Sacramento State never recovered from New Mexico State’s offensive onslaught after Aggies quarterback Andrew Manley threw for 284 yards in the first half, leading his team to a 49-19 win on Thursday.
Manley finished the game passing for 367 yards and three touchdowns.
Despite a 30-point loss, Sac State head coach Marshall Sperbeck was very positive about his team’s first performance of the season.
“There were some good moments and some positive things to take from the game,” Sperbeck said. “But, we have to go back to work tomorrow and fix some things to become a better football team.”
The Aggies started off with the early lead when Manley threw a 53-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Austin Franklin in the first quarter.
Manley found Franklin again for another 50-yard pass early in the second quarter, setting up a 2-yard rushing touchdown by Tiger Powell to put New Mexico State ahead, 14-0.
Franklin led all receivers with a career-high of eight catches for 236 yards and two touchdown receptions.
The Hornets retaliated with a field goal by junior Edgar Castaneda and a touchdown pass by sophomore quarterback Garrett Safron to DeAndre Carter, but would trail at halftime, 28-10.
“Coach was upset but was proud of us because for the most part, we were doing our job,” said senior defensive back Ryan McMahon. “We were playing well but we let some mistakes get by.”
As the Hornets came out in the second half, the offense used junior Ezekiel Graham’s the running game to open up passing lanes for Safron.
“I thought we did a good job getting a score on the first drive of the second half,” Sperbeck said. “We were fighting but we didn’t play well enough to win.”
Graham, a transfer from LA Southwest College, would finish with a game-high 47 yards rushing.
“I think Ezekiel is just starting to learn the offense and I think the more he gets comfortable he will get more opportunities,” Sperbeck said. “He showed some good things in that first game.”
Even though the Hornets outscored New Mexico State in the third quarter 9-0 with Castaneda’s second field goal and a touchdown pass to tight end T.J. Knowles, Safron
fumbled the ball with less than two minutes remaining and the offense did not score again.
“I have to be more consistent,” Safron said. “We can’t have turnovers. Those are on me and I have to protect the ball.”
The Aggies rushed for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to extend their lead and eventually give Sac State their first loss of the season.
“Our goal and our objective as a football team is to win and we have to play better football to do so,” Sperbeck said.
The Hornets will play one more road game against the University of Colorado on Saturday at noon.
Colorado lost its season opener to Colorado State on Saturday and will be the first meeting between the two teams.
“(Colorado) is a big physical team and we know we are going to go against a very good football team,” Sperbeck said.
This will be the first time that Sac State will play two FBS teams to start the season in more than 12 years.
“I think it definitely helps us,” McMahon said. “When we have an opportunity to play up it is a great challenge for us and I don’t think we will be outmatched in any way.”
The Hornets head to the University of Colorado on Saturday. Kick-off is at 12 p.m.
Ryan Kuhn can be reached at @rskuhn