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A BRIEF PREVIEW
Coming off its largest season-opening scoring output, the Sacramento State football team will face a far more substantial test when it travels to Berkeley, Calif., to face California on Saturday, Sept. 6. The game will kick off at noon from Memorial Stadium.
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.
This week's game will also be televised on the Pac-12 Network. JB Long will hand the play-by-play with former Cal quarterback Mike Pawlawski on color and Guy Haberman on the sideline.
Sacramento State defeated Incarnate Word, 49-13, on Saturday in its first game of the year. The 49 points were the most scored by the team in a season opener in school history while the 36 point margin of victory was the largest since a 69-19 win over Saint Mary's in 2002.
Quarterback Garrett Safron threw for 251 yards and five touchdowns in just over a half of work. Nnamdi Agude added a career high six catches and 111 yards while catching his first two touchdowns of his college career. Linebacker Darnell Sankey earned Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week honors after recording 10 tackles, forcing a fumble and intercepting a pass which he returned for a touchdown.
Cal posted a 31-24 win at Northwestern, matching its win total from a year ago. The Golden Bears used two quarterbacks in the contest with Jared Goff throwing for 281 yards and Luke Rubenzer rushing for 48 yards. Overall, the team outgained the Wildcats, 414-354, with both teams throwing a pair of interceptions.
Jody Sears is in his first season as the head coach at Sacramento State. Sears was previously the head coach at Weber State from 2012-13 and has been the defensive coordinator at Eastern Washington and Washington State.
Cal is coached by Sonny Dykes who is in his second year with the team. Prior to coming to Cal, Dykes was the head coach at Louisiana Tech where he led the Bulldogs to a 22-15 record in three years at the helm. During his final year (2012), LaTech led the nation in scoring offense (51.50 points per game) and total offense (577.92 yards per game).
This week's game will mark the second meeting all-time between the two programs. In 2005, Sacramento State was within striking distance at the half (10-3) before Cal pulled away for a 41-3 win. The Golden Bears lost starting quarterback Nate Longshore during the game but had touchdowns from Marshawn Lynch and DeSean Jackson (reception and punt return).
• Sacramento State is playing its first two games on the road for the fourth consecutive season and seventh time in the last 10 years.
• Oregon State is the only other Pac-12 opponent the Hornets have faced twice.
• Cal DT Trevor Kelly played for the Hornets in 2012.
SANKEY NAMED BIG SKY POW
• Linebacker Darnell Sankey was named the ROOT SPORTS Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week following his performance against Incarnate Word. The honor was the second for Sankey in as many seasons.
• Sankey led all players with 10 tackles, forced a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown. The San Jose, Calif., native had five solo tackles amongst his total and also shared one of the team's four sacks. In the final minutes of the second quarter, Sankey stripped the Cardinals' running back and the fumble was recovered by Jaycee Totty and led to the team's final touchdown of the half. In the third quarter, Sankey picked off his first career pass, eluded one would-be tackler and sprinted by another en route to a 59-yard interception return.
• Last season, Sankey ranked third on the team with 65 total tackles and led the squad with 9.5 TFLs and six sacks.
• Sankey was the FCS Defensive Player of the Week after having 10 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery at Weber State — a team which was coached by Jody Sears.
• Sankey was originally a linebacker for the Hornets out of high school but shifted to defensive end during his freshman year.
TWO DOZEN TACKLERS
• Sacramento State showed its depth against Incarnate Word as 24 players were credited with at least one tackle during the game. Among those who shined in their first game with the Hornets were true freshmen Joey Banks, Austin Clark and Tyler Meteer.
Banks, a local product from Franklin HS in Elk Grove, tallied six stops, including four solos. He also led the team with two tackles for loss. Clark (Cottonwood, Calif.) had four tackles while standing out on special teams as well. Meteer, who was the Sacramento Bee Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, had three tackles.
