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A BRIEF PREVIEW
The Sacramento State football team will look to stay unbeaten in Big Sky Conference play when the team plays at No. 9/t8 Eastern Washington on Saturday, Sept. 30. The game will kick off at 1:35 p.m.
The Hornets rolled to a 54-27 win over Southern Utah last Saturday at Hornet Stadium. Quarterback Kevin Thomson rushed for four touchdowns and threw for three to spark the offense. Sacramento State rushed for 333 yards in the game and never trailed in the contest.
A win over the Eagles would mark just the second time the Hornets have started Big Sky play 2-0 since joining the league in 1996. The only other occurrence came in 2013 when the team knocked off Weber State and Northern Colorado but finished the year 4-4 in league games.
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 and Tune-In apps for mobile devices.
The game can also be viewed on WatchBigSky powered by Pluto.TV. The new service by the conference partner allows fans to watch the game on over the type devices.
OPPONENT PREVIEW: EASTERN WASHINGTON
Eastern Washington evened its record at 2-2 after a thrilling come-from-behind win at Montana. EWU trailed 24-6 at halftime but scored 42 second half points to post a 48-41 win over the Grizzlies. Quarterback Gage Gubrud threw for a school record 549 yards with four touchdowns. Gubrud also rushed for a score and finished with 560 yards of total offense.
EWU started the year with losses at Texas Tech and at home against North Dakota State. The team was outscored 96-23 in those games but has bounced back with wins at Fordham (56-21) and at Montana.
The Eagles are averaging 31.75 points per game and 443.0 yards per game this year but have allowed 39.50 ppg and 478.3 ypg. The team has also struggled with turnovers in 2017, currently sitting at minus-9 with 12 giveaways and just three takeaways.
Gubrud has completed 61.76 percent of his passes and is averaging 322.25 passing yards per game. The junior has also rushed for 27.00 yards per game and leads the team with 34 carries.
Aaron Best is in his first season as the EWU head coach. Best replaced Beau Baldwin who is now the offensive coordinator at Cal.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
The Sacramento State defense was much maligned last season, ranking towards the bottom of the Big Sky and FBS in several statistical categories. Fast forward a year and the Hornets are ranked among the top four in the Big Sky in turnovers gained (first), third down defense (first), sacks (tied first), total defense (second), pass efficiency defense (second), passing defense (second) and rush defense (fourth).
One big factor in the team's transformation has been the ability to limit the big play. Last season, Sacramento State allowed 29 rushing plays and 27 passing plays of at least 25 yards. Through four games this year, the opposition has only three rushes and six passes beyond 25 yards.
Additionally, Sacramento State allowed 14 100-yard rushers in 11 games a year ago. This year, Idaho's Austin Duckworth has been the only player to get over the century mark (142).
Below is a look between last season and this year:
|Points allowed per game||39.2||27.0|
|Rushing yards allowed per game||289.9||141.2|
|Rushing yards per attempt||6.8||3.6|
|Passing yards allowed per game||229.7||173.5|
|Total yards allowed per game||519.6||314.8|
|Pass efficient defense||151.1||106.3|
|Tackles-for-loss per game||5.7||7.5|
|Sacks per game||1.7||3.8|
|Third down defense||40.3%||27.6%|
Saturday's game will mark the first time this season that Sacramento State has faced a ranked opponent. Eastern Washington enters the contest ranked ninth in the STATS FCS poll and is tied for eighth in the FCS Coaches Poll.
The Hornets last defeated a ranked opponent on Oct. 27, 2012 when the downed Cal Poly, 39-25, at Hornet Stadium. Since that point the team is 0-11 against top 25 teams, including an 0-3 record last year.
Sacramento State has a pair of wins over ranked teams on the road. The Hornets were victorious at Eastern Washington in 2000 (25-22) and beat eighth-ranked Northern Arizona (24-21) in 2002. The win at the Skydome also marked the highest ranked opponent ever beaten by Sacramento State.
The Hornets received votes in the STATS FCS poll for the first time this season this week. The team garnered two votes and is one of six Big Sky schools either ranked or receiving votes in the national poll.
THOMSON NAMED NATIONAL POW
Kevin Thomson was named the STATS FCS National Player of the Week and the Big Sky Conference co-Offensive Player of the Week after accounting for 402 yards of total offense and seven touchdowns in the team's 54-27 win over Southern Utah.
The junior completed 14-of-26 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for 149 yards and four scores to spark the offense. His seven total touchdowns tied Garrett Safron's school record set against Southern Oregon in 2013. His four rushing touchdowns are tied for the second most in school history and are the most by a Hornet quarterback. Only Charles Roberts, who had five rushing TDs against Idaho State in 1999, has rushed for more touchdowns in a game in school history. Thomson had a 1-yard TD sneak in the first half and then scored three times in the second half beginning with a 59-yard rush. He closed the game by scoring from 7 and 9 yards.
