SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Jordan Robinson and Brandon Kellermann turned their collegiate debuts at running back into 216 all-purpose yards and a touchdown to help Sacramento State to a 37-21 win over Northern Colorado in front of 9,012 fans at Hornet Stadium.
The Hornets evened their record for the first time this season at 3-3 overall and are 2-0 in the Big Sky Conference for the first time in school history (18 years). UNC dropped to 1-5 overall and 0-2 in league games.
Robinson rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown and also caught three passes for 62 yards while Kellermann had 15 second-half carries for 72 yards. The pair both received their first action in the backfield with the Hornets after Ezekiel Graham, Demetrius Warren and De'Jon Coleman were all ruled out due to injury.
Along with the rushing attack, the Hornets were proficient through the air as Garrett Safron completed 26-of-39 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. The junior has now thrown for five career 300-yard games, including two this season, and has multiple touchdown passes in four consecutive games.
On Saturday, Safron distributed passes to eight different receivers, including touchdowns to DeAndre Carter, Shane Harrison and Cole Hikutini. Carter also rushed for a 15-yard touchdown and now has 11 TDs on the year. Carter and Robinson tied for the team lead with 62 receiving yards while Shane Harrison added 55 and Morris Norrise 54 on a team-high seven receptions.
Northern Colorado posted the first points of the game when Will Jefferson Jr., got behind the Hornet defense to catch a 56-yard pass up the middle of the field. That lead proved to be the only one the Bears would have during the game as Sacramento State scored 24 unanswered points in a 12-minute span to take control of the game.
Carter tied the game with his first career touchdown rush with 7:00 left in the first quarter. On the play, he came from the right and took a handoff from Safron before sprinting around the left end.
Jesse Aguilar put the Hornets on top with a 20-yard field goal late in the first quarter before Safron found Harrison with a lofting pass in the right side of the end zone for the sophomore's first touchdown of the year.
Carter provided his second touchdown with 5:09 left in the half when he caught a pass about 5-yards out of the end zone, broke away from two defenders, and scored his 10th receiving touchdown of the year. That number made him just the fourth player in Sacramento State history to record double-digit touchdown receptions in a year and the first since Tony Washington had 12 in 2008.
Northern Colorado answered with an 8-play, 77-yard yard drive late in the half which was capped by a 3-yard run from Darius Graham with 2:57 left on the clock. That time proved to be plenty for Safron who orchestrated a 9-play drive which also covered 77 yards and ended with a touchdown pass to Hikutini in the back of the end zone for his first career touchdown.
Sacramento State was nearly unstoppable during the half, compiling 345 yards of total offense in the period and scoring on its final five drives of the half.
The team's only score of the second period came on a 1-yard run from Robinson. That play came after Carter was ruled down just outside the goal line on a 23-yard catch and run.
Northern Colorado had a few chances to crawl back into the game in the fourth quarter. The team scored on a 1-yard run from Tromaine Davis early in the period to make it a two-possession game. The Bears were then stopped on two fourth-down attempts with Ofa Fifita knocking down the first and Todd Davis intercepting the second to seal the game. The Hornets drove to the UNC 3-yard line before taking a knee to end the contest.
Fifita posted a career-high nine tackles to lead the Hornet defense. The junior had two solos, including a tackle-for-loss and also a pass break-up. Markell Williams was credited with seven tackles and Nick Mazza added six.
Northern Colorado rushed for only 46 yards — the lowest by a Hornet opponent this season. However, the Bears threw for 340 as Lobato was 18-of-40 with a touchdown and interception. Dimitri Stimphil caught nine passes for 137 yards and Jace Davis added five for 115.
Four UNC players finished with double-digit tackles led by 11 from Timi Niweigha. Taylor Risner, Leilon Willingham and Max Flores each had 10.
Sacramento State will remain at home to face Northern Arizona on Sat., Oct. 12, at 6:05 p.m.
NOTES: The Hornets improved to 8-0 all-time against Northern Colorado…the game served as the University's Homecoming…after not throwing a touchdown pass in the first two games, Safron has 16 in the last four…Robinson's 53-yard screen pass tied for the longest play from scrimmage for Sacramento State this season…the Hornets tied the Div. I-AA/FCS era school record by being flagged for only one penalty for five yards. The previous time came against Cal State Northridge on Nov. 19, 1994.