FOOTBALL ROLLS OVER HUMBOLDT STATE, 45-13, IN SEASON OPENER
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Just about everything went right for the Sacramento State football team in its 45-13 season-opening victory over Humboldt State on Saturday night. The team saw Evander Wilkins and Bryan Hilliard each rush for over 100 yards, Jason Smith pass for two touchdowns and run for another and the defense scored one touchdown and set up another in front of a crowd of 10,172 at Hornet Stadium.
In the process, the team won its first season opener since a 13-6 overtime win over Saint Mary’s in 2001 and scored its most points since posting 47 against Idaho State on Sept. 27, 2003.
“I thought we stuck to our goals really well,” second year head coach Marshall Sperbeck said. “We began the game strongly and then played hard through the end.”
The Hornets wasted little time getting on the board scoring on their first series of the game. Facing 4th-and 14 from the 20-yard line Sperbeck elected to go for it and Smith found Washington in the center of the end zone for the score. Following a punt, the team road the tandem of Wilkins and Hilliard down to the 2-yard line before Hilliard punched it in with 5:44 remaining in the first quarter.
Sacramento State added to its lead on the following series when HSU quarterback Garrett Hubrich threw a backward pass over the head of Joevany Cueva. The ball bounced into the end zone and was recovered by senior Ryan Battle for the touchdown to give the Hornets a 21-0 lead. The defense continued its pressure when Deionte Gordon intercepted Brian Hildebrand at the 26-yard line and returned the ball back to the 10. A penalty against the Lumberjacks gave Sacramento State the ball at the 5-yard line and Smith found Dylan Lane to cap the drive on the first play of the second quarter.
From that point, the teams traded points in the second quarter. Hildebrand put Humboldt State on the board with a 9-yard touchdown run with 9:05 left to play in the first half. Smith matched the TD with a second- and third-effort for a 5-yard touchdown on fourth down just four minutes later. A 40-yard field goal from Enrique Leyva made the score 35-10 at halftime.
Leyva tacked on a 35-yard field goal early in the third quarter for the period’s only points. In the fourth, Hilliard scored from six yards out and Juan Gamboa made a 32-yard field goal to make the score 45-13 with 5:53 left.
Wilkins and Hilliard, who have battled through the last couple weeks of training camps, became the second pair of Hornet backs to each rush for over 100 yards in the team’s last three games. Wilkins carried the ball just 10 times for 103 yards and added an 8-yard reception and 55 return yards for a total of 166 all-purpose yards. Hilliard spent most of his night between the tackles with 18 carries for 105 yards. He now has rushed for over 100 yards in four consecutive games.
Smith completed 11-of-16 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns without throwing an interception. The sophomore also added 16 rushing yards. Sophomore McLeod Bethel-Thompson came on in the fourth quarter and was 1-of-2 for 8 yards.
Returners Tony Washington and Dylan Lane led the team with four receptions each. Washington finished with a team-high 68 receiving yards while Lane added 21.
Defensively, Sacramento State tallied 8.0 tackles-for-loss. The team was led by redshirt freshman Zack Nash who had 10 total tackles (four solo, six assists) including 2.5 TFLs. All-Americans Cyrus Mulitalo and Mike Brannon each finished with seven stops and one TFL.
Sacramento State will take to the road next week to face Colorado State. The game is scheduled to kick off from Ft. Collins, Colo., at 12:35 p.m. PDT.