Jones also started against Northern Arizona before giving way to Bryan Hilliard for the next two games.
Like Jones, Hilliard has also recorded a 100-yard rushing game this season. Against Northern Arizona, the Elk Grove, Calif., native compiled 100 rushing yards on 20 carries and also scored his first carer touchdown.
This year, he ranks second on the team with 310 rushing yards and is averaging a team-high 4.5 yards per carry.
The officiating crew for Saturday’s game against Eastern Washington saw more work than most of the players on the field. The crew called 21 penalties in the contest, including a season high 10 against Sacramento State.
The Hornets’ infractions cost the team 119 yards. Two of the biggest calls came during EWU’s final scoring drive where Sacramento State was whistled for two roughing-the-passer fouls. The second call gave the Eagles and automatic first down after the Hornets had recorded a stop on third down.
Not to be outdone, Eastern Washington was called for 11 penalties for 112 yards.
Just the Facts
• Sacramento State has changed its helmet for the sixth time in the last seven years. The Hornets will keep the dark green shells but will add the new athletics department logo to the sides.
• Safety Brent Webber was named second team preseason All-America by College Sporting News and third team by The Sports Network.
Cyrus Mulitalo was a second team selection by The Sports Network and was also named preseason first team all-Big Sky.
Senior Dallas Mauga was also named to the Big Sky’s preseason all-league team.
• Once again, Sacramento State will play one of the toughest schedules in the Football Championship Subdivision. The Hornets face two FBS teams (Fresno State and New Mexico) for the first time in school history and also feature a non-league game against Causeway Classic rival UC Davis. Sacramento State will also square off against Montana, Portland State, Montana State and Eastern Washington who have all been ranked in the FCS top 25.
• Offensive lineman Jordan Hunter will not play the remainder of the season after tearing his ACL in the first quarter against Fresno State.
• Junior kicker Juan Gamboa has converted 48 of 50 career extra point attempts. Gamboa has missed just one PAT each of his first two years.
• The 29-point margin of victory against NAU was the most by Sacramento State since a 69-19 win over Saint Mary’s on Sept. 6, 2003.
It was also the largest against a Big Sky opponent since a 41-10 win over Montana State on Sept. 25, 1999.
• Cyrus Mulitalo’s interception return for a touchdown against NAU was the first pick for the Hornets this season and the first for a score since Brandon Smith went 55 yards to the end zone against Idaho State on Oct. 22, 2005.
• NAU’s 187 yards of total offense were the fewest allowed by Sacramento State since Saint Mary’s was held to 185 on Sept. 4, 1999.
• QB Jason Smith completed his first 13 pass attempts at Portland State and finished the first half 13-of-14.
• Sophomore Craig King, who played in all 11 games last season at cornerback, will likely redshirt this season after tearing his meniscus during training camp.
• Smith tied the school’s Div. I-AA/FCS era record with 50 pass attempts against Montana. He also tied the interception record with five against the Grizzlies.
• Sacramento State has limited both Northern Arizona and Montana to just nine first downs in its two home games. That total is the fewest in school history since moving to Div. I-AA/FCS.
A Look at the Aggies
• UC Davis has used three quarterbacks in its nine games. Tim Plough and Matt Engle have each started while Greg Denham came off the bench in the loss to Cal Poly.
• Redshirt freshman running back Joe Trombetta continues to lead the team with 553 rushing yards despite missing two games due to injury.
• Tyler Pringle is the leading tackler on the team with 59. James Amos paces the team with five sacks.
Big Sky Notes
• Following Weber State’s 73-68 win over Portland State, both QBs Cameron Higgins (WSU) and Drew Hubel (PSU) were named co-Big Sky Offensive Players of the Week. Northern Colorado cornerback Quincy Wofford won the defensive award and UNC kicker Zak Bigelow and WSU returner Bryant Eteuati were named co-Special Teams Players of the Week.