A BRIEF PREVIEW
- The 2019 Sacramento State football team will get under way on Saturday, Aug. 31, when it welcomes Southern Oregon to Hornet Stadium. The game against the Raiders will start at 6:05 p.m. and will also mark the start of the Troy Taylor era. Taylor became the 11th head coach in Hornet history when he was named to the post on Dec. 18, 2018.
- Sacramento State will be starting the season at home for the second consecutive season and fourth time in the last five years. Each of the previous three season openers at home came against non-Div. I schools and the Hornets have posted a 2-1 record.
- There will be multiple ways to follow this week's game. Hornet fans can tune in to ESPN 1320 AM 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 Tune-In app for mobile devices.
- CW31 will televise the game in the Sacramento region (tape delayed) and the game can be viewed live on Pluto.TV. Dave Lewis will handle the play-by-play and will be joined by former Hornet quarterback and Arena Football League record-holder Aaron Garcia (color).
- The game can also be viewed on Pluto.TV. The official online service of the Big Sky allows fans to watch the game on over the type devices.
OPPONENT PREVIEW: SOUTHERN OREGON
- After posting a 6-4 record last season, Southern Oregon opens the year ranked 20th in the preseason NAIA poll. The Raiders have had winning records in six of the last seasons with appearances in the NAIA national championship game in 2015 and the semifinals in 2017.
- Quarterback Wyatt Hutchinson is SOU's leading returning passer and rusher. Last season, he threw for 2,241 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He ended the year by throwing for 323 and 339 yards in the final two games. Hutchinson also rushed for 489 yards and had four rushing touchdowns.
- Senior Jason Shelley is the leading returning receiver 26 receptions for 416 yards and three scores. Shelley had a catch of at least 40 yards in four games last season, including a 74-yarder in the season finale. He is also the team's primary kick returner where he had a score.
- Charlie Hall is in his third season as the head coach at Southern Oregon. Hall was previously the head coach at Ashland HS where he was 99-44 while winning four conference titles, appearing in the state quarterfinals six times, the state semifinals twice and the championship game once.
IN THE BEGINNING
- Sacramento State is 27-37-1 all-time in season openers and 16-9 when starting the year at home.
- This weekend's game will mark the fourth time in five seasons that Sacramento State will face a non-NCAA Div. I team to open the year. Since moving to Div. I-AA/FCS, Sacramento State is 3-1 in openers against non Div. I teams.
- Sacramento State will also be opening the season at home for the fourth time in five years. The Hornets previously defeated Eastern Oregon, 41-20, in 2015 before being upset by Western Oregon, 38-30, in 2016. Last season, the team rolled past St. Francis (Ill.), 55-7.
- August 31 will be second earliest home game in school history. Sacramento State has had just one other home game in the month — a 45-13 win over Humboldt State on Aug. 30, 2008. The earliest game ever played by the team was on Aug. 28 at Oregon State (2003) and at San Jose State (2013).
- Including this season, the Hornets have opened the year against a non-FCS team in 17 of the last 18 years. Thirteen of those games have come against teams from the FBS while the other four are against Div. II and NAIA opponents.
AS TOUGH AS IT GETS
- The 2019 Sacramento State football schedule was named the toughest in the Big Sky Conference and the ninth most difficult in the FCS by HERO Sports.
- The team's non-conference schedule features a pair of games against FBS teams (Arizona State, Fresno State) which both made bowl games last season. In fact the two squared off against one another in the Las Vegas Bowl where Fresno State prevailed 31-20. Sacramento State will also face Southern Oregon which is ranked in the NAIA preseason top 25 and fellow Big Sky foe Northern Colorado.
- The rotating league schedule did no favors to the team as the Hornets will play its eight conference games against teams picked among the top nine in the preseason poll. That slate includes Eastern Washington, UC Davis, Weber State and Montana all at home. Those four teams were slated 1-4 in both the media and coaches preseason polls. EWU, UCD and WSU all enter the year ranked among the top 10 in the FCS.
