FOOTBALL SQUARES OFF AGAINST UC DAVIS IN PEPSI CAUSEWAY CLASSIC ON SATURDAY
It all comes down to this. After 10 regular season games, the Sacramento State football team will close out its 2009 campaign when it faces UC Davis in the 56th annual Causeway Classic presented by Pepsi on Sat., Nov. 21, at Hornet Stadium. The game against the Aggies will kick off at 2:07 p.m. Fans are encouraged to purchase tickets ahead of time. Tickets may be obtained by calling (916) 278-4323 during the week or at the Hornet Stadium box office beginning at 11:30 a.m. on the day of the game.
There will be multiple ways to follow this week’s game. Hornet fans can tune in to KRJY 1240 AM to hear the radio call of Jason Ross, Steve McElory and Danny Sullivan. Live audio streaming is also available via www.hornetsports.com. Sacramento State will also be featured on BigSkyTV.org. The free package is available for all Big Sky football games as well as any non-conference contest hosted by Sacramento State.
The contest will also be carried on Comcast SportsNet in Northern California. Jim Kozimor will handle the play-by-play and will be joined by former Cal quarterback Mike Pawlawski (color) and sideline reporter Christine Nubla.
Sacramento State comes into this week’s game with a 4-6 overall record following a 27-17 loss at Montana State on Saturday. The Hornets finished Big Sky Conference play with a 4-4 record, tying for the second-best mark in school history. Against the Bobcats, Sacramento State tied the game 14-14 at halftime with a trick-play touchdown from Jake Croxdale to Brian Heath but were never able to surge ahead. In the fourth quarter, MSU limited the Hornets to just two yards and sacked Sacramento State four times in the final two drives.
UC Davis improved to 6-4 overall and clinched the Great West Conference title with a 28-20 win over North Dakota at Aggie Stadium. The victory assured UC Davis of its first winning season since 2006. Greg Denham passed for 284 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
The all-time series between the two teams is led by UC Davis, 39-17. Sacramento State snapped its eight game losing streak to the Aggies with a 29-19 win last season at Aggie Stadium.
Causeway Classic Quick Facts
• Despite this being the 56th Causeway Classic, Saturday’s game will mark the 57th 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 (35-13). 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 drawn 505,221 total spectators over the past 54 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.
• The Causeway Classic press conference will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 17, at the Marriott Rancho Cordova at 11 a.m. The conference features Sacramento State head coach Marshall Sperbeck, UC Davis head coach Bob Biggs and selected players from both sides.
Keeping Everyone Happy
Bethel-Thompson completed a career high 24 passes at Montana State to 11 different receivers. Ron Richardson led the way with a career high five catches for 44 yards. Running back Jake Croxdale also set a career mark with four grabs for a team-high 58 yards. Croxdale’s reception total was matched by Brandyn Reed and Dylan Lane while John Hendershott and Jon Krebs each had two catches. Brett Willis, Matt Carter, Jeff Badger and Brian Heath also had one catch.
For the second straight week, Bethel-Thompson also had a reception. His first catch came at Northern Colorado when he pulled down his own pass which had been deflected at the line. Last week, he caught a pass from Croxdale on a trick play and took it for a 5-yard gain.
Reed Between the Sidelines
Brandyn Reed continued his hot play with a 39-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter to stretch his streak to three consecutive games with a score. The Windsor, Calif., native now leads the Hornets with 39 receptions for 597 yards. His average of 15.3 yards per reception places him 24th nationally in the FCS and fourth in the Big Sky.
Reed also became the Hornets’ touchdown leader with his fifth TD of the season. He ranks second on the team in overall scoring with 30 points, trailing only kicker Chris Diniz who has 61.
Bringing the Boom
Junior kicker Chris Diniz has already set numerous Sacramento State records this season. The Escalon, Calif., native began his college career by making his first 10 field goal attempts before finally missing on his second attempt at Northern Colorado.
While his 10 consecutive makes easily broke the previous school record of six, the one thing Diniz did not have was a long attempt. With the exception of his first field goal of the year — a 44-yarder at UNLV — Diniz had not attempted a kick longer than 41 yards. That all changed on Saturday when Diniz crushed a 52-yard field goal at Montana State which tied him for second in school history.
