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October 20, 2012

Football Battles No. 1 Ranked Eastern Washington Until the End, Falls 31-28

CHENEY, Wash. — Sacramento State traded punches with top-ranked Eastern Washington for the entire 60 minutes but fell just short in a 31-28 loss to the Eagles on Saturday at Roos Field.

The loss snapped the Hornets' three-game winning streak and dropped the team to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in Big Sky Conference play. EWU improved to 6-1 overall and 5-0 while winning its fifth consecutive game.

Eastern Washington took the opening kickoff and drove 74 yards before taking a 24-yard field goal from Jimmy Pavel. The Hornets immediately answered with a season-long 16-play, 65-yard drive which was capped by a 1-yard run from freshman De'jon Coleman. During the drive, the team converted all four of its third-down attempts and Ezekiel Graham rushed for 33 yards. Coleman appeared to be stopped on his touchdown run but spun out of the tackle and dove in over the right side of the line.

EWU retook the lead with its own methodical drive which travelled 70 yards on 12 plays. On 3rd-and-goal, quarterback Vernon Adams broke free of three separate tackles behind the line of scrimmage before hitting Greg Herd for a 10-yard touchdown with 12:09 to play in the first half. The final points of the first half came on a 40-yard field goal from Pavel to give EWU a 13-7 lead.

The first break of the second half came when Jeff Badger jumped in front of an Adams pass, knocked the ball into the air where it was intercepted by Markell Williams. Five plays later, Garrett Safron rolled to his right and found a wide-open Morris Norrise for a 2-yard touchdown with 9:43 remaining in the third.

Much like the first half, Sacramento State did not hold its lead for long as EWU answered with a touchdown in just 1 minute, 38 seconds. After a short kickoff was returned near midfield, the Eagles needed just four plays to score on a 26-yard catch-and-run by Herd. EWU added to its lead six minutes later with a 47-yard field goal from Pavel.

The Hornets found the end zone early in the fourth quarter to cut the Eastern lead to 24-21. After a pair of penalties made it 2nd-and-23, Graham gained 25 yards on a short screen pass and followed with an 18-yard touchdown run. During the scoring play, he ran through a pair of would-be tacklers.

The Eagles added some cushion to their lead when reserve quarterback Kyle Padron threw a pass to Brandon Kaufman which resulted in a 52-yard touchdown pass. Kaufman caught the pass about 10 yards from the line of scrimmage then side-stepped a defender before going untouched the rest of the way.

After the defense held and Sam McCowan was able to block an EWU punt, Sacramento State drove 67 yards before scoring a touchdown to make the score 31-28 with 3:05 remaining. During the drive, the Hornets picked up several third down conversions, including a 16-yard run by Safron which took the ball to the 10-yard line. However, Safron was injured on the play and was replaced by Mason Magleby. On third-and-goal from the 6, Magleby connected with tight end T.J. Knowles for a diving finger-tip catch on the left side of the end zone.

The Hornet defense held Eastern Washington but the Eagles pinned Sacramento State with a punt that was downed on the 10-yard line. A face mask against EWU and a long completion to Norrise took the ball to the EWU 45-yard line with five seconds to play. Magleby's Hail Mary attempt was knocked down in the front of the end zone as time expired.

The Eagles outgained Sacramento State, 454-288, throwing for 342 yards and rushing for 112. The Hornets amassed 125 rushing yards and threw for 163.

Individually, Graham rushed for a team-high 82 yards and Safron added 32. Safron also passed for 127 yards on 16-of-26. Magleby was 2-of-4 for 36 yards. Norrise had five receptions for 53 yards while Carter led the team with six grabs for 49 yards.

Padron was 9-of-16 for 173 yards and Adams completed 17-of-21 passes for 169 yards while splitting time at quarterback for Eastern Washington. Herd had nine receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Kaufman added six receptions for 102 yards and a score.

Defensively, Osagie Odiase matched his career high with 11 tackles. Ryan McMahon was second on the team with nine stops, including a half-sack.

Sacramento State returns home to host Cal Poly on Saturday, Oct. 27, at 6:05 p.m.

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