Football gets paid as it conquers another Pac-12 school

State Hornet Staff

One field goal gave Sacramento State football more than it could ever imagine.

With no time remaining in the game against the University of Colorado, kicker Edgar Castaneda’s 30-yard field goal sailed through the goalposts to give the Hornets a 30-28 win Saturday afternoon in Boulder, Colo.

“I’m kind of speechless after a day like today,” Sac State head coach Marshall Sperbeck said after the game. “It was a great football game and I give the (players) all the credit because they really showed resilience to play it all the way through.”

The win marked the second time that Sac State defeated a Pac-12 school in as many years. Last year, the Hornets defeated Oregon State on the road in Corvallis, Ore.

“After Castaneda made the kick, we all just rushed the field and there were so many emotions running through me,” quarterback Garrett Safron said. “It was just surreal. I didn’t believe it at first.”

Safron finished the game with a career-high 312 yards passing that included two touchdown scores.

Coming into Saturday’s game, Colorado was favored by 21.5 points, but with 2:26 left in the fourth quarter, the Hornets marched 72 yards down the field to set up the game winning field goal.

“I told my team, ‘get me there and I’ll do my job.’” Castaneda said. “When I saw the ball I just took a big breath and thought it was another kick.”

The Hornets trailed in the first quarter until Safron threw a 35-yard pass to wide receiver Chris Broadnax for Sac State’s third consecutive touchdown, giving them a 21-14 lead with 5:44 left in the first half.

Colorado regained the lead in the third quarter when fullback Christian Powell scored his third touchdown of the game. That was all Colorado’s offense could muster though, as it watched Sac State complete another upset against a Pac-12 school.

Not only did the Hornets receive their first win of the season, but they also gained some national attention and a considerable amount of money.

Because Sac State receives fewer scholarships than football programs in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, the college is grouped with a number of smaller schools as a part of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.

The FCS is comprised of 122 schools than range from the Big Sky Conference all the way to the Ivy League. At the end of the season, there is a 20-team tournament to determine a national champion.

Sac State athletic director Terry Wanless explained that despite having their own conferences and postseason tournament, FCS schools are encouraged to play FBS schools for experience and also to make money for their programs.

“We need the money to help our budgets,” Wanless said.

Since FBS schools have a higher budget for their football programs, they traditionally pay smaller schools to play them on their home field.

“The NCAA rules allow FBS schools to play one FCS school per year and count it to become bowl eligible,” Wanless said. “So (the FBS teams) look at buying these games which they anticipate to be wins. Fortunately for us, we kind of ruined the party.”

Sac State’s football budget is just above $2.7 million, and with money being spent on travel, equipment and scholarships, schools with lower budgets are happy to accept payment from selected bigger schools.

“We will not play Alabama and we will not play Oregon,” Wanless said. “I don’t want to put our kids in a situation where they have basically have no chance to compete. We try to be selective.”

Over the last two seasons, Sac State’s football program has made a total of $910,000 by traveling to both Oregon State and Colorado.

Wanless said the money has gone into helping the athletic department pay the $1.2 million dollars to put turf in Hornet Stadium two years ago.

“We made a decision three years ago to change out the field from natural grass to field turf because it gives us so much more flexibility,” Wanless said. “Over time it is less expensive than grass but more importantly it has a much greater usability.”

Not only did Sac State football leave Boulder, Colo. with its first win of the season, but players gained experience and the university was paid for all of it.

“It’s a great win for Sac State but it is what we do next week and down the road that matters,” Sperbeck said, looking ahead to his next opponent. “I think it is important that our players understand that this was a great effort today but we need to bounce back and do it again next week.”

The Hornets will return for their first home game of the season against Northern Colorado at 2:05 p.m. on Sept 15 at Hornet Stadium.

Ryan Kuhn can be reached at @rskuhn