The kick came in the third quarter and left Diniz just one yard off the Hornet record which is held by Scott Brown. Diniz became the first Sacramento State player to make a 50-yard field goal since Bret LeVier made a 50-yarder at Northern Arizona on Oct. 12, 2002. He is just the third kicker in Sacramento State history to make a 50-yarder, joining Brown (twice) and LeVier.
Diniz, who redshirted last season, has now made 11-of-12 field goals this season as well as 28-of-30 extra points for a team leading 61 points.
This year, he is tied for 33rd in the FCS rankings at 1.11 field goals per game and also moved into sixth place in school single-season history with 11 field goals. The single-season school record of 14 is shared by Bret LeVier (2002) and Brown (1999).
Jim Crouch is the most accurate Hornet kicker in a season, making 13-of-16 attempts (81.2 percent) in 1991.
Doing It All
A week after rushing for 107 yards at Northern Colorado, Jake Croxdale picked up 84 all-purpose yards at Montana State. Croxdale did most of his damage as a receiver, catching a career high four passes for 58 yards, including a 30-yard reception. Prior to the game, Croxdale had never caught more than one pass in a game and had a long of 21 yards.
The Napa, Calif., native was thought to be lost for the season after suffering a broken left wrist while covering a kickoff at Cal Poly on Sept. 12. Following surgery, Croxdale was pushed out of action until being cleared just prior to the Northern Arizona game.
One week of practice appeared to be enough and it was just in time as Croxdale was thrust into starting lineup at Northern Colorado. Against the Bears, he carried the ball a career high 29 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns. His first score came on a 4-yard run midway through the second quarter while his second came from two yards out and put the team ahead 31-0 at the break.
The 100-yard effort was not the first for Croxdale. Last season, he gained 109 yards against Southern Oregon.
However, Croxdale suffered a setback in the week leading up to Montana State when he injured a shoulder in practice on Wednesday. That injury took him out of the starting lineup but did not slow him down once he was in the game.
A week after Ron Richardson threw a 48-yard pass to Reed on a trick play at Northern Colorado, Croxdale tried to one-up his teammate with two completions against Montana State.
Croxdale’s first pass came after he received a pitch from Bethel-Thompson. After taking a couple of steps to his right, Croxdale stopped and threw back to the quarterback who gained 5 yards.
The second completion came at a more pivotal time. With seven seconds left in the first half, Croxdale again took a pitch to the right. This time, he floated the ball over two Bobcats and found Brian Heath in the end zone for a game-tying score.
This season, Croxdale and Richardson have now combined to go 3-for-4 for 56 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Power of Mac
McLeod Bethel-Thompson made his second consecutive start under center for Sacramento State and responded with numerous career highs against the Bobcats. The junior completed 24-of-41 passes for 269 yards. Each of those totals established career highs for Bethel-Thompson at Sacramento State.
The San Francisco native came to the Hornets after spending two seasons at UCLA. With the Bruins, he was the team’s starting quarterback in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl.
Last year, he played in four games for Sacramento State before a knee injury knocked him out for the rest of the year.
All By Himself
Zach Schrader is the only player in the Big Sky to be ranked among the top four league leaders in tackles, interceptions and forced fumbles this season. The junior is fourth in the league with 9.8 tackles per game, second in interceptions (four) and tied for first in fumbles forced with three.
Schrader’s average of 9.80 tackles per game ties him for 28th nationally in the FCS. The national and Big Sky leader is J.C. Sherritt of Eastern Washington who is averaging 14.00 stops.
Schrader began his collegiate career at Western Washington but was forced to find a new home after the program was discontinued last winter.
A Look at the Aggies
• UC Davis earned its fifth win in its last six games with a 28-20 victory over North Dakota on Saturday. The Aggies are 5-2 this year against FCS foes.
• Quarterback Greg Denham leads the team with 262.5 passing yards per game with 17 touchdowns. Denham’s favorite target is Chris Carter who averages 80.5 yards per game and is seventh in the FCS with 7.60 receptions per game. The team’s leading rusher is Joe Trombetta with 37.1 yards per game.
• Defensively, Mike Morales has a team-high 76 total tackles. The linebacker also has 4.5 tackles-for-loss and two interceptions.
Big Sky Notes
Eastern Washington quarterback Matt Nichols was the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week after passing for 380 yards and four TDs. MSU’s Dane Fletcher took the defensive honor for his 11 tackle, 4.0 TFL performance. Weber State’s Tim Toone returned a punt 90 yards to earn the special teams award.