• In all, 28 of the team's 64 tackles in the game were recorded by players who are either true freshmen or redshirted last season.
ISN'T THAT SPECIAL
• One of the newcomers who had an immediate effect was junior Garrett Steele. The reserve running back blocked a punt in the first quarter which directly led to a 33-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Carter. On the ensuing kickoff, Steele was able to gather in a loose ball on the kickoff to give the ball back to Sacramento State. On the play, Brad Cornish's kickoff was knocked down by the wind and after the ball hit the turn, it bounced back to Steele at the 24-yard line. That play set up a touchdown pass to Nnamdi Agude.
• After a great prep career at Kingsburg HS where he was a quarterback, Steele signed with Cal Poly where he redshirted in 2011 and played in 2012. He then transferred to Fresno City College where he was a defensive back for the Rams in 2013.
MOVING ON UP
• Facing a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent is nothing new for Sacramento State. Since 2002, the team has played at least one FBS foe every year. Included in that list was the 2011 upset at Oregon State and the 2012 victory at Colorado.
• In 2012, Sacramento State began the year with a loss at New Mexico State before winning at Colorado. That victory made Sacramento State and North Dakota State the only two FCS teams to knock off an FBS opponent in each of the last two seasons.
• Last season, the team played at San Jose State (28-0) and at Arizona State (55-0) in its first two games of the year.
• The Hornets' only other victories over a Div. I-A/FBS team both came against Pacific. Sacramento State defeated the Tigers, 30-21, in 1988 and 43-40 in 1991.
• Due to the recent conference shuffle, nearly every FBS opponent Sacramento State has faced since 2002 currently plays in the Pac-12 (Oregon State, California, Stanford, Colorado) or Mountain West (Nevada, Boise State, Fresno State, New Mexico, Colorado State, UNLV). The only exceptions were former Mountain West member UTEP (2002) and current independent NMSU (2012).
• The Hornets are currently scheduled to play at Washington in 2015.
SACK STREAK CONTINUES
• When Jaycee Totty sacked Trent Brittain in the first quarter at Incarnate Word, Sacramento State extended its streak with at least one sack to 31 consecutive games.
• The last time the Hornets were unable to get to the quarterback came in the team's 42-28 win over Montana on Sept. 24, 2011.
CARTER CLIMBS THE CHARTS
• Senior DeAndre Carter was the lone member of the Hornets to earn preseason all-Big Sky honors in a vote of the league's media. Carter was also a preseason All-American by several publications.
• Last season, the Fremont, Calif., native exploded for 934 yards and a school-record tying 14 receiving touchdowns in 11 games. He missed the final game of the after spraining his ankle at Portland State.
• He returned to the end zone twice at Incarnate Word to move into sole possession of second place on the Sacramento State career list. Carter's first TD came on a 33-yard pass up the middle of the field. His second was a 24-yard grab in the front right corner of the end zone where he had to outmuscle the defender.
• Carter has caught a touchdown in nine of his last 10 games and finished 2013 tied for fourth in the FCS with 14.
• Carter did not catch a touchdown pass as a freshman in 2011 where he had 11 receptions for 161 yards. As a sophomore, he got off to a great start, scoring touchdowns in each of the first four games. However, he did not find the end zone for the remainder of the season, finishing with 32 catches for 344 yards.
Career Receiving Yards Total Needs
T3. Mike Carter, 1968-69 1,834 339
T3. Lamont Webb, 1997-2000 1,834 339
5. Tony Washington, 2007-08 1,693 198
6. Scott Towne, 19997-2000 1,646 151
7. DeAndre Carter, 2011-pres. 1,495 ---
Career Receiving Touchdowns Total Needs
1. Fred Amey, 2001-04 27 7
2. DeAndre Carter, 2011-pres. 20 ---
SAFRON HONORS CONTINUE
• After earning second team all-Big Sky honors last season, senior Garrett Safron found himself on nearly every preseason watch list and all-conference team heading into 2014. Safron also served as the team's representative for the Big Sky Kickoff media event in Park City, Utah during July.
