Sac State football team shows promise in loss at Arizona State

35-point underdog Hornets put on impressive defensive output against Sun Devils


Nick Canaday - The State Press

Arizona State junior wide receiver Frank Darby catches a pass against Sac State on Friday, Sept. 6 at Sun Devil Stadium. The Sun Devils entered the game as 35 point favorites but narrowly defeated the Hornets 19-7.

Michael Wiggins

A record-setting performance on defense was not enough for the Sacramento State football team as the Hornets fell to Arizona State by a score of 19-7 Friday night.

First-year head coach Troy Taylor took his Hornets (1-1) on the road for the first time this season to Tempe, Arizona to take on PAC-12 team Arizona State (2-0).

The Hornets, a  Football Championship Subdivision 1-AA football program, were heavy 35-point-underdogs on the road against the Sun Devils, a Football Bowl Subdivision Division 1-A football program. 

It was apparent early that the Hornets were prepared and up to the challenge. The 19 points surrendered by Sac State were the fewest ever surrendered to an FBS opponent in program history.  

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“That’s all Andy Thompson, our defensive coordinator, and his staff,” Taylor said in a press conference. “They’re challenging, do a lot of different things, give a lot of different looks and they did a great job, they really did.” 

Sac State’s defense made plays all night and did not allow a touchdown until there was 4:42 left in the game. 

In the 2nd quarter, as Arizona State appeared likely to score the game’s first touchdown, Sac State junior defensive back Daron Bland tackled ASU freshman running back A.J. Carter just before the goal-line and forced a fumble that the Hornets recovered. 

Defensive backs, senior Allen Perryman and junior Robert Lewis, also made big plays to stop a touchdown on one possession and forced the Sun Devils to turn the ball over on downs in the second half.

“I think (Sac State) did a good job of preparing,” ASU junior running back Eno Benjamin said in a press conference. “We’ve got some people hurt on our offensive line.” 

The Hornets’ defense held Benjamin to just 69 yards on 24 carries. Sac State held the Sun Devils to 91 total rushing yards, the fewest by an FBS opponent since 2002.

Sac State’s offense showed promise and moved the ball all night, but the Hornets were unable to capitalize on any of their opportunities. 

The Hornets were the first team to reach the red zone after junior quarterback Kevin Thomson connected with sophomore wide receiver Tao McClinton for a 19-yard pass. Sac State would eventually turn the ball over on downs after going for it on 4th and 12.  

The Hornets scored the game’s first touchdown later on when Thomson connected with McClinton on a 9-yard pass. The touchdown was the sophomore receiver’s first career touchdown. McClinton finished the game with two catches for 28 yards and one touchdown.

RELATED: Hornets break scoring record in 77-19 rout of Southern Oregon

Thomson finished the game 32-of-50 for 263 yards passing, one touchdown, one interception and one fumble lost. The junior set a new career-high in completions and attempts, passing the mark he set last season in both categories against California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

“He made some throws and he missed a few throws,” Taylor said of Thomson. “He’ll come back though, he’ll learn (from) it. He’s got a lot of ability.”  

2018 All-Big Sky running back, junior Elijah Dotson finished the game with 11 carries for 32 yards and 10 receptions for 63 yards. Dotson became the first Hornet running back with ten receptions in a game since 2016.

Sac State will host Big-Sky conference foe, the University of Northern Colorado, Saturday at 6 p.m. in a non-conference matchup at Hornet stadium.