The 25th anniversary of the game that ended the streak

Clifton Jones

Saturday’s Causeway Classic will be the 25th anniversary of the 1988 game that saw Sacramento State snap a UC Davis 18-game winning streak over the Hornets.

Sac State beat Davis with a game-winning touchdown pass from quarterback Bryan Pendergast to wide receiver Mark Young with 1:31 left on the clock in the fourth quarter giving the Hornets the lead 31-28.

The win gave Sac State momentum into the NCAA Div. II playoffs, in which the Hornets beat UC Davis for a second time in the season advancing to the semi-finals, ultimately losing to North Dakota State, 42-20.

Davis defensive back Mike Papadopoulos said his team never gave up after Young made the go-ahead catch.

“We still thought we had a chance to put something together,” Papadopoulos said.

The Davis loss gave Sac State its first Causeway Classic victory since 1969.

Sac State went on to win its next five meetings against Davis, including the quarterfinals postseason match that same season as the Hornets beat the Aggies 35-14.

“After we beat Davis we had lifted the monkey off our backs,” 1988 Hornets free safety Gary Lunsford said.

Lunsford played free safety for the Hornets from 1986-88. He garnered an all-American award (1988), all-Conference award (1988) and was inducted into the Sac State Hall of Fame in 2008.

Leading to the first matchup in 1988, Sac State was 2-0 while UC Davis was 1-1. Despite the .500 record, the Aggies were considered the favorites. Lunsford said the week before the Causeway Classic was crazy.

“It was exciting being on campus the week of the Causeway game. Everywhere I would go on campus, I would see someone wave the Beat Davis shirt,” Lunsford said. “It was a little nerve wracking in ‘88 because we didn’t beat them the last 18 years.”

Every year, the media blitzes both teams’ practice fields heading into the big game. It was no different back in 1988, but Papadopoulos said the team stayed focused on the task at hand during the week.

“There was a lot of build up of the first matchup that season, we knew Sac State would be a tough challenge that week,” Papadopoulos said. “But we didn’t let the hooplah of the practice field affect the way we prepared for both games that year.”

Lunsford said the Causeway week always brought more excitement to practice. 

“It was crazy, that week of practice, the intensity was higher and it was the one game we circled every year no matter how we are doing before that game,” Lunsford said.

Like with any rivalry, there comes a lot of pride and tradition between both programs.

“There was nothing friendly about the competition during the games, but there was a lot riding on the first game because we were the underdogs,” Lunsford said.

1988 teams from both Sac State and UC Davis will have memories of those games for the rest of their lives.