Hornets prepare for week five matchup

Jeremiah Martinez

With Sacramento State quarterback Daniel Kniffin questionable for Saturday’s game against the University of Northern Colorado after a previous injury, backup Kolney Cassel had increased reps this week in practice to potentially prepare to start.

Sac State coach Jody Sears said Kniffin will be a game-time decision.

Running back Jordan Robinson said the team is confident in whoever starts at the position.

“Cassel is a good quarterback,” Robinson said. “He knows what he’s doing, he knows the checks [downs], [and] he knows the reads.”

Sac State will enter the game with a 1-3 overall and 0-1 Big Sky Conference record. Northern Colorado is looking for its first conference win, as they enter the matchup with an 0-2 conference record and 2-2 overall.

Heading into Saturday’s matchup against Northern Colorado on a three-game losing streak, it’s important to get the running game going for Sac State football.

Robinson said success of the offense starts with the offensive line.

“We can’t do anything offensively without a line,” Robinson said. “I just follow them.”

Robinson has amassed 100 rushing yards or more in his last two games. In last weekend’s 28-20 loss against Eastern Washington University, Robinson had 19 carries for 104 yards. On Sept. 19, the junior ran for 106 yards on 12 carries in a 32-14 loss against Weber State University on the road.

The running back had the biggest play of the game for the Hornets with a 69-yard rushing score in the third quarter against the Wildcats.

Sears said success of running the ball on offense has to be consistent to win.

“We got to work at it, we just have to keep getting better at it,” Sears said. “It’s got to be a point of emphasis, if we want to win, we have to run the ball and stop the run.”

The Hornets are averaging 114.8 yards on the ground per game, but only have 3.8 yards per carry.

Also, Sears said the success of running the game could open it up for receiver Nnamdi Agude to get more involved in the offense.

“You have to be able to get the ball in your playmaker’s hands,” Sears said. “At the same time, you have to take advantage of what the defenses have been giving you.”

This season, Agude has recorded 10 receptions for 135 yards and no touchdowns in three games. The senior didn’t play in the game against Weber State due to an undisclosed injury.

In 2014, Agude earned second team all-Big Sky Conference honors with 70 receptions for 1,156 yard and 10 touchdowns. Both his receptions and yardage totals were fifth-most in the program for a single-season, and his touchdowns ranked sixth.

With defenses taking Agude away from the game, it has allowed receivers Isiah Hennie and Shane Harrison to get more involved in the offense.

Both Harrison’s (21 receptions for 290 yards) and Hennie’s (15 receptions for 168 yards and two touchdowns) numbers are good for first and second on the team, ahead of Agude.

In last week’s loss against Eastern Washington, the Hornets held a 20-7 lead at halftime, but the Eagles rallied back with three third quarter touchdowns, as Sac State couldn’t get anything going on offense.

Hennie said it’s important for the team to start fast and finish on offense to win against Northern Colorado.

“[We] have to come out with the same fire and intensity because we come out first half of every game we play with passion, and then we came in at halftime, it’s like we hit a wall or something,” Hennie said. “So just being able to play all four quarters and execute our assignments, it’s going to be the difference in this week’s game.”

Sears said mental focus and leadership are important qualities to be able to play four quarters and win this Saturday.

“There’s no magic pixie dust,” Sears said. “You coach them, you teach them and you stress it and you keep coaching, but at some point in time they have to take the leadership and the selflessness and put themselves in position that’s best for the team.

Saturday’s game is slated for 6:05 p.m. at Hornet Stadium. It will be the second consecutive home game for the Hornets.