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FOOTBALL STORMS BACK TO FORCE OVERTIME, FALLS TO No. 10 MONTANA STATE 64-61
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento State battled back from a 37-10 halftime deficit to force a 61-61 tie at the end of regulation against No. 10 Montana State, but a 25-yard field goal by Jason Cunningham in the first overtime proved to be the difference as the Bobcats prevailed 64-61.
With the win, Montana State improved to 3-1 on the season and 2-0 in Big Sky Conference play. The Hornets dropped to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in league games after suffering its second straight three-point loss.
The Hornets scored a school record 35 points in the third quarter to seize the momentum of the game after a dismal first half. Quarterback Jeff Fleming completed 10-of-12 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns in the third quarter to fuel a Sacramento State rally that saw the team score four unanswered touchdowns in the first nine minutes of the third quarter to turn its 27-point halftime deficit into a 38-37 advantage. The Hornets finished the quarter with 262 yards in total offense and led 45-44 heading into the final period.
The lead changed hands three times in the fourth quarter until Sacramento State went on a 70-yard drive that culminated with Fleming connecting with Chase Deadder on a 45-yard touchdown pass to give the Hornets a 61-54 lead with 3:12 remaining in the game. Montana State stormed back to force overtime as Bobcat quarterback Denarius McGhee completed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Julius Lloyd with 1:17 left. Each team had one possession at the end of regulation, but neither team could mount a drive and the score remained tied at 61-61 headed into overtime.
In the overtime period, Cunningham’s field goal accounted for the only points scored. The Hornets lost one yard in their possession following the Montana State field goal, and Chris Diniz’s 43-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left just outside of the upright to end the game. It was Diniz’s first missed field goal of the season after he started the year making his first eight field goal attempts this year, including a 42-yard kick earlier in the game.
“That was an unbelievable game,” Sacramento State head coach Marshall Sperbeck said. “It was just two teams punching it out until the end. I’m proud of how our team responded in the second half.”
Both teams combined for 1,270 total yards, with the Bobcats compiling 646 yards compared to 624 yards from the Hornets. Fleming finished the game 20-of-36 for 348 yards and five passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown, tying the Sacramento State school record by accounting for six touchdowns. McGhee was 26-of-43 passes for 385 yards and four touchdowns.
Sacramento State’s Bryan Hilliard led all rushers with 194 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. Montana State also had a 100-yard rusher, as C.J. Palmer paced the Bobcats with 131 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries. Orenzo Davis was close behind, rushing for 95 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.
Lloyd was the game’s leading receiver, hauling in eight passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns to lead Montana State. Deadder paced the Hornets with six catches for 145 yards and one touchdown. Freshman wideout Morris Norrise made the most of his three catches, scoring three TDs on 76 yards.
Despite Sacramento State’s valiant second half effort in which they outscored Montana State 51-24, the Hornets had no answers for the Bobcats offense in the first half.
Montana State took the opening kickoff and marched 79 yards on 11 plays with a drive that culminated in a 2-yard touchdown pass from McGhee to Kyle Begger to put the Bobcats on top 6-0 (missed extra point). Fleming led the Hornets right back with a 71-yard scoring drive of their own completing the possession with a five-yard scoring strike to D.J. Maciel that gave Sacramento State a 7-6 edge with 5:23 left in the first quarter.
The 7-6 Hornet lead would prove to be short-lived, as Montana State went back on top after a 7-play, 83-yard touchdown drive to take a 13-7 advantage with 1:44 left in the first quarter on a 2-yard touchdown run by Davis. The touchdown by Davis would lead a stretch where the Bobcats would score 24 unanswered points to claim a 30-7 lead midway through the second quarter. Other scoring plays during the Montana State run included a 40-yard field goal by Cunningham with 14:56 left in the first half, a 62-yard touchdown pass from McGhee to Lloyd with 9:39 remaining in the first half, and a 68-yard touchdown run by Palmer.
Diniz helped stop the Montana State run by connecting on a 42-yard field goal with 1:41 left in the first half, but the Bobcats would strike back quickly. After an excellent 53-yard kickoff return by Everett Gilbert gave Montana State the ball at the Sacramento State 42-yard line, the Bobcats went on a five-play drive that ended with a 1-yard run by Davis that gave Montana State a commanding 37-10 halftime lead.
The Hornets received the opening kickoff and proceeded to march 80 yards on six plays, with Hilliard taking it in from the one to trim the gap to 37-17 just 2:11 into the second half. At that point Sacramento State relied on some trickery, recovering an onside kick at the Bobcat 42-yard line and scoring six plays later on a quarterback sneak by Fleming.
Sacramento State forced its first punt of the game by stopping the Bobcats on their first possession of the second half. A 26-yard touchdown pass from Fleming to Norrise cut the Bobcat lead to just 37-31 at the 9:49 mark in the third quarter. The Hornets stopped Montana State on just three plays on their next possession, and retook the lead to complete the comeback on a 30-yard scoring strike from Fleming to Norrise.
The Bobcats regained the lead 44-38 on a two-yard touchdown run by Palmer with 6:01 left in the third quarter, but Sacramento State quickly regained the lead after a 20-yard scoring pass from Fleming to Norrise to complete a third quarter that saw Sacramento State outscore the Bobcats 35-7 and give Sacramento State a 45-44 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Cunningham made a 30-yard field goal that allowed Montana State to retake the lead 47-45 with 12:29 remaining in the game. The two teams exchanged punts, and then Hilliard gave the lead back to Sacramento State 53-47 with a career-long 70-yard touchdown run, followed by a successful two-point conversion pass from Fleming to Matt Carter. McGhee answered back quickly by completing a 28-yard touchdown pass to Lloyd to give Montana State a 54-53 lead with 5:13 left, setting the stage for the game’s dramatic conclusion.
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