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FOOTBALL DOWNS PORTLAND STATE, 41-31; OFF TO BEST START SINCE 2000
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Bryan Hilliard rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns, Jason Smith threw for 307 yards and two scores and Tony Washington had nine receptions for 158 yards and a TD to lead Sacramento State to a 41-31 win over Portland State, Saturday afternoon at Hornet Stadium.
The Hornets improved to 3-2 on the season and 1-1 in Big Sky Conference play with the victory. The 3-2 start is the best for the program since 2000 and marks only the fifth time Sacramento State has had three wins through its first five games during the school’s Div. I-AA/FCS era. The win was also the first against PSU since 1999 and just the second against the Vikings since Oct. 31, 1992. Portland State fell to 1-3 overall and 0-1 in conference action.
The Hornets entered the game with only three turnovers on the season but fumbles on two straight first quarter possessions led to a 14-0 PSU lead. Daniel Wolverton scored the game’s first points on an 8-yard reception and Bobby McClintock ran in from six yards out a little over two minutes later to take a commanding lead.
However, the advantage all but disappeared by the end of the first quarter as Sacramento State countered with a 1-yard sneak from Smith and a 30-yard TD pass to Evander Wilkins. The extra point was missed following the second touchdown making the score 14-13. The Hornets took their first lead of the game with 9:12 remaining in the second quarter when Deionte Gordon gathered in a deflected pass at the NAU 15-yard line then weaved his way into the end zone for his first career touchdown. The Vikings responded with an 80-yard strike from Tygue Howland to Aaron Woods to take a 21-20 lead into intermission.
For the first time this season, Sacramento State opened the second half strongly, scoring two touchdowns in the first 10 minutes to take the lead for good. The Hornets, who had been outscored, 35-16, in the third quarter during the first four games, took advantage of a 6-yard TD run from Hilliard and an acrobatic 21-yard touchdown grab from Washington to lead 34-21 with 5:26 left in the quarter. PSU, again, answered with a 1-play drive for a score when Howland connected with Ty Coleman for a 47-yard touchdown down the middle of the field.
After the Vikings cut the lead to 34-31 with a 30-yard field goal from Danny Urrego, Sacramento State rode Hilliard down the field for the insurance score. The Hornets drove 79 yards in 5:19 with Hilliard accounting for 69 of the yards. The sophomore, who had not played since injuring his shoulder during the first half of the Colorado State game on Sept. 6, capped the drive with a 2-yard run up the middle.
The trio of Smith, Hilliard and Washington became the first group of Hornets to pass for 300 yards, rush for 100 and receive for 100 since Ryan Leadingham (366 pass), Tyronne Gross (240 rush) and Fred Amey (180 receiving) did it against Idaho State on Sept. 27, 2003. While Smith and Washington were effective throughout the game, Hilliard did all of his damage in the second half. The Elk Grove, Calif., native rushed four times for minus-2 yards in the first half, then pounded the Viking defense for 127 yards on 22 carries in the second half.
Defensively, senior Mike Brannon and Gordon each had eight total tackles to lead the team. Brannon earned the start at defensive end against the Vikings’ run-and-shoot attack and responded with three takles-for-loss, including two sacks. The Rancho Cordova, Calif., native also set the school career tackles-for-loss record with 47.5, breaking Matt Logue’s mark of 45.5 set between 2002-05.
Portland State also produced some big numbers as Howland threw for 394 yards and three touchdowns while completing 27-of-53 attempts. Woods led the team with 106 receiving yards while McClintock rushed for 37. Erik Pederson and Andy Schantz finished with 11 and 10 tackles, respectively.
Sacramento State will next travel to Northern Arizona on Saturday, Oct. 4. Kickoff against the Lumberjacks will come at 3:05 p.m.
NOTES: The Hornets have matched their win total from last season…Hilliard is now tied for sixth in school history with six 100-yard games…Smith passed for over 300 yards for the second time in his career…Washington has gone over the century mark in three of the last four games…he is also tied for sixth in school history with four 100-yard games…Robert Virgil, who was planning on redshirting until last week, earned his first career start at defensive back…Sacramento State is now 4-0 when scoring at least 31 points under Sperbeck.
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