Hornets drop second straight; lose 27-26 against NAU

Junior running back Sam McCowan caught a 13-yard touchdown pass
in the second quarter.

Junior running back Sam McCowan caught a 13-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.

AJ Taylor

The Sacramento State football team dropped its second straight contest, losing 27-26 to Northern Arizona University at Hornet Stadium Saturday night.

The Hornets’ kicking game continued to plague the team.

Two of Jason Diniz’s extra points were blocked, costing the Hornets two points  the difference between a Hornets loss and a Hornets win.

The Hornets were still fighting to win with 51 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

It was fourth and inches for the NAU Lumberjacks and a stop by the Hornets would give their offense one more chance to get into field goal range. But the Lumberjacks converted and kneeled on the next play to run out the clock.

Senior quarterback Jeff Fleming was sidelined for the second consecutive week due to a right calf injury. The same injury kept Fleming out of last week’s homecoming loss to the defending national champion Eastern Washington Eagles.

The quarterback duo of sophomore Tommy Edwards and redshirt freshman Garrett Safron replaced Fleming for the second consecutive game.

Safron, who threw only one pass against Eastern Washington University in 16 plays, was a more effective passer tonight, tossing his first two career touchdown passes.

It was exciting,” Safron said. “I had to act like I’d been there before.”

Safron completed five of seven pass attempts for a total of 130 yards. Edwards completed 10 of 24 pass attempts and threw one interception.

The longest completion of the night was a 48-yard pass by Safron to senior wide receiver Brandyn Reed, who reeled in the pass on the Lumberjacks’ 13-yard-line between two defenders.

Later that drive, Safron connected with running back Sam McCowan for a 13-yard touchdown pass. This was McCowan’s first career receiving touchdown and Safron’s first career passing touchdown. The Hornets led 14-7 after the successful extra point.

The Hornets opened the scoring in the first quarter when defensive back Kyle Monson intercepted Lumberjacks junior quarterback Cary Grossart’s pass and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown.

NAU answered when running back Zach Bauman broke a 44-yard touchdown run to tie the game at seven.

Bauman rushed for 251 yards on 38 attempts and scored two touchdowns for the Lumberjacks. Each touchdown either tied the game or gave the Lumberjacks the lead  including the winning score in the fourth quarter  a one-yard run that gave the Lumberjacks a 27-20 lead.

After Bauman’s second touchdown, Safron led the Hornets on a 64-yard scoring drive that culminated in senior running back Bryan Hilliard’s one-yard touchdown run. Diniz’s extra point attempt was block.

They would remain a point down for the rest of the game.

Diniz was not the only Hornet to miss critical scoring opportunities.

The Hornets were threatening to take the lead with 12 seconds left in the first half and the ball on the 2 yard line. Tommy Edwards’s pass in the end-zone was intercepted by sophomore defensive back Mike Dosen.

“We made far too many mistakes. We had the ball inside of the three-yard line twice and fumbled (and threw an interception),” head coach Marshall Sperbeck said. “You can’t win games in this conference when you do that.”

The Hornets (3-5, 2-4) are out of playoff contention. No team has ever received an at-large Football Championship Series playoff berth with less than seven wins.

Some of the Hornets players tried to remain positive after the season-sealing loss.

“We’ll take it one day at a time, one practice at a time and get better every day,” senior Zack Nash said.

AJ Taylor can be reached at [email protected]