MOSCOW, Idaho — A punishing ground game and a stellar performance by the defense led No. 6 Sacramento State to a 31-7 win at Idaho on Saturday. With the win, the Hornets improved to 8-3 overall and 6-1 in the Big Sky Conference. The team will have the chance to play for at least a share of the Big Sky title next week in the Causeway Classic.
The eight victories are the most for Sacramento State in the school's Div. I era (1993-pres.) while the six conference wins are tied for the most since joining the Big Sky.The Hornets also completed a perfect road record in conference games, winning all four for the first time in school history.
The Hornets rushed for 222 yards and outgained the Vandals overall, 409-194. Sacramento State limited Idaho to just eight first downs which marked the first time an opponent had less than 10 since Northern Colorado had five in a rain-soaked game in 2011.
"It was an incredible performance by the defense," Sacramento State head coach Troy Taylor said. "(On offense) we always try to be balanced…we just weren't quite in sync like we wanted to be but we were able to run the ball."
Elijah Dotson rushed for 109 yards and two scores, BJ Perkinson added 67 and Marcus Fulcher provided 31 yards in the fourth quarter to lead the Hornet rushing attack.
"You have to give all credit to the o-line," Dotson said. "They created a lot of holes for me to get through. Having Kevin (Thomson) back made it a lot easier on the run game because it takes the focus off me and BJ."
Sacramento State took little time getting on the board as the offense received great field position following a fumble which was forced by Marcus Bruce and recovered by Caelan Barnes on the opening drive of the game. Six plays later, Kevin Thomson used a dramatic fake toss to freeze the defense then took it himself up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown. The score was his eighth rushing TD of the year and the 17th of his career which moved him into sole possession of eighth place in the Hornet record book.
A second turnover by the defense gave the Hornets a short field and the offense took advantage of the takeaway. Josiah Erickson scooped up an errant snap which went off the hands of Mason Petrino and gave Sacramento State the ball at the Idaho 19. The Hornets weren't able to do much and settled for a short field goal from Devon Medeiros. However, the Vandals were flagged for running into the kicker and Troy Taylor sent the offense back on the field for a chance at 4th-and-inches. After converting to keep the drive alive, Dotson stiff armed his way around the left edge for a 4-yard score for his 20th career rushing score.
"That is what is expected of the defense week in an week out," middle linebacker Marcus Hawkins said. "We hold ourselves to a high standard every week so when we do that, we're not really that impressed by it because that is what we expect."
Medeiros pushed the lead to 17-0 with a 33-yard field goal and the defense followed with another 3-and-out which was capped by sacks from Wyatt Hjelm and George Obinna. The sack by Obinna gave him 13.5 on the year and moved him ahead of Zack Nash for the single-season record at Sacramento State.
The Hornets added one more touchdown to close the half when Perkinson broke through several tackle attempts for a 22-yard score. The Hornets took a 24-0 lead into the locker room and recorded their third first half shutout of the year. Sacramento State limited Idaho to just 16 yards on 25 plays in the half while amassing 298 yards of their own.
Idaho got on the board midway through the third quarter with a 24-yard pass from Petrino to Cutrell Haywood. The drive was set up after the Hornets failed to convert inside the 5-yard line. On third down, Thomson rolled to his right and missed a wide open Perkinson as his lobbed pass fell short. The team elected to go for it on fourth down and the snap sailed off Thomson's hands and was recovered at the 25-yard line.
Any thoughts of a Vandal comeback was ended early in the fourth quarter when Dotson single-handedly took the Hornets into the end zone. The junior had four carries to account for all 31 yards of the drive and score his second touchdown of the game. Dotson went over 100 yards during the series before plowing his way into the end zone for a 5-yard score. The drive was set up by another stop from the Hornet defense. Hawkins brought down a receiver on a screen pass just short of the sticks. The following play, Jeremy Harris blew up a fourth-down rush attempt to give the ball back to Sacramento State.
Idaho had one final chance to score points as it moved down the field to the Hornet 7-yard line. From there, the defense forced a fumble and then added a fourth-down sack to keep the team out of the end zone.
Sacramento State will close out its regular season with the 66th Causeway Classic on Saturday, Nov. 23, at 2 p.m. Fans are encouraged to purchase tickets early and get inside Hornet Stadium early to honor the senior class prior to the start of the game.
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