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September 3, 2013

FOOTBALL HEADS TO ARIZONA STATE FOR ANOTHER PAC-12 SHOWDOWN

PDF Version of Game Notes
Radio: KTKZ 1380 AM
Television: Pac-12 Network
Live Stats: TheSunDevils.com

A BRIEF PREVIEW
Following a season-opening loss at San José State, the Sacramento State football team will face another difficult task as it travels to Tempe, Ariz., to take on Arizona State on Thursday, Sept. 5, at 7 p.m.     

There will be multiple ways to follow this week's game. Hornet fans can tune in to KTKZ 1380 AM (The Answer) to hear the radio call of Jason Ross, Steve McElroy and Danny Sullivan. Live audio streaming is also available via www.hornetsports.com and on the iHeart Radio application for mobile devices.

Thursday's game will also be televised on the Pac-12 Network. Ted Robinson, who is the radio play-by-play voice of the San Francisco 49ers, will be joined by former University of Arizona and NFL offensive lineman Glenn Parker (color) and Drea Avent (sideline).

Sacramento State fell 24-0 at San José State in its season opener. The Hornets had two early interceptions and a blocked field goal attempt which directly led to 17 first-half points for SJSU. Sacramento State outgained the Spartans in the second half and dominated time of possession during the game (36:08-23:52) but were unable to score.

Arizona State will be making its season debut on Thursday. The Sun Devils went 8-5 a year ago — the first under head coach Todd Graham — including a 62-28 victory over Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.

Quarterback Taylor Kelly returns to lead the offense and has several of his weapons back beside him. Kelly threw for 3,039 yards and 29 touchdowns a year ago with just nine interceptions. He completed 67.1 percent of his passes and averaged 233.8 yards per game. Marion Grice was the team's leading rusher with 679 yards and 11 touchdowns. Chris Coyle is the leading returning receiver with 57 catches for 696 yards and five TDs.

Defensively, tackle Will Sutton is projected as a first round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft and has been tabbed by several websites as the best defensive tackle available. Last year, he had 63 total tackles, including 23.5 tackles-for-loss and 13.0 sacks.

THE COACHES
Marshall Sperbeck is in his seventh season as the head coach at Sacramento State. During that span, Sperbeck has produced a 30-38 overall record.

Arizona State is coached by Todd Graham who is entering his second season with the Sun Devils. A veteran head coach, Graham has also served at Rice, Tulsa and Pittsburgh. He has a career record of 57-34.

THE SERIES
This will be the first meeting between the two schools in football. Sacramento State has faced a Pac-12 opponent each of the previous three seasons. Arizona State has recently played Portland State (2010), Northern Arizona (2010 and 2012) and UC Davis (2011) of the Big Sky.

QUICK HITTERS
This week's game will be the second in a row on Thursday night for the Hornets, marking the first time in school history that Sacramento State has played two midweek games in a season.

TREND SETTERS
• Sacramento State has garnered national attention the last two seasons with victories over Football Bowl Subdivision teams. The Hornets defeated Oregon State, 31-30, in overtime to start the 2011 season. Last year, the team rallied for a 30-28 win at Colorado with the help of a field goal as time expired.
• Those two victories placed Sacramento State in elite company as the team and two-time defending FCS national champion North Dakota State are the only FCS teams to knock off FBS opponents in 2011 and 2012.
• This past weekend, eight FCS teams were able to record wins against teams in the upper subdivision, including a pair of Big Sky Conference teams.

2013 FCS Wins Over FBS Opponents
Eastern Washington at Oregon State, 49-46
Towson at Connecticut, 33-18
North Dakota State at Kansas State, 24-21
Southern Utah at South Alabama, 22-21
Northern Iowa at Iowa State, 28-20
Eastern Illinois at San Diego State, 40-19
Samford at Georgia State, 31-21
McNeese State at South Florida, 53-21

• This season will mark just the third time that Sacramento State has played two FBS opponents in the same year. The first came in 2007 (Sperbeck's first) where the Hornets played at Fresno State and New Mexico. The most recent was last season's trips to NMSU and Colorado.
• Sacramento State is scheduled to play at California in 2014 and at Washington in 2015.

