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FOOTBALL PREPARES FOR TOP 20 SHOWDOWN ON HOMECOMING

FOOTBALL PREPARES FOR TOP 20 SHOWDOWN ON HOMECOMING

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A BRIEF PREVIEW

  • Following two unprecedented victories, the path for the Sacramento State football team will not get easier as the team hosts Montana on Saturday, Oct. 19, in the annual Homecoming game. The game against the Grizzlies will start at 6:05 p.m.
  • Both Sacramento State and Montana enter the contest with undefeated Big Sky Conference records and are in the top 20 in the national polls. The Hornets (4-2, 2-0) made their debut in the polls this week, landing at 15th in the STATS FCS media poll and 17th in the AFCA coaches poll. The Griz (5-1, 2-0) are fifth in the media poll and sixth in the coaches poll.
  • Sacramento State has opened Big Sky play 2-0 for just the second time in program history. The Hornets most recently knocked off sixth-ranked Montana State, 34-21. The win was the first in Bozeman, Mont., since 1991. The week prior, the team posted a 48-27 victory over No. 22 Eastern Washington for the first win over the Eagles at Hornet Stadium in 13 total attempts.
  • 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.
  • CW31 will televise the game in the Sacramento region 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).

OPPONENT PREVIEW: MONTANA

  • After missing the FCS playoffs for three consecutive seasons, Montana appears to have returned to its old form this year. Like Sacramento State, the Grizzlies have not lost to an FCS team this year.
  • Quarterback Dalton Sneed is the glue to the Griz offense as he's completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 313.2 yards per game and 15 touchdowns with four interceptions. Sneed has also rushed for four scores and averaged 33.2 yards on the ground.
  • Linebacker Dante Olsen is a preseason All-American and on the Buck Buchanan watch list. Olsen has a team-high 69 tackles with 4.5 for loss.
  • Bobby Hauck is in his second tour as the Montana where he has an 82-18 overall record. Hauck coached the team from 2003-09 before becoming the head coach at UNLV (2010-14). He returned to Montana last season.

THOMSON NAMED BIG SKY POTW

  • Quarterback Kevin Thomson was named the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week following his performance in the team's 34-21 win at then-No. 6 Montana State last Saturday. The honor is the first for Thomson this season and the second of his career.
  • Thomson completed 23-of-30 passes for 260 yards and threw for three touchdowns. He also was the team's leading rusher with 74 yards on 11 carries and a pair of TDs. He rushed in from 7 yards out to score the team's first touchdown of the game. Thomson broke a 7-7 and put the Hornets on top to stay with a 1-yard sneak early in the second quarter.
  • The junior then turned to the air, completing a 7-yard pass to Pierre Williams midway through the second quarter to give Sacramento State a 21-7 lead. In the third quarter, Thomson found BJ Perkinson for a 6-yard TD pass and later connected with Marshel Martin on a 26-yard scoring play in the third quarter.
  • This season, Thomson has thrown for at least three touchdowns in five of the team's six games. He has also rushed for five TDs, including four in the last two games. The Auburn, Wash., native leads the FCS with 24.3 points responsible for per game. His 19 passing touchdowns are already the sixth most in school single-season history while his 44 career TDs are the third most in program history. Thomson has also accounted for 58 career touchdowns (44 passing, 14 rushing) which ties him with Charles Roberts for the second most all-time at Sacramento State.

  • Single Season Passing TDs    Total    Needs
    3. Jeff Fleming (2013)    23    4
    4. Garrett Safron (2012)    22    3
    5. Ricky Ray (1999)    20    1
    6. Kevin Thomson (2019)    19    ---

    Points Responsible For Per Game    Pts    PPG
    1. Kevin Thomson, Sacramento State    146    24.3
    2. Jack Cook, Dayton    120    24.0
    3. Reid Sinnett, San Diego    114    22.8

