Penalties falter Sac State in loss to Southern Utah

Curtis Manlapig

Sacramento State football(1-3) beat itself with costly penalties Saturday against Southern Utah (3-1) leading to a 24-21 overtime loss at Hornet Stadium.

The Hornets defense committed three penalties, two of which negated interceptions, on the Thunderbirds 98-yd game-tying drive in the fourth quarter.

A roughing the passer penalty denied a 104-yard interception return touchdown by freshman defensive back Anthony Payne.

“I just saw the replay on the board, I don’t have any comment on it, I can’t comment on it, it’s over,” head coach Marshall Sperbeck said regarding the penalty.

Before that point, the Hornet defense had its best showing of the season, limiting Southern Utah to 255 yards of total offense and 13 points through the first three quarters.

Senior linebacker Todd Davis led the team with 13 tackles and a blocked extra point. The defense also forced its first turnover of the season when a pass from Southern Utah quarterback Aaron Cantu was intercepted by senior defensive back Robert Beale just before the end of the first half.

Davis acknowledged miscues were momentum killers for the defense Saturday.

“When you put yourself in hard situations like third down penalties, you’re not playing one team, you’re playing two teams,” Davis said. “You have to be smart in your decisions so they can’t throw a flag for certain things.”

Following the 1-yard touchdown run at the end of the fourth quarter, the Thunderbirds were down 21-19 and completed the two-point attempt after Payne tipped the ball right into the hands of wide receiver Griff McNabb.

“It was a tough play, not much that you could do about that,” Davis said.  

Heading into overtime, the Hornets started with the ball and quickly went three-and-out that and capped their only overtime possession with a missed 45-yard field goal attempt by junior kicker Jesse Aguilar. Aguilar has yet to make a field goal going 0-5 on the season.

The T-Birds took over and converted the game winning 38-yard field goal by preseason FCS All-American kicker Colton Cook.

“This is a tough one to swallow and this is a game we had wrapped up and we let it get away from us,” Sperbeck said.

Despite the defensive letdowns, the Hornets were solid on offense in the first half, scoring three touchdowns and accumulating 312 yards.

Junior quarterback Garrett Safron found senior wide receiver Morris Norrise for a 33-yard score in the first quarter to take the 7-0 lead.

Safron then led two 75-yard scoring drives by  throwing a touchdown pass to junior wide receiver DeAndre Carter and handing off to senior running back Ezekiel Graham for a score.

Safron finished the game 19-35 for 205 yards  and two touchdowns.

Although the loss is fresh, Davis realizes it’s time to move on and prepare for next week.

“This one was pretty hard just because we really had the game won about two or three times but the penalties really hurt us,” Davis said. “This is a tough one but tomorrow we’re gonna watch the film and put this one in the past.”

You can reach Curtis Manlapig on Twitter at @CTMstatehornet