• Last season, Safron rewrote the school single season record book with 294 completions, 460 attempts, 3,289 passing yards and 27 passing touchdowns. He also rushed for a team best 492 yards and seven touchdowns and set the single season mark with 3,781 yard of total offense. Following the year, he was named the team's offensive MVP and became the first Hornet QB to be named first or second team all-Big Sky.
• Safron lived up to the preseason hype as he completed 17-of-25 passes for 251 yards and five touchdowns with an interception. He has now thrown four or more touchdowns in three of the last five games and has six career 4+ TD games.
• Last year, Safron had three of the most memorable single game efforts as he threw a Big Sky record seven touchdowns against Southern Oregon. Midway through the year he completed 41 passes against Montana to take down the school mark and later added a 554-yard effort at Portland State to also set the Hornet record.
• The performance at Portland State helped the team to a 43-42 victory and was his fourth 300-yard game of the year. His seven career 300-yard games has him tied with Ryan Leadingham for the most in Sacramento State history.
• The Santa Monica, Calif., native has started every game over the past two seasons and is now either first or second in every career passing record at Sacramento State.
• Below is where he ranks in school history:
Career Passing Yards Total Needs
1. Ryan Leadingham, 2001-04 8,376 1,902
2. Garrett Safron, 2011-pres. 6,474 ---
Career Passing Touchdowns Total Needs
1. Garrett Safron, 2011-pres. 57 ---
2. Ryan Leadingham, 2001-04 50 ---
Career Passing Attempts Total Needs
1. Ryan Leadingham, 2001-04 1,191 266
2. Garrett Safron, 2011-pres. 925 ---
Career Passing Completions Total Needs
1. Ryan Leadingham, 2001-04 658 77
2. Garrett Safron, 2011-pres. 581 ---
• Junior Nnamdi Agude was the team's leading receiver at Incarnate Word, catching six passes for 111 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
• In his first two years with the team, Agude had three receptions for 24 total yards.
• The Corona, Calif., native was one of seven Hornets to catch a pass in the game. That list also included junior Dominic Coulter and senior Joey DePalma who each caught their first passes in Div. I. Coulter spent the last two seasons at Nevada where he did not have a catch while DePalma played mostly on special teams for the Hornets in 2013 after transferring from American River JC.
• Sophomore running back Jordan Robinson caught one pass for a 4-yard TD which was his first receiving score.
A LONG TIME COMING
• When Anthony and Nick Payne stepped on the field at Incarnate Word it marked the first time that the twin brothers have played together since their senior year at Mira Mesa High School in 2010.
Both committed to Sacramento State in the spring of 2011. Nick redshirted that fall while Anthony did not enroll until the spring semester. In 2012, Nick appeared in nine games at cornerback and Anthony redshirted. The tables were turned a year ago when Anthony played in 11 games and Nick was forced to miss the year due to an injury.
The pair established themselves as probable starters during this summer but they nearly were not able to play together when Anthony dislocated his pinky finger during the final scrimmage. The bone broke through the skin and required a trip to the emergency room and a protective cast to play at UIW.
PAVING THE WAY
• The most experienced position group for the team is the offensive line which boasts five players who started games last season. Combined the five have started 64 games during their careers.
• In the middle of the line is senior John Wallace. A transfer from UMass prior to last year, Wallace played every offensive snap for the team last year.
• Senior Derek Nielsen returns at guard after missing the final four games of 2013 with an ankle injury. Nielsen had started his first eight games at Sacramento State after transferring from Oregon State.
• The tackles are manned by juniors Lars Hanson and Aleksandar Milanovic. Like Wallace, Hanson also played every offensive snap for the Hornets in 2013. The 6-8, 300-pounder has started 17 consecutive games and 19 during his career.
