TOTAL TEAM EFFORT LEADS FOOTBALL TO 38-9 WIN OVER NORTHERN ARIZONA
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Sacramento State football team began the game behind its veterans and ended with a glimpse of the future in a 38-9 win over Northern Arizona, Saturday in front of 6,194 fans at Hornet Stadium to give head coach Marshall Sperbeck his first career victory.
With the victory, the Hornets improved to 1-3 overall and 1-1 in Big Sky Conference games. The Lumberjacks fell to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in league play. The win was just the second for Sacramento State at home over NAU in school history.
Following a scoreless first quarter which saw 38 total plays but only five first downs, the Hornets struck first with a 74-yard pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Jason Smith to senior receiver Ryan Coogler. On the play, Coogler caught the ball on a slant route then broke free and sprinted the final 60 yards for his second touchdown of the season.
NAU appeared to have a chance to tie the game after K.J. Gerard intercepted Smith at the Hornet 12-yard line. However, the Sacramento State defense limited the Lumberjacks to just seven yards, forcing NAU to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Robbie Dehaze.
The Hornets matched the field goal on the ensuing drive, capped by a season-long 40-yard attempt from Juan Gamboa with 47 seconds remaining in the first half. The team then added to its momentum 23 seconds later when Cyrus Mulitalo gathered a tipped ball out of the air, split two defenders and ran 60 yards for his first defensive touchdown of his career.
The lead stretched to 24-3 midway through the third quarter when Smith ran around the right side of the line and dove into the end zone with 9:28 showing. NAU responded with a 22-yard touchdown pass from reserve quarterback Ricky Odorfer to All-American Alex Watson but the extra point was blocked.
The final two touchdowns came from Sacramento State freshmen. Receiver Dylan Lane found the end zone for the first time with a 19-yard reception up the middle of the field with 1:28 to go in the third and running back Bryan Hilliard added a 9-yard rush with 13:31 remaining in the fourth for his first collegiate score.
Individually, Hilliard led all players with 100 rushing yards on 20 carries. Prior to Saturday’s game, the Laguna Creek HS graduate had just one carry for three yards. Smith finished the day 13-of-32 for 233 yards and two touchdowns before giving way to freshman Duncan White and senior Tim Bessolo. The Hornets completed 14 passes to eight receivers. That group was led by Coogler who had three grabs for 95 yards.
Defensively, Mulitalo tallied a game-high nine tackles, including an 8-yard sack. Sophomore Dorian Brown added a career-high seven stops and senior Blaine Jackson finished with six tackles, including two for loss — both career bests.
As a team, the Hornet defense limited NAU to just 187 yards of total offense and 85 rushing yards. The Lumberjacks entered the game averaging 418.5 yards per game during their first four contests and ranked 22nd nationally in the Football Championship Subdivision with 209.5 rushing yards per game.
Conversely, Sacramento State doubled its average of 200.0 yards per game by racking up 422 yards.
NOTES: The game was the largest margin of victory for Sacramento State against a Big Sky opponent since defeating Montana State, 41-10, in 1999…it also marked the first time the Hornets held the opponent under 10 points since a 13-6 overtime win against Saint Mary’s on Sept. 1, 2001…Mulitalo’s touchdown was the second of his career following his rushing score against Portland State last season…his interception was also the first for Sacramento State this season…Durrell Oliver intercepted his third career pass in the second half…NAU starting quarterback Lance Kriesien did not play in the second half due to an unspecified injury…Lumberjack starting receiver Skyler Moore was carted off the field and taken to the hospital with a right ankle injury…the Hornets are now 31-21-1 all-time in home openers…Sacramento State had four more sacks on Saturday and now has 18 sacks on the year in just four games…the team also had four TFLs.