MISLEADING NUMBERS
• While Thursday's game resulted in just the second shutout under Marshall Sperbeck at Sacramento State and the first since 2007 (at New Mexico, 58-0), the Hornets had several opportunities to take the zero off the board.
• In the first half, Sacramento State drove to the SJSU 29-yard line but Jesse Aguilar's first career field goal attempt was blocked after a bobbled snap.
• The Hornets began the second half with three scoring opportunities on their first three drives. The team took the kickoff and used 15 plays and 5:26 to drive to the 28-yard line. However, another miscue on the hold led to Aguilar pushing the 45-yard attempt wide.
• Sacramento State next took the ball to the 2-yard line with a 13-play drive. On 3rd-and-goal from the 3, Safron was stopped after a 1-yard gain. The team elected to go for it on fourth down but Safron's pass to freshman tight end Stone Sander fell incomplete.
• The Hornets were not deterred and drove to the Spartan 3-yard line early in the fourth quarter. A delay of game call cost the team five yards and Safron's fourth-down pass fell to the turf after Morris Norrise became tangled with the SJSU defender in the end zone.
• The last time Sacramento State was shut out in its season opener came in 2006 when Boise State posted a 45-0 win. That season, the Broncos shocked the football world when they went undefeated and topped Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
• Sacramento State has not been shut out in consecutive game since falling at Northern Arizona (26-0) and at home against Portland State (31-0) in 2004.

SHARING THE BALL
• A year after becoming the only FCS team to have at 13 players catch a pass, Sacramento State again had multiple targets in the season opener at San Jose State. Safron completed his 23 passes to nine players. The group was led by Morris Norrise, Ezekiel Graham and Blake Robertson who each caught four. Robertson's total matched his career high.
• Norrise extended his streak to 15-straight games in which he's played with a catch. In fact, Norrise has had two receptions in every game and four or more in 13 of the 15.
• Stone Sander, a true freshman from Placer HS, was the lone member of the team to record his first career reception. Sander had one catch for 12 yards.

ANY WAY POSSIBLE
•  During his sophomore season at LA Southwest JC, Ezekiel Graham led the state of California with 2,227 all-purpose yards. The Hornets are hoping to rekindle those numbers with Graham in 2013 as he takes a larger role within the offense.
• Against SJSU, Graham led the team with 129 all-purpose yards after rushing for 49 on 18 carries, catching four passes for 32 yards, returning two kickoffs for 38 yards and returning a punt for 10 yards.
• Last year, he amassed 861 rushing yards and led the Hornets with five touchdowns. He had three 100-yard games and five games with at least 80 yards.  He finished with 1,302 all-purpose yards without returning a kick or punt.

PROVING HIS POINT
• Heading into the first week of the season, it was unclear who would handle the punting duties for Sacramento State. Senior Justin Weldon and junior Heath Smith both saw time last season and each had their moments during training camp.
• Weldon ended up winning the job and responded by averaging 46.8 yards on five punts. The Madera, Calif., native also pinned two punts inside the 20-yard line. That average has Weldon atop the Big Sky rankings and places him fifth among the FCS.
• In his first year with the team in 2012, Weldon averaged 42.81 yards per punt which placed him third in school history. The top career average of 42.27 was set by Doyle Brunson (not the poker player) who played from 1968-69.

CROWDED AT THE TOP
• Sacramento State had four players tie for the team high with seven tackles each at San José State. The quartet was comprised of defensive end Darnell Sankey, linebacker Todd Davis and defensive backs Markell Williams and Robbie Kendall.
• Kendall, who was appearing in his first game with the Hornets after transferring from Butte JC, led the team with six solo stops.
• Sankey was one of six defensive linemen to be credited with a tackle in the game. The sophomore also had the team's lone sack with a 6-yard takedown.
• Linebacker Russell Smith ranked fifth on the team with five tackles in his first collegiate game. Smith was one five newcomers to make a stop for the Hornets.

ALL GOOD THINGS...
• Safron was able to overcome two first-half interceptions to finish the game against SJSU 23-of-40 for 192 yards. One stat missing from Safron's final line was a touchdown, snapping his streak of 11 consecutive games with a TD pass.
• In his first full year as a starter (2012), Safron set the Sacramento State single season record with 246 completions and a 64.2 completion percentage. He also ranked second with 383 attempts and 22 touchdowns.
• Following the season, Safron was named honorable mention all-Big Sky. His efforts also placed him on the College Football Performance Awards watch list as one of the top quarterbacks in the FCS heading into the 2013 season.
• Safron began 2012 with back-to-back 300-yard seasons, including a win at Colorado. He ended the year much like he started, throwing for at least 250 yards in the last three games and wrapping up one of the best single seasons in school history.
•     The Santa Monica, Calif., native was twice named the Big Sky ROOT Sports Offensive Player of the Week. His first honor came after he guided the team to a win at Colorado. Against the Buffaloes, he was 25-of-37 for 317 yards and two touchdowns. He was also honored following the victory over then No. 11 Cal Poly. In that game, Safron completed 31-of-38 passes for 303 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.
• Below is where he ranks in school history:

