FOOTBALL POUNDS 25TH-RANKED NORTHERN ARIZONA, 40-10
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Sacramento State football team has suffered some heartbreaking defeats this season, but to rest any ideas of a close game, the Hornets marched to a 40-10 win over No. 25 Northern Arizona Saturday afternoon at the J.L. Walkup Skydome.
With the win, the Hornets, who have lost three conference games by a combined total of 10 points this year, improved to 4-4 overall and 3-3 in the Big Sky Conference. The Lumberjacks fell to 4-4 overall and 2-3 in league games.
After struggling through the first halves of its last three games, Sacramento State jumped out to 14-0 lead in the first quarter and headed into the locker room ahead 34-0 at the half.
Running back Bryan Hilliard scored the team’s first two touchdowns while quarterback Jeff Fleming followed with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ron Richardson early in the second quarter and then hit Morris Norrise for scores of 39 and 12-yards, respectively.
In the first half, Fleming completed 20-24 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns. The junior’s favorite target was Richardson who caught a career-high eight passes in the half while Norrise has seven grabs for a career-best 93 yards.
“I just thought that we came out with a purpose to start the game,” Sacramento State head coach Marshall Sperbeck said. “We wanted to play physical and the defense was able to force some early turnovers which gave the offense a short field. Overall, it was a great team effort.”
Sacramento State backed off the accelerator in the second half, but not before stretching its lead to 40-0. Northern Arizona scored its first points on a 29-yard field goal from Drew Zamora with 9:49 remaining in the game. The final points came on a 65-yard fumble return from Blayne Anderson with just under three minutes left.
As a team, Sacramento State compiled 488 yards while limiting the Lumberjacks to a season-low 166 yards on 55 plays. Fleming finished the game 23-of-32 for 333 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.
“I think that Jeff was pretty discouraged by the way he played last week (at Eastern Washington),” Sperbeck said. “He had a good control of the offense throughout the game and put us in great spots.”
Despite Hilliard being held to just 35 yards — snapping his streak of six consecutive 100-yard games — the Hornets still managed to rush for 155 yards against a defense which entered the game ranked third in the Football Championship Subdivision against the rush.
Defensively, senior Peter Buck led the team with nine total tackles. The Vacaville, Calif., native also recovered a pair of fumbles and disrupted the NAU rushing attack which finished with just 43 yards. Junior Joe Larche added a career high seven tackles and also recovered a fumble.
Northern Arizona used a pair of quarterbacks as Chase Stangel and Michael Herrick split the duties. Stangel, who started and finished the game, was 7-of-15 for 46 yards. Herrick finished 12-of-18 for 77 yards while making his first appearance in two weeks.
Sacramento State will return home for its final game at Hornet Stadium in 2010 when it welcomes Portland State on Saturday, Nov. 6, at 2:05 p.m.
NOTES: The win at NAU was the first for the team in Flagstaff since 2002, and snapped a streak in which the home team had won the last five matchups in the series…the Hornets have now defeated two ranked opponents in a season for the first time since moving to the Football Championship Subdivision (the team also beat No. 21 Weber State at home on Sept. 18).