Thomson's rushing yards were the most all-time by a Hornet QB, breaking Safron's mark of 146 against Montana State in 2014.
When Thomson did throw, he found five receivers, including three who finished with at least 50 receiving yards. He opened the game with a 6-yard laser for a touchdown pass to Andre Lindsey to put the Hornets on top 7-0. In the second quarter, he broke a 7-7 tie with a 5-yard fade route to Johnnie Rucker and later put the team up 20 with a 36-yard bomb to Lindsey.
Thomson is the second Hornet to earn STATS FCS National Player of the Week honors this season. Cornerback Dre Terrell was the Defensive Player of the Week after a three-interception performance against Incarnate Word.
RUNNING BACKS ON PARADE
Thomson was not the only Hornet to have success on the ground against SUU. Sacramento State used seven ball carriers to amass 333 yards and average 5.6 yards per carry in the victory.
Four freshmen combined for 38 attempts with 167 yards led by BJ Perkinson. The redshirt freshman was making his collegiate debut and received 14 carries for 72 yards. Perkinson, who moved from wide receiver to running back after last season, provided some punishing runs and averaged 5.1 yards per attempt.
Fellow redshirt freshman Isaiah Gable showcased his elusiveness with 68 yards on 10 attempts (6.8 per carry). Gable, who measures 5-foot-4, 140 pounds, was the team's scout team player of the year last season as a redshirt.
The rest of the total came from true freshmen Elijah Dotson (9 carries, 17 yards) and Christian Erickson (5 attempts, 10 yards), receiver Andre Lindsey (1 att., 9 yards) and senior Joseph Ajeigbe (6 att., 8 yards).
None of the players who carried the ball against Southern Utah had a rushing attempt for the Hornets last season.
The 333 rushing yards were the sixth most in the school's Div. I history and the most since 335 against Idaho State in 2007. The 59 carries are tied for the second most by a Hornet team.
Making the total more impressive is the fact that the 333 rushing yards came against a Southern Utah defense which entered the game having allowed 123.7 rushing yards per game and had held nationally-ranked Northern Iowa to minus-18 yards the previous week.
Helping pave the way for the team's slew of backs is a veteran offensive line which also did not allow a sack against the T-Birds.
Left tackle Jonathan Bade, left guard Lake Aiono, center Ivan Espiritu and right tackle Taylor Tappin have started all four games this season. Wyatt Ming missed the first game due to injury but has started the last three at right guard. Those five along with several key reserves have combined to allow just six sacks this season.
CLARK JOINS THE PICK PARTY
Austin Clark needed just three plays against Southern Utah to become the latest member of the Sacramento State defense to record an interception. Clark made a leaping grab on the opening drive of the game and set up the Hornets' first touchdown.
The junior was joined later in the game by Malcolm Thomas and Mister Harriel who each hauled in their second interception of the season. Those two turnovers also resulted in Sacramento State touchdowns.
The Hornets became the first team in the FCS to have double digit interceptions this season. The team has 10 picks through the first four games, ranks second nationally with 12 turnovers forced this year and is tied for fifth in turnover margin at plus-2.00 per game.
In the previous 10 years, Sacramento State has only had 10 or more interceptions five times. The most recent occasion came in 2014 when the Hornets finished with 11 picks. The school's Div. I-AA/FCS era record is 18 in 1994. Last season, the team had only four interceptions all season.
Five players have recorded interceptions this year for the team, with three having two or more. Prior to Clark's pick, none of the first four players had an interception during their career before this year.
Sacramento State has been able to turn six of its last seven interceptions into touchdowns, including Thomas' 15-yard return against Weber State. The lone exception was an interception in the final seconds of the first half where the Hornets elected to run out the clock.
HOMECOMING FOR COACHES
Sacramento State head coach Jody Sears and assistant head coach Paul Wulff will each be making their first trips back to Roos Field in a decade. Wulff was the Eagles' head coach from 2000-07 where Sears was a member of the staff, including a stint as the defensive coordinator. Wulff was 53-40 overall and 34-25 in Big Sky games while the head coach at Eastern. He left following the 2007 season to become the head coach at Washington State.
During that time, one of the players who played for the two was offensive lineman Aaron Best who is now the head coach at EWU.
Hornet quarterback Tristen Meyer, who is redshirting this season, is the younger brother of Erik Meyer who won the Walter Payton Award for the Eagles in 2005.
