SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Sacramento State football team earned its first road win in nearly three seasons and did it in dramatic fashion, winning at North Dakota, 34-27, on Saturday at the Alerus Center.
The Hornets improved to 4-3 overall and 3-1 in the Big Sky Conference. The conference record marks just the third time that Sacramento State has won three of its first four road games since the school joined the Big Sky in 1996. UND dropped to 2-6 overall and 1-4 in league games.
Sacramento State started redshirt freshman Roman Ale at quarterback in place of the injured Kevin Thomson. Ale, who had never take a collegiate snap, responded by completing 13-of-19 passes for 263 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Carson, Calif., native hit four receivers during the game, including Andre Lindsey who had four catches for 154 yards and two long touchdowns. The defense also made big plays, holding the Fighting Hawks to 2-of-14 on third down, creating three turnovers and scoring a touchdown.
The Hornets broke a 10-10 halftime tie when Lindsey caught a 56-yard touchdown pass. Marcus Bruce then recovered fumble and dashed 25 yards for a score give the team a 24-10 advantage. After a North Dakota touchdown, Sacramento State added a 2-yard score from BJ Perkinson and a field goal by Devon Medeiros to take a 34-17 lead into the fourth quarter.
North Dakota, however, was not done, as the team converted a field goal just one minute unto the fourth quarter. Noah Wanzek caught an 18-yard touchdown pass with 8:10 remaining to make it a one score game. However, the Hornet defense stopped UND on its final two drives to seal the game. Manoah Pearson tackled the running back in the backfield on 3rd-and-1 which led to a punt and UND had three incompletions as well as 1-yard run on its final chance to tie the game.
Sacramento State used a balanced rushing attack throughout the game as the combination of Elijah Dotson, Isaiah Gable, BJ Perkinson and Joseph Ajeigbe combined for 47 carries for 181 yards. Dotson paced the team with 57 yards on 11 attempts.
Defensively, Mister Harriel, Manoah Pearson and Ernest Jenkins each had seven tackles. Ben Sorensen was credited with six solo stops, including a pair of sacks and three tackles-for-loss.
The Hornets will go back on the road next weekend to play at Northern Arizona on Oct. 28. The game will begin at 4 p.m. from the Skydome.
Head Coach Jody Sears on Roman Ale starting the game:
It is a testament to Luke Huard, the offensive staff and Roman Ale. Roman was able to step up and make some huge throws but that is why we signed him. He led his high school team to a state championship for the first time in 99 years — the kid is a winner. He didn't flinch and the standards didn't change for him.
His inexperience showed at times but I was really pleased with how he played. To come on the road in a hostile environment and play the way he did makes me extremely proud of him.
On the defensive performance:
They popped one run but we knew that was going to happen. That team ran for over 400 yards on us last year so we knew what they were capable of. The key to the game was on third down where they were 2-of-14. When you get three turnovers and hold them to 2-of-14 you have a pretty good chance to win.
Roman Ale on his expectations coming into the game:
I was trying to do everything that Coach Huard had prepared me for. I had to keep drives alive and do my job. It felt good to get back out there and the o-line and receivers helped me out.
9:27 - Sacramento State took the opening drive and used the ground game to pound the ball down the field. The ran the ball on all but one of the 13-play series but was forced to settle for a 20-yard field goal from Devon Medeiros.
11:47 - North Dakota knotted the game, 3-3, with a 41-yard field goal from Reid Taubenheim. UND had two big plays during the drive to take the ball inside Hornet territory. However, Sacramento State was able to get pressure on Studsrud on 3rd-and-6 to thwart the drive.
7:38 - Ale recorded his first career TD pass with a 69-yard strike to Andre Lindsey down the middle of the field. Lindsey was able to get past the defense and Ale's throw was just over the outstretched hand of the safety to give Lindsey his fourth touchdown reception of the year.
6:52 - North Dakota needed just two offensive plays to tie the game, 10-10. John Santiago started the drive with a 64-yard rush up the middle and Brady Oliveira followed with a 15-yard run around the left end. The 64-yard rush from Santiago was the longest the Hornets have allowed this season.
13:08 - Ale and Lindsey dialed up another big play early in the second half. After the defense limited UND to zero yards on the opening series, Ale lofted a ball down the left sideline. Lindsey was being tightly covered but was able to make the catch and then broke free for the last 20 yards.
11:13 - The Hornet defense got into the scoring act when Marcus Bruce gathered up a fumble and rolled 25 yards for his first career touchdown. The loose ball was created when Dariyn Choates stripped Studsrud.
9:55 - UND stopped the Sacramento State momentum with a 3-play, 55-yard touchdown drive. Andrew ZImmerman, who replaced the injured Keaton Studsrud found De'mun Mercer for a 39-yard completion to cap the drive. The Hornets attempted an onsides which was recovered by the Fighting Hawks to give the team good field position to start the drive.
5:34 - The third quarter scoring barrage continued when BJ Perkinson rushed up the middle for a 2-yard score. The defense forced UND to a 3-and-out deep in its own territory and took over near midfield. Elijah Dotson had a 30-yard rush during the series.
0:56 - George Obinna sacked Zimmerman and recovered the fumble for the team's third turnover of the game. That play set up a 6-play drive which saw Sacramento State drive to the 2-yard line before taking a 19-yard field goal from Medeiros to make it a three-possession game at 34-17.
14:00 - Taubenheim pulled UND back within two scores with a 26-yard field goal. The Fighting Hawks had 1st-and-10 from the Hornet 14 but the Sacramento State defense was able to hold UND to a field goal.
8:10 - Noah Wanzek kept North Dakota's chances alive with an 18-yard TD reception in the back corner of the end zone. The grab capped a 7-play, 81-yard drive and pulled the Fighting Hawks within a score.
Saturday was Jody Sears' birthday…the Hornets last road win came at UC Davis in the final game of the 2014 season…after not having a player called for targeting in two years, Sacramento State had its second in as many weeks. Obinna was disqualified early in the fourth quarter and will now miss the first half of the NAU game next week…Lindsey now has three career 100-yard games…the junior entered the game as the FCS leader in yards per reception and added to that total with an average of 38.5 against UND…the Hornets combined for nine tackles-for-loss, including four sacks…the team had three turnovers after not getting a takeway in the last two games. Sacramento State is now plus-9 on the year.