- Sacramento State's four conference road games come at Montana State, Cal Poly, Northern Arizona and Idaho. The only team ranked in the top nine of the preseason poll that the Hornets will not face is Idaho State which was seeded seventh. Sacramento State will not face Portland State, Southern Utah and Northern Colorado during league play. Those teams were picked to finish 10th, 12th and 13th, respectively, in coaches poll.
- Troy Taylor was hired as the 11th head football coach at Sacramento State on Dec. 17, 2018 and will make his debut on the sidelines with the Hornets on Saturday. Taylor last served as a head coach at Folsom HS in 2015. That season, he won the Sac-Joaquin Section Div. I championship with a win over Elk Grove HS at Hornet Stadium.
- The 10 previous head coaches at Sacramento State had mixed reviews in their opener, posting a 4-6 record. Taylor will be the first to coach his initial Hornet game at home since Mike Clemons defeated Cal State Hayward in 1993.
- Coach Opponent Score
Dave Strong SD Naval Center L, 46-0 (1954)
John Baker Cal State LA W, 19-14 (1957)
Ray Clemons Pepperdine W, 21-0 (1961)
Doc Brady Santa Clara L, 37-23 (1976)
Bob Mattos at Cal Poly L, 52-6 (1978)
Mike Clemons CS Hayward W, 34-17 (1993)
John Volek at No. Arizona L, 62-7 (1995)
Steve Mooshagian at Oregon State L, 40-7 (2003)
Marshall Sperbeck at Fresno State L, 24-3 (2007)
Jody Sears at Incarnate Word W, 49-13 (2014)
THEY KEEP GOING, AND GOING
- Four Sacramento State players were granted additional years of eligibility by the NCAA during the spring. The four, who were all listed as seniors in 2018, are comprised of kicker Devon Medeiros, offensive guard Wyatt Ming, defensive end George Obinna and quarterback Kevin Thomson. Ming played in just one game last season and Obinna in only two due to injuries. Medeiros was granted the extension after he was limited to two games during 2016.
- Thomson was given a nearly unprecedented two years of additional eligibility meaning he will go from being listed as a senior during the 2018 season to a junior in 2019. He missed his first three years of collegiate football due to an elbow injury.
- Ming, Medeiros and Thomson are two of six players on the 2019 roster that have already earned their bachelor's degree. They are joined by offensive lineman Nick Bianco and graduate transfers Isaiah Bailey and Joey Lewis.
- Medeiros is currently pursuing a master's degree in criminal justice. Thomson is enrolled in the educational leadership program. Bianco is getting his master's in kinesiology, Bailey in beahavioral science and Lewis in educational technology. Ming is taking classes towards earning a second bachelor's degree in general communications.
BUSY SUMMER FOR DOTSON
- Junior running back Elijah Dotson added to his already lengthy resume with a handful more accolades over the summer. A year after being named first team all-Big Sky and FCS Sophomore All-American, Dotson landed on the Big Sky preseason team and was a second team preseason All-American by HERO Sports and Phil Steele.
- Dotson was the catalyst for the Sacramento State offense last season, leading the team with 1,154 rushing yards, nine touchdowns and 1,314 all-purpose yards. He became the first Hornet running back to earn first team all-Big Sky honors since Charles Roberts who did it three years in a row (1998-2000). Dotson's average of 115.4 yards per game was the third highest in school history while his total of 1.154 yards placed him seventh despite the team playing on 10 games during the regular season. He also moved into fifth place in school history with an average of 6.2 yards per carry.
- Dotson's season was highlighted by a five-game stretch at the start of conference play which saw him rush for over 100 yards in each game. He started the streak with 234 yards and three touchdowns at Montana and followed with identical 149 yards and one touchdown performances against Cal Poly and Southern Utah. Dotson continued his streak with 140 yards and a score against North Dakota and pushed his run to five consecutive games over 100 yards with 183 and a score against Portland State. His five-game stretch over the century mark was the longest by a Hornet since Bryan Hilliard had six straight in 2010. During the stretch, Dotson averaged 171.0 yards per game, 7.5 yards per rush and scored six touchdowns.
- In just two years, Dotson has already rushed for 1,629 yards which places him ninth at Sacramento State. His 14 career rushing touchdowns rank 11th, his average of 6.0 yards per carry places him third and his average of 77.6 rushing yards per game is seventh.