A native of Vienna, Austria, Milanovic has started 21 games as a Hornet. At 6-7, 300-pounds, he and Hanson combine for one of the largest bookends in the FCS.
• Sophomore Casey Dakin and redshirt freshman Lake Aiono will fight for the other starting job. Dakin started four games last season while Aiono (6-2, 325) prepped at South Hills HS in West Covina, Calif.
IN THE TRENCHES
• The defensive line boasts nearly as much experience as its counterparts. The group returns six players who saw significant playing time last season.
• On the ends, seniors Ben Cowger and Jaycee Totty are expected to earn the starting nods while junior Ronald Ussery and redshirt freshman Ben Sorenson will also contribute. Totty ranks second among returners with 6.5 tackles for loss.
• In the middle of the line, junior Nick Mazza returns after starting all 12 games a year ago. Mazza tallied 35 stops, including 4.5 for loss, in 2013 but missed all of spring ball after having Tommy John surgery.
• Fellow senior Nathan Castro and juniors Antonio Hayes, Peter Nonu and Brandon Tuliaupupu will also be in the mix. The group was dealt a blow with senior JJ Castillo was lost for the season with a knee injury late in camp.
SHARING THE ROCK
• Sacramento State returns eight of its top nine returning rushers from 2013. While no one on the team rushed for more than 500 yards, the Hornets still managed to compile over 1,600 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.
• Safron was the leading rusher with 492 yards and seven touchdowns. The QB joined graduated running back Ezekiel Graham as the only players with runs of at least 50 yards.
• Brandon Kellermann began last year as a blocking back and special teams player but evolved into a starter where he rushed for 330 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
• Jordan Robinson is the likely starter among the group. As a freshman last year, he rushed for 159 yards and three TDs and also had 141 receiving yards.
• Demetrius Warren and De'Jon Coleman complete the group of returners. Warren had 212 yards and a TD in 10 games while Coleman had 26 yards on just eighth carries in three games.
STEP ON UP
• One of the biggest questions surrounding the team will be who will join Carter among the top receivers on the team in 2014. Carter (934) and Robinson (141) are the only returners who had more than 100 receiving yards a year ago.
• At receiver, juniors Agude, Coulter and Justin Cox are the leading candidates to grab a starting job. Agude has played in the last two years and has three career receptions for 24 yards. Cox missed all of last year with a foot injury. As a redshirt freshman in 2012, he had 11 receptions for 90 yards. Coulter is a transfer from Nevada who measures 6-3, 235.
True freshman Isiah Hennie could also work his way into the unit. Although just 5-7, 150 pounds, Hennie has shown the ability through camp to make the tough catch in the middle of the field. The San Diego, Calif., native could also work as a kick/punt returner.
• The team also returns a pair of tight ends in senior Chris Broadnax and redshirt freshman Stone Sander. Broadnax has started games the last three seasons, including his 5-catch, 92-yard, one touchdown performance in the win at Colorado. Sander played in the first three games last year before breaking his clavicle. He had two catches for 16 yards in that span.
JUST THE FACTS
• Jody Sears became just the third Sacramento State head coach to win his first career game with the Hornets.
• The team's 49 points at Incarnate Word were the most in a season opener in school history. The previous mark was 48 against Chico State in 1988.
• The 46 point margin of victory over Incarnate Word was the largest since a 69-19 win over Saint Mary's on Sept. 6, 2003.
• The win at UIW was the team's first in their yellow jerseys.
• Brad Cornish made all seven of his extra points at UIW. 13 of his 19 career PATs have come in just two games (Montana and UIW).
• Nnamdi Agude became the 46th player to have a 100-yard receiving game in school history.
BIG SKY NOTES
• Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams and punter Jake Miller were named the ROOT SPORTS Big Sky Offensive and Special Teams Players of the Week, respectively.
• For the first time this year, all 13 Big Sky teams will be in action this week. The Big Sky went 2-10 last week with all 10 losses coming to FBS opponents.