SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Sacramento State football team never trailed in regulation but Colton Cook's 38-yard field goal in overtime provided Southern Utah with a 24-21 win at Hornet Stadium on Saturday night.
The win improved the Thunderbirds to 3-1 overall while the Hornets dropped to 1-3 in the final non-conference game for both teams this season.
Leading 21-13 with 4:52 remaining, Sacramento State pinned SUU at the 2-yard line. The Thunderbirds then used nine plays to drive 98 yards with the help of three major penalties against the Hornets. The first big play of the series came when running back Raysean Martin completed a 33-yard option pass to Fatu Moala to take the ball to the 35-yard line. An unsportsmanlike conduct call following an incompletion on the ensuing play took the ball to midfield.
Two completions to Moala moved the ball to the Hornet 8-yard line with less than a minute to play. Quarterback Aaron Cantu was then intercepted by Markell Williams in the front left corner of the end zone but the turnover was negated by a hands to the face penalty on the Sacramento State defensive line.
After Martin was stopped for no gain on first down from the 4, Cantu was again intercepted by Anthony Payne who returned the ball the length of the field for a touchdown. However, the Hornets were flagged for roughing the passer giving the ball back to the T-Birds who then scored two plays later on a 1-yard rush by Martin.
Needing to go for two to tie the game, Cantu rolled to his right and had his pass deflected by one of his receivers in the front right corner of the end zone. Griff McNabb, who was not the intended receiver, alertly gathered in the tipped pass and was ruled in-bounds for the conversion.
Once in overtime, the Sacramento State offense stalled, losing three yards on three plays and settling for a 45-yard field goal attempt which was missed wide right. The defense limited SUU to four yards but Cook's field goal was good to give Southern Utah the win.
The Hornets' offense was effective through the first two quarters of the game, compiling 312 yards but was held to just 90 yards over the final half and overtime. Sacramento State scored first when Garrett Safron connected with Morris Norrise for a 33-yard pass midway through the first quarter.
Martin scored the first of his three touchdowns on a 1-yard run early in the second quarter but Todd Davis blocked the extra point to keep Sacramento State ahead, 7-6.
The Hornets built on that lead on the next series which was capped by Safron's 20-yard pass to DeAndre Carter up the middle of the field. The exchange of points continued with the T-Birds answering with a 2-yard run from Martin with 7:14 remaining in the half. Southern Utah appeared to tie the game with a two-point conversion but was called for offensive pass interference and settled for the traditional PAT.
Ezekiel Graham scored the final points of the half, and the game, for Sacramento State with an 11-yard run around the left end with 3:45 to play in the second quarter.
Sacramento State outgained SUU, 402-344 and was able to run 12 more plays (77-65). The Hornets had success on the ground as freshman Demetrius Warren rushed for a career high 89 yards and Graham provided 67 yards on 14 attempts each. Safron also rushed for 43 yards and 12 attempts.
Through the air, Safron was 19-of-35 for 205 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. In the last two games, the junior has thrown nine touchdown passes with only one interception. Sophomore Shane Harrison was the team's leading receiver with seven catches for 73 yards — both career highs. Norrise and Carter each caught five passes for 61 and 56 yards, respectively.
Martin, a true freshman, led all players with a career high 131 rushing yards. Cantu was 16-of-25 for 136 yards. Maola caught 11 passes for 127 yards.
Davis tallied a game high 13 tackles and was followed by Dijon Washington (9) and Darnell Sankey (8) for the Hornets, Chad Hansen had 12 stops for SUU.
Sacramento State will begin Big Sky Conference play next week at Weber State.