Hornets defeat UCD at ‘Classic’


Sac State students cheered on the Hornets hoping to finally end the Causeway Classic losing streak.:

Taylor Collis

The 55th Annual Causeway Classic on Saturday at the new Aggies Stadium in University of California, Davis was a major turning point for the Hornets. For the first time since 1999, the Hornets were able to defeat the Aggies 29 to 19.

“It hasn’t been much of a rivalry (in the past) because we haven’t won. After today we stirred it up and now it’s a rivalry again. We woke them up and showed them who we are,” said Head Coach Marshall Sperbeck.

The Hornets played through 63-degree weather and more than half of the fans rooting for UC Davis to win. But the Hornets were already pumped up after coming back from playing against Eastern Washington the weekend before and defeating it 15 to 13 on the road.

“Seeing the smiles on the (players) faces after our last win definitely motivated us. This is a turning point for Sac State’s tradition (against UC Davis),” said senior middle linebacker Cyrus Mulitalo.

The Hornet victory formation at the end of the game was filled with excitement. Every Hornet player had a smile on his face knowing the team had just broken the seven-game losing streak against UC Davis.

“Beating Davis in my senior year after working so hard this season was indescribable. We gotta go out on top,” Mulitalo said.

None of the players or coaching staff this season have been around when the Hornets beat the Aggies in the past. For a few of the players, this has been the first time they’ve even played UC Davis and seen what it’s like playing in front of such an enthusiastic crowd.

“I’ve never played Davis before. Just walking through the tunnel (onto the field) I knew this would be a great game,” said freshman wide receiver Chase Deadder.

“It’s harder for our younger players to understand the depth of this rivalry, but they’re still amped to be a part of it. The Causeway Classic has been around for 35 years. It gets the whole team excited, it gets the city excited, and it gets us ready to go,” Mulitalo said.

On the opening drive of the game, the Hornets scored within the first three minutes of the first quarter. They made the touchdown with a 29-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Jason Smith to senior wide receiver Tony Washington. Junior defensive end Kyle Hill was the ball holder for the point after and ended up recovering from his fumble and rushing for a two-point conversion. This was not planned and was not in the Hornet playbook, said Sperbeck.

“Kyle was just ad-libbing. I might have to draw up that play (for the future) though,” Sperbeck said.

The Hornets were then able to stop the Aggies’ first drive down the field, which got the Hornet players and fans pumped up. Then the Hornets drove down the field again, and within six plays made another touchdown with a 35-yard pass to Washington. By this time, sophomore running back Bryan Hilliard already had seven carries for 44 yards total. But, the Hornets couldn’t keep the Aggies away from the end zone for too long. After the Hornets scored, the Aggies finally had a successful drive that ended in a touchdown. The ending score for the first quarter was 15 to 7.

In the beginning of the second quarter, the Hornets were finally stopped, and then the Aggies scored another touchdown under two minutes from the start of the drive. UC Davis tried to put more points on the board by attempting a two-point conversion but failed. In UC Davis’ next drive, they tried for a fourth down conversion, but junior defensive end Kevin Moore sacked the Aggies quarterback, stopping the drive. The Hornets took advantage of the field location and the two penalties the Aggies received during the Hornets drive for pass interference and offside. Sac State was able to score another touchdown when Smith rushed for one yard ending the first half 22 to 13.

“Before the game, people were taking this game seriously. But by half time we knew we had this,” Washington said.

During the first drive of the third quarter, senior cornerback Kevin Davis caused a fumble and freshman defensive end Zack Nash was able to recover the ball. The Hornets scored on that drive with a two-yard pass completion to Washington. At this point, Washington caught four passes totaling 81 yards and made three touchdowns.

Five minutes into the fourth quarter, Mulitalo intercepted a pass for the second time this season. The Hornets then received two penalties on their drive and Smith was hit hard, hurting his ankle injury he received earlier in the season.

“He’s a tough kid, as tough as anyone on the team,” Sperbeck said.

He was replaced by sophomore third string quarterback Duncan White. UC Davis then put the final points on the board when they made a touchdown. The Aggies tried for another two-point conversion, bringing in their backup quarterback, but failed. Their onside kick failed as well. Then the Hornets ended the game when sophomore safety Peter Buck intercepted a pass in the end zone and ran for 34 yards.

Smith’s completion percentage was about 56 percent, but many of his throws were over 20 yards. When Smith did complete a pass, he was very accurate, Sperbeck said, no matter if the defender was covering the receiver well or if he was open.

“I thought Jason was very accurate. At this point last year I think he had like 15 or 16 interceptions. He only has three so far this season. So, he’s come a long way from where he was last year,” said Sperbeck.

This was not just a turning point for the team but also the program and showed how far the coaching staff has come. Senior tackle Ray Navar said in the press conference on Nov. 4 that this game would be the next step in changing the athletic program and it’s an honor to be part of this rivalry game.

“(Sperbeck) is definitely bringing the program to where it needs to be,” Mulitalo said.

The Hornets’ final home game will be against Northern Colorado at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday and then will play Idaho State on the road on Nov. 22 to end the season.

“We’ve got two weeks of unfinished business left. Today we’ll enjoy it then go back to practice and focus on the next game,” Sperbeck said.

Taylor Collis can be reached at [email protected].