Career Passing Yards    Total
9. Lyle James (1966-68), 3,397
10. Jeff Fleming (2010-11), 3,182
11. Mike Lippi (1969-70), 3,140
12. Garrett Safron (2011-pres.), 3,126

Career Passing Touchdowns, Total
8. Bobby Fresques, 1990-92, 27
9. Mike Lippi, 1969-70, 26
10. Garrett Safron, 2011-pres., 25

Career Passing Attempts, Total
7. Lyle James, 1966-68, 537
8. Greg Knapp, 1982-85, 524
9. Garrett Safron, 2011-pres., 480

Career Passing Completions, Total
5. Ricky Ray, 1999-2000, 347
6. Drew Wyant, 1986-89, 294
7. Garrett Safron, 2011-pres., 293

MOVING ON UP
• Nearly a quarter of Safron's completions last season were hauled in by Morris Norrise. The senior caught a career high 60 passes in 2012 which tied him for fourth in school history. Norrise also led the team with 777 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
• The Berkeley, Calif., native was named to the 2013 Big Sky preseason team and was a second team all-conference selection following last season. He was honorable mention all-Big Sky the previous two years.
• Norrise either is in second place or within striking distance of second for nearly every career receiving record at Sacramento State. Below is a look at where Norrise ranks on the Sacramento State career lists:

Career Receptions, Total  
1. Fred Amey (2001-04), 248
2. Morris Norrise (2010-pres.), 137

Career Receiving Yards, Total
1. Fred Amey (2001-04), 4,049
T2. Mike Carter (1968-69), 1,834
T2. Lamont Webb (1997-2000), 1,834
4. Morris Norrise (2010-pres.), 1,815

Career Receiving Touchdowns, Total
1. Fred Amey (2001-04), 27
2. Mike Carter (1968-69), 17
3. Lamont Webb (1997-2000), 16
T4. Morris Norrise (2010-pres.), 15
T4. Tony Washington (2007-08), 15
T4. Eric Harrington (1992-93), 15

LINEBACKER U
• Since moving to the FCS in 1993, Sacramento State has had five different linebackers earn All-America honors and 22 named all-Big Sky Conference. That list could expand this season if senior Todd Davis is able to keep up the pace he's set over the last two years.
• Davis has led the team in tackles the past two seasons, tallying 96 in 2011 and 103 in 2012. Last year's total also included a team-best 13.5 tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks. That effort helped him be named second team all-Big Sky.
• The Palmdale, Calif., native has made a couple of changes in 2013. The first came when he changed his jersey number to No. 53 after wearing No. 91 the previous three years. The second will be on the field as he moves from outside linebacker to middle linebacker where he replaces the graduated Jeff Badger.
• Below is a list of where Davis ranks in school history:

Career Tackles, Total
7. Brent Webber, 2004-07, 249
8. Elton Gabourel, 1998-2001, 237
9. Camron Mbewa, 2000-03, 236
10. Todd Davis, 2010-pres., 227

Career Tackles-For-Loss, Total
9. Nick Echols, 1997-98, 23.0
10. Damien Mason, 1994-96, 21.0
      James Henderson, 2003-07, 21.0
---  Todd Davis, 2010-pres., 20.0    

JUST THE FACTS
• The Hornets are minus-12 in turnover margin dating back to the start of last season. Last year, the team forced 18 fumbles but recovered only four.
• Bill Laveroni (offensive line) and Fred Kelley (tight ends/special teams) are both in their first seasons on the Hornet staff. Laveroni has coached at nearly every level of football from high school to the NFL career. Kelley is back after spending last season as the offensive line coach at Humboldt State.
• Sperbeck's 12 career road wins are tied for the third most in school history. Ray Clemons won 35 games in 15 years. Bob Mattos won 34 in 15 years and John Volek won 12 in eight years.
• Punter Justin Weldon has two 68-yard punts last season. Those punts are tied for fifth in program history. He is one of four Hornets (Mitch Lively, Steve Thorns, Jimmy Sanchez) to have at least two 65 yarders.

BIG SKY NOTES
• The Big Sky/ROOT Sports Players of the Week were:
Offense: Vernon Adams, QB, Eastern Washington
Had 518 yards of total offense in EWU's 49-46 win at No. 25 Oregon State.
Defense: Brad Daly, DL, Montana State
In just one half of action, had six tackles, 4.0 TFL, a forced fumble and two pass breakups.
ST: Colton Cook, K, Southern Utah
Made game-winning FG as time expired in 22-21 win at South Alabama.


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