SACRAMENTO, Calif, — Garrett Safron's school record-breaking performance was nearly enough to lead Sacramento State to an upset of No. 12 Montana but the Grizzlies came back for a 51-48 overtime win on Saturday.
The win improved Montana to 7-2 overall and 4-2 in Big Sky Conference games. The Hornets dropped to 4-5 overall and 3-2 in league action.
Safron set the Sacramento State record for total offense in a game as he compiled 505 yards of passing and rushing combined and accounted for six touchdowns. The junior completed 41-of-58 passes for 412 yards and two touchdowns without an interception and also rushed 20 times for a team-high 93 yards and two touchdowns. His 412 passing yards and 41 completions also set Hornet records while his 58 attempts ranks second.
Trailing 38-24 entering the third quarter, the Hornets began their comeback with a 9-play, 73 yard drive which ended when Safron scored on 4th-and-1 from the 10-yard line. After the defense forced a punt, Sacramento State drove 74 yards on nine plays and tied the game when tight end DJ Maciel caught a 4-yard pass and pushed his way into the end zone.
Montana responded with a touchdown of its own with 3:38 left in the game to take a 45-38 lead. Ellis Henderson returned the kickoff to midfield and Jordan Johnson completed 4-of-7 passes during the drive to take the ball inside the 10. The Griz faced 4th-and-goal from less than a yard out when Jordan Canada rushed up the middle and was ruled to cross the goal line amidst a swarm of players.
Sacramento State took over at their own 23-yard line where Safron led a 10-play drive which tied the game with 23 seconds remaining. The Santa Monica, Calif., native completed five passes and also rushed three times during the series. He completed three third-down passes, including the touchdown which was tipped by Cole Hikutini before the freshman came down with his second TD of the game.
In overtime, Montana won the coin toss and elected to go on defense first. The Hornets were able to pick up a first down but could not advance past the 8-yard line and were forced to settle for a 25-yard Brad Cornish field goal.
The Griz wasted no time in securing the win as Johnson found Henderson for a 25-yard touchdown in the right side of the end zone on their first play.
The teams played even through the first half as both had first quarter field goals and scored a pair of second quarter touchdowns. DeAndre Carter was the first to find the end zone when he took a short pass and moved down the left sideline for a 25-yard touchdown.
Canada scored the first of his four touchdowns with a 1-yard dive to tie the game. Following a big punt return, Jamaal Jones made a one-handed catch up the middle of the field to give UM a 17-10 lead with 1:33 left in the first half.
The Hornets tied the score going into halftime with a 7-play, 66-yard drive. The big play was a 29-yard pass to Carter which took the ball to the 5-yard line. Safron then hit Hikutini on the next play. Sacramento State carried that momentum into the second half and claimed a 24-17 lead on a 4th-down naked bootleg run by Safron around the left end.
From that point, Montana seized control, scoring 21 unanswered points. Canada first scored from 1-yard out midway through the first period. After freshman John Nguyen went over the top of the line for the go-ahead TD, the Hornets gave the ball back on a fumble at their own 33-yard line. On the play, reserve quarterback Marcus McDade entered the game for a shaken-up Safron and was stripped while running up the middle of the field. Canada then darted through the Hornet defense for a 33-yard touchdown run which zig-zagged across the field.
Sacramento State amassed a season-high 580 yards of total offense. Along with Safron's exploits, Carter caught 12 passes for 165 yards and Morrise Norrise hauled in 10 for 100 yards. The pair became the first duo to each go over the 100-yard mark since Andre Taylor (136) and Jason Barnes (116) at Idaho State in 2006. Carter and Norrise also each caught double-digit passes in a game for the second time this season.
Johnson completed 19-of-38 passes for 381 yards and two scores to lead Montana. Canada finished with 78 rushing yards on 17 carries. The Griz also had a pair of receivers over the century mark as Henderson caught five passes for 180 yards and Jones tallied 143 yards on seven grabs.
Todd Davis led the Hornet defense with 11 tackles, including the team's only sack. John Kanaongata'a was one of four UM players with 10-plus as he led the team with 15 tackles.
Sacramento State will play at Cal Poly on Saturday, Nov. 9, at 6 p.m.
NOTES: Ezekiel Graham and Demetrius Warren each returned to action for Sacramento State…junior guard Derek Nielsen did not play due to an ankle injury and was replaced by freshman Casey Dakin in the starting lineup…in four home games this season, the Hornets have scored 191 points and allowed the same total…the team is 1-3 in the those games with three contests going to overtime…Brad Cornish was 2-for-2 on field goals and 6-for-6 on PATs in his first game as the team's place kicker…the Hornets had three fumbles while UM did not have a turnover…Sacramento State entered the game as the least penalized team in Big Sky games but was called for 10 penalties for 102 yards…Montana was flagged seven times for 67 yards.