RANKINGS REHASH

  • Sacramento State made its debut in both the STATS FCS media poll and the AFCA FCS coaches poll this week. The Hornets are 15th in the media poll and 17th in the coaches poll. The last time Sacramento State found itself on the STATS poll was for the Oct. 1, 2011 game against Montana State when it was ranked 25th.
  • That season, the Hornets were ranked in four weeks. The team opened the year at No. 24 and then vaulted to No. 12 following the 29-28 overtime win at Oregon State. Despite a loss at Southern Utah the next week, the team remained in the top 25 at No. 20. Sacramento State then dropped out of the top 25 before returning at No. 25 three weeks later.
  • Since moving to Div. I-AA/FCS, the team has been ranked seven times. However, Sacramento State is just 1-6 in those games with the lone win coming at Oregon State. Strangely, the team has played just once at home when ranked, falling to No. 9 Portland State, 35-23, in 2000.
  • This week's ranking at No. 15 is the second highest spot in school history at the FCS level.
  • The Hornets have also had success this season against ranked teams. The win over then-No. 22 Eastern Washington snapped a streak of 16 consecutive losses to teams in the top 25. Sacramento State took it a step further last week, defeating No. 6 Montana State. That win marked the first time in program history that the team defeated ranked opponents in consecutive games and was also the highest ranked victory in the FCS era. The previous high was a 24-21 win at No. 8 Northern Arizona on Oct. 12, 2002.

TURNOVER TIDBITS

  • Sacramento State extended its streak of forcing at least one turnover in each game this season when Miguel Garcia intercepted a pass on the opening drive of the game against Montana State. The pick, was the second for Garcia in as many weeks, and stopped the Bobcat drive at the Hornet 8-yard line.
  • The Hornets have now picked off seven passes this season which ranks 20th in the FCS and second in the Big Sky behind Portland State's eight INTs. Seven Sacramento State players have an interception this season with Garcia being the only one with two. The total is already a significant improvement over last season where the team had just five interceptions all season.
  • Along with the interceptions, the Hornets have also forced five fumbles to give the team 12 takeaways during the year. Daron Bland, George Obinna and Garcia have each accounted for two takeaways. Bland has an interception and a fumble recovery and Obinna has recovered a pair of fumbles.
  • Where the defense has been extra impressive is when they are put in a tough position following a Sacramento State turnover. The Hornets have given the ball away eight times this year but the defense has surrendered just three points — a field goal at Arizona State — off those turnovers.
  • In fact, the defense has responded by a forcing a pair of fumbles and intercepting a pass immediately following a Sacramento State turnover. The team has also made the opposition punt three times and added a fourth-down goal line stop against Montana State last week.

ANOTHER SHUTOUT FOR THE O-LINE

  • In what is becoming a regular occurrence, the Sacramento State offensive line did not surrender a sack against Montana State. The Hornets have now kept their quarterback off the ground in four of the six games this season, including each of the last three. In fact, the only sacks allowed by the team this season came at Arizona State and Fresno State who each had three.
  • Sacramento State is tied for 13th in the FCS in sacks allowed per game at 1.0. However, a closer look shows all but one team ranked above the Hornets have fewer pass attempts this year. In fact, four of the 13 teams have attempted less than 100 passes and 10 have fewer than 200 attempts. Through six games, Sacramento State has 230 pass attempts.
    The offensive line has had the luxury of starting the same five players in all five games this season with Troy Stiefel (left tackle), Nick Bianco (left guard), Wyatt Ming (center), Thomas Parker (right guard) and Brandon Weldon (right tackle).
  • The last time the Hornets did not allow a sack in three consecutive games came between Oct. 8-29, 2011. That year was also the last time the team was ranked.

HARD TO CONTAIN THEM

  • Through the first two weeks of conference play, the Sacramento State defensive front has been hard to keep in check. The Hornets have tallied 11 sacks against EWU and MSU while no other team in the league has more than seven.
  • Against the Bobcats, George Obinna had a pair of sacks, Josiah Erickson added one and Marcus Hawkins and Marcus Bruce shared one. Those four sacks were part of eight tackles-for-loss by the team.
  • That performance came one week after the team had seven sacks against Eastern Washington which tied for third in school single-game history and were the most since tallying 10 against Idaho State in 2011.
  • Sacramento State's season total of 20 sacks (3.33 per game) ranks fifth nationally and is first in the Big Sky. Ten different players have been credited with a sack with George Obinna leading the way with 6.5. This year's total already surpassed last year's mark of 13. In 2017, the Hornets had 43 team sacks which ranked second in program history and was the most in the school's Div. FCS era.
  • Obinna was a first team all-Big Sky selection in 2017 and entered last season having been named to three preseason FCS All-America teams as well as preseason all-Big Sky. He suffered an injury in the first game against Saint Francis and returned two weeks later at Northern Colorado where he was lost for the season with an ankle injury.
  • Below is where Obinna ranks in the Sacramento State record book:

    Career Sacks    Total    Needs
    1. Zack Nash (2008-11)    29.5    3.5
    2. Mike Brannon (2005-08)    27.5    1.5
    3. George Obinna (2015-pres.)    26.0    ---

    Career Tackles-For-Loss    Total    Needs
    5. Zack Nash (2008-11)    40.5    5.0
    6. George Obinna (2015-pres.)    35.5    ---    

RESETTING THE CLOCK

  • Kevin Thomson entered this season ranked just outside the top 10 in career passing yards and career passing touchdowns but has skyrocketed up the list during the first half of the season.
  • Thomson is currently the all-time leader in two career passing categories. His career pass efficiency of 159.0 is well ahead of the second place mark of 146.5 set by Tony Trosin (1998). Thomson has also averaged 9.05 yards per pass attempt and is well beyond the second place average of 8.24 from Ricky Ray (1999-2000).
  • The Auburn, Wash., native is also eighth in career attempts (546), seventh in  completions (324), third in career completion percentage (.593) and second in career yards per game (235.4).
  • Thomson has set his career highs for completions (32), attempts (50) and yards (361) and tied his high for passing touchdowns (5) this season.
  • Below is where Thomson ranks among the school's all-time leaders:

    Career Passing Yards    Total    Needs
    3. Jason Smith (2007-09)    5,357    394
    4. Mike Sullivan (1981-83)    5,085    122
    5. Kevin Thomson (2017-pres.)    4,963    ---

    Career Passing Touchdowns    Total    Needs
    1. Garrett Safron (2011-14)    86    42
    2. Ryan Leadingham (2001-04)    50    6
    3. Kevin Thomson (2017-pres.)    44    ---

DUAL-THREAT DOTSON

  • Junior Elijah Dotson continued to show his versatility, with a team-high six receptions and 76 receiving yards at Montana State. That performance raised Dotson's total to 39 catches on the year for 437 yards which are both career highs.
  • Dotson had his first breakout rushing game a week prior against EWU. In that game, he had 16 carries for 102 yards for his seventh career game over the century mark.
  • Overall, Dotson has 664 all-purpose yards and ranks fourth in the Big Sky at 110.7 yards per game. His career average of 110.9 ranks him seventh in school history and he needs 207 yards to crack the top 10 in career all-purpose yards.
  • Last season, Dotson led 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.
  • Below is where the Antelope HS ranks in the Sacramento State record book:

    Career Rushing Yards    Total    Needs
    6. Troy Mills (1990-91)    2,771    916
    7. Rob Harrison (1985-86)    1,924    69
    8. Garrett Safron (2011-14)    1,906    51
    9. Elijah Dotson (2017-pres.)    1,855    ---

    Career Rushing Touchdowns    Total    Needs
    T5. Jordan Robinson (2013-16)    25    9
    T5. Troy Mills (1990-91)    25    9
    7. Elijah Dotson (2017-pres.)    16    ---

QUICK HITTERS

  • 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 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 Hornets will play FBS Arizona State and Fresno State in the non-conference portion of its schedule before facing eight of the top nine ranked teams from the preseason Big Sky poll in conference play. The team's four home games will come against schools picked to finished 1-4 in both the preseason and media poll.
  • 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.
  • Bianco was named as one of the 185 semifinalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy. The award recognizes an individual as the absolute best football scholar-athlete in the nation for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary leadership.
  • The 77 points scored by Sacramento State in the season opener were the most in program history and tied for the most in the FCS this season.
  • The 50-0 win over Northern Colorado was the team's first shutout since a 14-0 contest at UNC in 2011 which was played in heavy rain. The last home shutout was a 30-0 win over SF State in 1994.
  • Sacramento State had an interception and fumble return for touchdowns against Eastern Washington. The team had not had two defensive TDs in a game since 2009.
  • The 2019 defensive coaching staff may be new to the Hornets but they are no strangers to the Big Sky Conference. The trio of Andy Thompson (DC/LB), Cherokee Valeria (secondary) and Kraig Paulson (DL) own a combined 50 years as experience as coaches and players in the conference.
  • The offensive staff is on the opposite end of the spectrum for Big Sky experience as running backs coach James Montgomery is in his sixth year with the team and head coach Troy Taylor spent one year as the OC at Eastern Washington.
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