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Offense Erupts, Defense Responds in 54-31 Win at Idaho State

POCATELLO, Idaho — Ezekiel Graham and A.J. Ellis each rushed for over 100 yards and the defense held Idaho State to negative rushing yards and just seven points in the second half as the Sacramento State football team defeated the Bengals, 54-31, on Saturday afternoon at Holt Arena.

The Hornets (3-2 overall, 1-1 Big Sky Conference) pulled away from a wild first half to outscore the Bengals (1-3, 0-1) by 19 points in the second half. Sacramento State rushed for 349 yards — the fifth most in single game school history — and also threw for 202 yards en route to 551 total yards of offense. The Bengals were one dimensional with the ball, passing for 534 yards but rushing for minus-2 yards on the ground.

With Sacramento State leading 27-23, the Hornets began to separate themselves midway through the third quarter when Garrett Safron hit a wide-open Shane Harrison for a 42-yard touchdown pass. On the 3rd-and-3 play, Safron rolled to his right and waited for Harrison to make his way across the field for his second touchdown in as many games.

The touchdown sparked a 20-0 run for the Hornets, which included field goals of 38 and 50 yards from junior kick Edgar Castaneda and a 13-yard touchdown run from Graham.

Idaho State stopped the streak late in the fourth quarter when Kevin Yost found Rodrick Rumble for a 4-yard touchdown on 4th-and-goal. The Bengals followed with a two-point conversion pass to Josh Hill.

Sacramento State put the game out of reach when Ellis took a handoff on a play which was designed to go up the middle, but the senior cut it to the right and dashed 62 yards for a touchdown.

Both offenses came out of the gate quickly as the Hornets and Bengals combined for 28 points in the first quarter. True freshman De'Jon Coleman made the most of his first collegiate touch with an 18-yard touchdown run up the middle  just five minutes into the game.

The Bengals countered with a 20-yard diving touchdown catch by Cam Richmond and took a 14-7 lead after a 7-yard pass to Luke Austin with 6:32 left in the opening quarter.

Graham tied the score just 63 seconds later taking when he caught a screen pass in the right flat from Safron, reversed his field and ran 74 yards for a touchdown. Graham appeared to be stopped for a significant loss behind the line of scrimmage but eluded two would-be tacklers and was freed by a bone-jarring block from offensive lineman Vince Weaver.

Castaneda gave the Hornets the lead once again after a 41-yard field goal. It was short-lived, however, as Austin caught a 53-yard touchdown pass just two plays later for the Bengals. Idaho State's two-point conversion failed on the play, giving Idaho State a 20-17 lead in the second quarter.

Castaneda connected on a 25-yard field goal to tie the score at 20-20 before Idaho State took its final lead of the game on a 37-yard field goal Brendan Garcia.

The final points of the first half came with 25 seconds remaining when Morris Norrise caught a pass at the 2-yard line and stepped around the defender for his second TD this year. Norrise's touchdown catch ended the half but it was the Hornets' running game that turned the tied in the second half.

Graham rushed for 158 yards on 23 attempts with a touchdown while Ellis added 118 and a TD. The pair became the first Hornet duo to surpass the century mark in the same game since Evander Wilkins and Jake Croxdale did it against Southern Oregon on Sept. 13, 2008. The performances were career high for both players.

Safron finished 17-of-27 for 202 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Norrise caught a team-high six passes for 48 yards. Graham not only led the team in rushing, as his long screen play scamper helped him record a team-high 70 receiving yards.

Yost finished 44-of-73 for 534 yards and four touchdowns but was also intercepted by Ben Cowger and Osagie Odiase. Hill had 12 receptions for 123 yards and Rumble caught 11 passes for 183 yards.

Defensively, Todd Davis led the Hornets with 11 tackles, including a pair for loss. Odiase had eight stops and Ryan McMahon added seven with a sack, two TFLs and three pass breakups.

Castaneda, who converted three field goals at Colorado, including the game-winner, tied Chris Diniz and Bret LeVier for the school record with four field goals at Idaho State. The junior connected from 41, 25, 38, and 50 yards out.

Sacramento State will next play at Southern Utah on Saturday, Oct. 6, at 12 p.m. in Cedar City, Utah.

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