FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Senior Charles Roberts rushed for 187 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the Sacramento State football team to a 28-24 ictory over Northern Arizona in front of a sparse crowd of 2,011 at the J.L. Walkup Skydome Saturday afternoon.
The win ended the Hornets' regular seasons with a 7-4 overall record and a 5-3 Big Sky Conference mark. Both records are the best since the program moved to Div. I-AA and the league mark insures that the team ends the year with at least a tie for second place.
Roberts entered the game needing 32 yards to pass former Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne. The Montclair, Calif., native picked up 30 yards on his first three carries but then rushed for a combined loss of one on his next two. On his sixth carry of the game, Roberts dashed seven yards to move into fourth place on the all-time NCAA career rushing list. The 5-6 tailback later passed Kavin Galliard of American International to become the third most prolific back in NCAA history with 6,553 career rushing yards.
Sacramento State, which scored 64 points against Cal State Northirdge one week ago, began the game by scoring on a four-play, 54-yard drive that was capped by a 21-yard dash from Roberts for a score. The team then forced a fumble on NAU's next possession and quarterback Ricky Ray dove in from one yard out for his 10th rushing TD of the season.
Northern Arizona responded behind the play of running back Marcus King. The junior rushed for 72 of the Lumberjacks' 80 yards on the drive and scored from two yards out to make the score 14-7.
The Hornets, however, had a quick answer. After the kickoff sailed into the endzone for a touchback, Roberts took a handoff, cut into the middle of the field and then changed direction down the sideline for an 80-yard TD in which he described as "the best run of my career". Sacramento State added to its lead at the start of the second quarter when Ray found Lamont Webb on a 20-yard strike to put the team ahead, 28-7. Webb's TD gave him the school record for career receiving touchdowns and the score concluded a streak in which the team scored TDs on 13 of 17 drives dating back to last week.
NAU began to gnaw away at the deficit midway through the second quarter. King scored from five yards to make the score, 28-14, at halftime. The Jacks then began the second half by intercepting Ray and scoring two plays later when King found the endzone for the third time.
The Lumberjacks appeared to be able to tie the game at the start of the fourth quarter but questionable play calling and a resilient Hornet defense thwarted their effort. NAU had first and goal from the four-yard line and King then moved the ball to the one. On second down, cornerback Elton Gabourel stormed into the backfield to stop King for a two-yard loss. The Jacks then attempted a pass that was badly overthrown but Sacramento State was called for defensive holding giving NAU a first down from the two. From that point, NAU took King out of the game and dropped quarterback Carson Bradley into the shotgun formation. Bradley, who was making his first collegiate start, dropped the snap on first down and was sacked on second down to set up third and goal from the six. On the next play, Bradley, again, overthrew his intended receiver and forced NAU to kick a 23-yard field goal.
Sacramento State promptly threw an interception on its first play giving the ball back to Northern Arizona at their own 31-yard line. The Jacks drove to the 11 but were again stymied when the Hornets deflected a pass on fourth down.
With the ball on the three-yard line and 7:24 left in the game, Sacramento State methodically moved down the field to end the game. Roberts rushed the first four plays to move the ball out to the 14 before Ray and Webb hooked up for a 13-yard gain. Roberts then gave the team some extra room with a 21-yard run. NAU, however, had one last chance to stop Sacramento State. On fourth and two from the 30, Ray rolled to his left and found Webb at the two yard line to seal the game.
Webb ended the day with 10 catches for 151 yards while Ray was 14-for-25 with 182 yards. Defensively, Gabourel led team with 13 tackles and helped take the load off of a unit that was playing without starters Bilal Watkins and Santi Hall and lost Anthony Daisley (ankle) during the game.
NAU was led by King with 199 yards and three scores.