- Dotson finished the year ranked 16th in the FCS in rushing yards (1,154) and 10th in yards per game (115.4). He also had 160 receiving yards this season giving him 1,340 all-purpose yards this year. That total ranks 20th nationally and third in the Big Sky.
- Dotson became the first Hornet to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season since Hilliard in 2008 (1,082) and is only the fourth Sacramento State player to do so as a freshman or sophomore. Hilliard did it as a sophomore, Charles Roberts rushed for a then NCAA record 2,260 yards as a sophomore in 1998 and Donald Hair posted a school freshman record of 1,097 in 1985.
- Below is where the Antelope HS ranks in the Sacramento State record book:
Career Rushing Yards Total Needs
8. Garrett Safron (2011-14) 1,906 277
9. Elijah Dotson (2017-pres.) 1,629 ---
Career Rushing Touchdowns Total Needs
T5. Jordan Robinson (2013-16) 25 11
T5. Troy Mills (1990-91) 25 11
T7. Garrett Safron (2011-14) 16 2
T7. Tyronne Gross (2002-04) 16 2
T7. Garrett White (1998-02) 16 2
T10. Ricky Ray (1999-00) 15 1
T10. John Scorza (1967-68) 15 1
T11. Elijah Dotson (2017-pres.) 14 ---
B'S IN THE BACKFIELD
- Sacramento State has luxury of returning three experienced players to the team's defensive secondary with cornerback Daron Bland, safety Caelan Barnes and nickelback Marcus Bruce.
- Bland started every game last season at cornerback and finished the year with 44 tackles, including 33 solos. His season was highlighted by a 47-yard interception return at Weber State on his first career pick. Bland also competed for the Sacramento State track and field team where he qualified for the Big Sky indoor and outdoor championships.
- Barnes is the leading returning tackler on the team with a career high 71 stops a year ago. The senior had at least three tackles in every game and finished with five or more in all but one contest. The senior set his career high with 10 tackles against Cal Poly and Southern Utah.
- Bruce was a third team all-Big Sky selection in 2017 after recording 57 tackles, including a pair for loss. During that year, he recovered four fumbles and converted two of those into touchdowns. His missed most of last season with a broken wrist but came back to play in four of the final five games to preserve his redshirt season. In the limited action, he still managed 28 tackles with 17 solos and two TFLs. He had a season high 11 stops against UC Davis in the season finale.
- The group could add to its alliterative backfield with JC transfer Isaiah Butler. The cornerback has some familiarity with the Big Sky as his brother, Emmanuel, was an FCS All-American wide receiver at Northern Arizona. He is battling for the spot opposite of Bland with Boise State transfer Robert Lewis. The second safety spot currently belongs to Allen Perryman who had a career high 38 tackles last season along with three pass breakups.
TOP 10 IN SIGHT
- With his two more years of eligibility, Kevin Thomson is almost assured to end his career ranked among the all-time passing greats in school history. Thomson enters this season ranked just outside the top 10 in career passing yards and career passing touchdowns but could find his way into the group as early as the first game.
- In 15 career games, Thomson has thrown for 3,208 yards which leaves him less than 200 yards of taking over 10th place in school history. His 25 career passing touchdowns are one shy of 10th and two behind his current position coach Bobby Fresques who tossed 27 between 1990-92.
- Thomson is currently the all-time leader in two career passing categories. His career pass efficiency of 162.5 is well ahead of the second place mark of 146.5 set by Tony Trosin (1998). Thomson is also the only quarterback to average more than 10 yards per pass attempt as his average of 10.03 is a full yard beyond the second place average of 8.24 from Ricky Ray (1999-2000).
- The Auburn, Wash., native is also 17th in career attempts (320) and completions (176), 10th in career completion percentage (.550) and fourth in career yards per game (213.9).