HE MOVES QUICKLY
Andre Lindsey continued his breakout season with an efficient four reception, 100-yard effort against Southern Utah which also included two touchdowns. Lindsey's average of 25.00 yards per catch in the game actually lowered his season mark to 30.5 yards per reception this season.
Earlier this year, Lindsey set a career high and recorded the 15th best receiving game in school history with 176 receiving yards on only four receptions for an average of 44.0 yards per grab against Incarnate Word.
The Stockton, Calif., native is fifth in the FCS in yards per reception and ranks third among players with at least 10 receptions this season. The national and Big Sky leader is Rashid Shaheed of Weber State who has nine receptions and averages 36.22 yards per catch.
Lindsey is also a member of the Sacramento State track & field team where he was the Big Sky champion in the 110-hurdles.
HENNIE LEAVING HIS MARK
Senior Isiah Hennie is believed to be the first player in school history to return a kickoff and punt return for a touchdown in his career. Hennie had an 89-yard kickoff return against Menlo in 2014 and a 67-yard punt return against Eastern Oregon in 2015. He added a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown against Cal Poly in 2017. Now Hennie is leaving his mark in the school's career receiving records.
Entering the game against Eastern Washington, Hennie is ninth in school history with 111 career receptions. The San Diego native has also moved into the top 20 in career receiving yards at Sacramento State.
Below is where Hennie ranks among the school's all-time leaders:
Career Receptions Total Needs
4. Shane Harrison (2011-15) 134 23
5. Lamont Webb (1997-2000) 117 6
6. Nnamdi Agude (2012-15) 112 4
Tony Washington (2007-08) 112 4
Ryan Coogler (2004-05, 07) 112 4
9. Isiah Hennie (2014-pres.) 111 ---
Career Receiving Yards Total Needs
12. Ron Weaver (1988-89) 1,371 117
13. Tom Jones (1969-71) 1,334 80
14. Brandyn Reed (2009-11) 1,299 45
15. Chase Deadder (2008-11) 1,298 44
16. Lin Klinkhammer (1985-86) 1,282 28
Carlos Smith (1996-97) 1,282 28
18. Bill Yurong (1965-67) 1,254 ---
--- Isiah Hennie (2014-pres.) 1,254 ---
NEW NAME, SAME RESULTS
Junior Immanuel Anderson (formerly known as Manny Scott-Anderson) may be going by a new name but continues to add to his career tackles total. Anderson had five tackles against SUU and continues is climb up the school's career tackle list.
Anderson has started 25 of the 26 games in his career. Last season, he led the team with 107 total tackles which placed him second in the Big Sky during the regular season and 10th in school single-season history.
Below is where Anderson ranks among the school's all-time leaders:
Career Tackles Total Needs
13. Carlos Williams (1996-99) 210 11
14. Jeff Badger (2009-12) 206 7
15. Osagie Odiase (2010-13) 202 3
Tyson Butler (2003-06) 202 3
17. Chad Johnson (1995-97) 200 1
18. Immanuel Anderson (2015-17) 199 ---
JUST THE FACTS
• Sacramento State was picked to finish 12th by the Big Sky coaches and media in the preseason polls.
• The Hornets have four players who have already earned their bachelor's degree and are currently pursuing a master's. The group is comprised of seniors Jon Bade, Stone Sander and Joseph Ajeigbe as well as junior Austin Clark. Clark earned his degree in just three academic years and has two years of eligibility remaining.
Sacramento State elected four captains for the 2017 season. WR Isiah Hennie, OL Jon Bade and DB Austin Clark all return for their second season as a captain. New this year is tight end Stone Sander.
• After going by Manny Scott-Anderson during his first two years, the junior is now using the name Immanuel Anderson.
• Sacramento State has three new coaches in 2017 in offensive coordinator Luke Huard, cornerbacks coach CJ Cox and safeties coach John Therrell. Defensive coordinator Sammy Lawanson moved from safeties to linebackers as well.
• There are only three players on the roster not from California. The three are QBs Kolney Cassel and Kevin Thomson who are both from Washington and tight end Steely Smith from Oregon.
Sacramento State set the school record with one penalty for two yards at Idaho. The team's only infraction was a delay of game which resulted in half the distance to the goal line.
WR Andre Lindsey was the Big Sky champion in the outdoor 110-hurdles. WR Darius Armstead was the Big Sky indoor and outdoor champion in the triple jump where he set the school record in both seasons.
• Dre Terrell was named the FCS Defensive Player of the Week after having three interceptions against Incarnate Word.
• Along with the QBs on the roster, the Hornets have eight other players who were high school QBs. Two of those players are now receivers while the other six play in the defensive backfield.