FRESNO, Calif. — The Sacramento State football team drew even with Fresno State early in the fourth quarter but the Bulldogs pulled away with two late touchdowns for a 34-20 victory on Saturday night at Bulldog Stadium. The game marked the second time this season that the Hornets have put a scare into a Football Bowl Subdivision team as the team fell at Arizona State, 19-7, two weeks ago.
Sacramento State closed its non-conference schedule with a 2-2 overall record while Fresno State improved to 1-2 on the year.
"Our guys competed and tied it up late in the game," Sacramento State head coach Troy Taylor said. "This team is resilient and I think we've proven that in the first four games. The defense had a short field the whole third quarter and continued to hold up. We made some plays in the red zone but didn't make enough in the third quarter and that was the problem.
"We knew (Fresno State) was going to take some shots down the field and that they were going to complete some of those. The defense held in there for the most part and they threw a ton of them downfield. That's a good football team which is very well coached."
Neither team was able to muster much offense in the early going until Fresno State took a 6-0 lead with 4:32 left in the opening quarter. Zane Pope started the drive with a 41-yard reception on a broken play and Ronnie Rivers had a 22-yard rush to take the ball to the Hornet 16. Sacramento State forced a 3rd-and-8 before Jorge Reyna hit Josh Hokit for a 14-yard touchdown pass. The Hornets appeared to have Hokit stopped shy of the sticks but the running back bounced off of two tacklers and walked into the end zone.
Sacramento State immediately answered with a 4-play, 75-yard drive which resulted in a touchdown. Thomson started the series with a 26-yard pass to Pierre Williams over the middle of the field. Two plays later, he found Marshel Martin for a 47-yard touchdown pass. However, the extra point attempt was blocked leaving the Hornets down by one.
The second quarter began much like the first with the teams trading punts. Keric Wheatfall sparked the Bulldogs with catches of 23 and 46 yards on consecutive plays to bring the ball to the Hornet 6. Rivers then went around the left edge for the first rushing touchdown by a Sacramento State opponent this season.
The Bulldogs followed with a 3-and-out on defense and looked to have an opportunity to run out the first half clock. Instead, the team threw a lateral to Zane Pope who looked to throw but couldn't find a receiver. Pope was then hit by Josiah Erickson and the fumble was scooped up by Isaiah Butler who returned it to the Fresno State 28 with 1:50 left in the quarter.
Thomson methodically directed the offense on a 5-play drive which was capped by a 2-yard pass to BJ Perkinson for a touchdown with three seconds remaining. During the drive Isaiah Gable had a 9-yard catch for a first down and Williams followed with a 14-yard catch to set up the score. The Hornets attempted a two-point conversion to the tie the game but Marqui Johnson was stopped shy of the goal line.
Neither team scored in the third quarter but Fresno State found the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter to pull ahead, 20-12, after the PAT hit the upright. Reyna extended the drive with a 14-yard rush for a first down and then found Wheatfall for a 29-yard gain on 3rd-and-24.
Sacramento State again answered with a touchdown drive and two-point conversion to tie the game. Isaiah Gable started the drive with a 36-yard catch and run to take the ball across midfield. Williams added a 9-yard catch and Thomson rushed for 6. Facing 3rd-and-4, he found Isaiah Bailey at the chains to extend the drive. Bailey then got behind the defense for an 18-yard touchdown, his first with the Hornets. Sacramento State tied the game when Thomson pitched to Perkinson who plowed his way into the end zone.
Fresno State pulled back ahead with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Derrion Grim on a fade route to the left side of the end zone on its next drive. The Bulldogs used 11 plays to go 74 yards and picked up five first downs during series as no play was longer that 14 yards. Hokit added his third touchdown of the game with a 14-yard rush with 2:17 left.
Sacramento State amassed 245 yards of total offense with nearly all coming through the air. Thomson completed 22-of-41 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. Running back Elijah Dotson was again his favorite target, catching six passes for 21 yards. Williams led the team with 55 receiving yards and Gable had 54. The Hornets were limited to just 12 rushing yards on 17 attempts. Wide receiver Dewey Cotton led the team with one rush for seven yards.
Defensively, Allen Perryman set a career high with 12 tackles, including 11 solos. George Obinna led the team with 2.5 sacks among his eight total tackles. Marcus Hawkins also added a career high 10 total tackles.
Fresno State finished with 471 yards of total offense with Reyna providing most of the damage. He completed 26-of-39 passes for 312 yards and also rushed for 36 despite being sacked three times. Hokit had 72 rushing yards and Wheatfall led all players with three receptions for 98 yards.
Sacramento State will next compete at home against Eastern Washington on Saturday, Oct. 5.
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