Causeway Classic draws near


causeway classic::Megan Harris – State Hornet

AJ Taylor

Last season quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and the rest of the Hornets faced their rival UC Davis Aggies within the walls of Hornet Stadium. Bethel-Thompson led his Hornets down the field in a last minute drive to take the lead and the win. But most importantly the Hornets’ win kept the trophy of the Causeway Classic on Sacramento soil for yet another year.

This year the 57th annual contest will be Saturday at Aggie Stadium in Davis at 4:05 p.m. Quarterback Jeff Fleming and his 2010 Hornets will soon begin their venture on Saturday.

Sacramento State is hoping for its third straight Causeway Classic victory. The last time Sac State won three straight Classics was 19 years ago when they won five straight from 1988-1991 (two were played in 1988).

“I just remember the look on the seniors faces and how good it felt to beat (Davis) for the second year in a row and just what it means to this school and this community” said sophomore lineman Tyler Worthley.

The Hornets are currently riding a three game winning streak including 30 and 28 point victories over Big Sky Conference opponents including a 45-17 win at Idaho State University which guaranteed the team a winning season.

“(A winning season is) something that last season I didn’t get to enjoy, and it just makes you happy to know that that’s going to happen,” Fleming said. “But you’ve got to put that in the back of your mind because at the end of the day you’ve got another game coming up this week and we have to focus on that and try to make the best out of it.”

In comparison, the Aggies are in the middle of a two game winning streak – with the last win in comeback fashion. The Aggies scored 22 unanswered points in the second half of their other rivalry game against the Cal Poly Mustangs to win 22-21 at San Luis Obispo.

So far this season the Aggies have not defended their home well. The Aggies are 1-3 at home this season, compared to last season when they went 4-1 at home.

The Aggies’ (5-5) season in many ways depends on this game. The outcome of their last game will decide whether they finish the season with a winning record or not.

“I think this game is important every year that we play no matter what’s on the line for either team. Primarily because there are certain games on your schedule that you look at that stand out more than the others and any rivalry game is going to jump out to anybody right away,” said UC Davis Assistant Athletics Director Mike Robles.

The Causeway Classic always brings close results. In fact, the last three years have been decided by 10 points or less.

The biggest question mark for the Hornets entering the Classic would be running back Bryan Hilliard, who did not play in Saturday’s victory over Idaho State due to a bone spur in his foot. Hilliard leads the team in rushing yards with 883, and led the Big Sky conference in rushing yards only a few weeks ago. Hilliard is third in the Big sky in yards per game with 98.1.

Hilliard was unavailable for comment.

If Hilliard is unable to play this week against UC Davis it would mean he has missed the Causeway Classic the last two seasons. Fleming went 15-19 passing with 207 yards and three touchdowns despite Hilliard’s absence.

Fleming was named Big Sky co-offensive player of the week two weeks ago, after passing for 333 yards against No. 25 Northern Arizona University. He passed for three touchdowns, two to freshman wide receiver Morris Norrise.

“People have been talking about (the rivalry), I’m just trying to focus on doing my stuff right now,” Fleming said.

The Hornet quarterback also comes into this contest with a bit of experience of his own. In his time at New Mexico State University, Fleming played in all of his Aggies’ 13 games including games against University of Texas at El Paso and their most heated rivalry game against the University of New Mexico.

“I’ve been a part of a couple big rivalry games before and this is going to be my first one here at Sacramento State versus Davis. But I’ve heard a lot about it from the guys, so I’m pretty excited for it,” Fleming said.

In 2009, Fleming defeated their rival University of New Mexico 20-17.

Fleming is fourth in the conference in passing yards with 1,784 yards and has thrown for 20 touchdowns.

Not only do the players look forward to rivalry of the Causeway Classic, but so do the students.

Carolyn Smith, a junior health science major at Sac State, said she has not missed a Causeway Classic since she has been attending Sac State.

“Of course (I will be there). It’s football and it’s the Causeway Classic and we have to beat Davis,” Smith said.

But Smith said Sac State needs to show more support at this year’s match since it is an away game.

“I think we need a little bit more help on Sac State’s end,” Smith said. “UC Davis has their cheer team a little bit larger than ours, so we need to work on ours a little bit.”

AJ Taylor can be reached at [email protected]