- Below is where Thomson ranks among the school's all-time leaders:
Career Passing Yards Total Needs
9. Bobby Fresques (1990-92) 3,757 549
10. Lyle James (1966-68) 3,397 189
11. Nate Ketteringham (2015-16) 3,391 183
12. Kevin Thomson (2017-pres.) 3,208 ---
Career Passing Touchdowns Total Needs
8. Jeff Fleming (2010-11) 30 5
9. Bobby Fresques (1990-92) 27 2
10. Mike Lippi (1969-70) 26 1
T11. Kevin Thomson (2017-pres.) 25 ---
KICKING IT A LITTLE LONGER
- With his extra year of eligibility, Devon Medeiros will continue his climb up the Hornet scoring list. Medeiros is currently tied for third in career field goals, fourth in extra points and fourth in career scoring by kickers.
- Medeiros tied the school single season record in 2017 with 14 field goals and ranked second with 52 PATs and was named second team all-Big Sky. Last season, he was 10-of-15 on field goals with a long of 39 and converted all 26 of his extra points.
- Career Scoring Total Needs
1. Scott Brown (1996-99) 239 76
2. Juan Gamboa (2005-08) 203 40
3. Brad Cornish (2012-15) 167 4
4. Devon Medeiros (2015-pres.) 163 ---
Career Field Goals Total Needs
1. Scott Brown (1996-99) 44 18
2. Juan Gamboa (2005-08) 36 10
T3. Devon Medeiros (2015-pres.) 26 ---
Career PATs Total Needs
1. Scott Brown (1996-99) 107 22
2. Juan Gamboa (2005-08) 95 10
3. Brad Cornish (2012-15) 89 4
4. Devon Medeiros (2015-pres.) 85 ---
THEY KNOW THE BIG SKY
- The 2019 Sacramento State defensive coaching staff may be new to the Hornets but they are no strangers to the Big Sky Conference. The trio of Andy Thompson, Cherokee Valeria and Kraig Paulson own a combined 50 years as experience as coaches and players in the conference.
- Thompson will serve as the defensive coordinator and coach the linebackers after holding the same position at Northern Arizona for the past 10 seasons. He was also a standout linebacker at Montana.
- Valeria is the team's defensive passing game coordinator and secondary coach. He most recently spent seven years at Eastern Washington and also had a stop at Idaho State.
- Paulson will be the defensive line coach and brings a wealth of experience as a defensive coordinator. He had two stints at Montana, most recently from 2004-09. Paulson coached Andy Thompson at Montana and is also responsible for starting the #37 jersey tradition with the Griz.
- Safeties coach Sam Cole rounds out the full-time staff on defense. Cole's lone Big Sky experience is serving as a intern at Montana State in 2015.
NOT AS MUCH
- While the defensive staff is loaded with Big Sky experience, the offensive staff is at the other end of the spectrum. Running backs coach James Montgomery — the lone holdover from the previous staff — returns for his fifth season with the Hornets. Montgomery also had one year at Weber State as an offensive assistant.
- Head coach Troy Taylor spent one season as the offensive coordinator at Eastern Washington before moving to Utah where he was the OC for the past two years.
- Tight ends coach Jeremy Lapan, who is also the special teams coordinator, played at Montana but never coached in the Big Sky.
- Quarterbacks coach Bobby Fresques is the only Sacramento State graduate on the staff. Fresques was the Hornet QB from 1990-92 and also served on the staff prior to the school joining the Big Sky.
- Assistant head coach and offensive line coach Kris Richardson is making the jump from Folsom High School and has never coached in the Big Sky. Richardson, Taylor, Fresques, Cole and director of recruiting/player development Chris Parry all have ties to Folsom. Richardson spent 24 years on the staff, including 14 as the co-head coach and head coach. From 2010-18, the team went 127-10 with nine league titles, seven Sac-Joaquin Section titles and four state championships.
- CB Caelan Barnes, DB Marcus Bruce, DT Dariyn Choates, RB Elijah Dotson, OL Wyatt Ming and QB Kevin Thomson were named team captains following a vote of the players.
- The offensive line is the most veteran position group on the team with Ming (27), Nick Bianco (21) and Thomas Parker (10) combining for 58 career starts.
Dotson is the only player on the team with a start streak which predates last season. Dotson started the final game of 2017 before earning the nod in all 10 games a year ago.