Football ends season in 35-21 Causeway Classic defeat

Jeremiah Martinez

In a battle of two freshman quarterbacks, it was C.J. Spencer leading UC Davis to a 35-21 victory over Nate Ketteringham and Sacramento State in the 62nd annual Causeway Classic on Saturday at Hornet Stadium.

The loss puts the Hornets (2-9 overall, 1-7 in Big Sky Conference) in a tie for last place in the Big Sky standings with Idaho State for the year. It was also Sac State’s third consecutive loss and marked the first time the program ended a season with two wins since 2005 (2-9).

Sac State was also outgained 523 to 360 total yards offensively.

“We weren’t good enough on defense,” Sac State coach Jody Sears said. “It just seems like the last probably two or three weeks we just ran out of steam.”

At the start of the game it was all Aggies, as Spencer led the offense to an eight-play, 76-yard scoring drive on the team’s second possession of the game. Spencer scored his first touchdown of the day on a 13-yard rush on an option play to get the Aggies on the board first. The freshman ended the night 23-of-35 for 312 yards and four total touchdowns (three passing and one rushing).

The Aggies’ impressive first half continued with 14 unanswered points in the second quarter, with two touchdown passes from Spencer to Atlas Smith (8-yard reception) and Manusamoa Luuga (3-yard reception).

In the second half, the Hornets caught momentum when Austin Clark forced a fumble from running back Joshua Kelley and Elijah Wallace recovered it to put the Hornets in Aggies territory on the 31-yard line.

On the ensuing drive, senior Shane Harrison continued his hot streak, hauling in his eighth touchdown in four games to cut UC Davis’ lead to 21-7. The senior scored on a 7-yard pass from Ketteringham.

Later in the third quarter, Sac State’s special teams unit gave its team life after Garrett Steele blocked Colby Wadman’s punt and Tyler Meeter returned it for a 43-yard score to cut the deficit to 21-14.

UC Davis, however, did not go away that easily. Spencer found holes in Sac State’s defense, throwing his third touchdown of the game to Nehemiah Winston to extend the Aggies’ lead to 28-14 with 1:03 to go in the third quarter.

When it looked like the momentum was heading the Hornets’ way, the Aggies put the dagger in Sac State after Kelley rushed for three yards to extend their lead to 35-14.

UC Davis coach Ron Gould talked to Kelly after his fumble earlier in the second half.

“I told him, ‘If you hang your head, you will not go back into the game. So I need you to respond, ‘It’s OK, we’ll get through this,’” Gould said.

In his final game as a freshman, Ketteringham went 28-of-46 for 296 yards and two touchdowns.

With sophomores Daniel Kniffin and Kolney Cassel returning from injuries next season, Sears didn’t officially declare Ketteringham as the starter moving forward after Saturday’s game.

“We have to see what the offseason brings,” Sears said.

Harrison came up one yard short of finishing his senior season with four straight games of 100 or more receiving yards. The senior hauled in nine receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown.

It also served as the last game for linebacker Darnell Sankey and receiver Nnamdi Agude, who recorded six receptions for 74 yards.

After playing his last game on Saturday, Sankey said he wants to take his talent to the next level in the NFL next year.

“I love Sacramento State football, I love Sac State, I love being a Hornet but I have to move on,” Sankey said. “It’s a tough loss as a team, and I have to start looking forward and try to make it to the league.”

Sankey’s last game as a Hornet included the linebacker accumulating 17 tackles in a season he recorded 153 tackles. He was one shy of the program season record for most tackles.

Sears said he wants to see his team make strides in the weight room heading into next season.

“The one thing that has stood out to me over the course of time and the whole season is our physical strength,” Sears said. “We have to make a tremendous commitment to the weight room, and that’s where it has to start.”