The No. 4 Sacramento State football team earned a wild-come-from-behind win over the University of California, Davis in the 66th Causeway Classic 27-17 on Saturday, earning a share of the Big Sky Conference Championship.
The Hornets (9-3, 7-1 Big Sky) entered the game at No. 4 in the STATS and Coaches polls after a 31-7 win over the University of Idaho last week and needed a win to clinch a share of the Big Sky title. The Aggies lost 27-17 to Montana State University last week and are unranked.
The game drew a crowd of 19,882 people, making it the second largest crowd for this rivalry.
The Aggies scored first with a 76-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jake Maier to junior wide receiver Khris Vaughn. On the ensuing drive, Sac State had an 18-play, eight-minute-long drive stall out in the red zone, leading to a 24-yard field goal from senior kicker Devon Medeiros.
Roughing the passer and pass interference penalties on Davis’ next drive allowed them to get down the field and kick a 39-yard field goal courtesy of graduate kicker Max O’Rourke.
RELATED: No. 6 Sac State football team crushes Idaho 31-7, keeps conference championship hopes alive
After a drive stalled out for the Aggies, they punted and managed to down the ball on the one yard line. On the ensuing drive, Sac State junior quarterback Kevin Thomson attempted a quick pass but it was picked off by freshman linebacker Da’Von Frazier at the line of scrimmage. Frazier ran into the endzone for a touchdown, giving UC Davis a 17-3 lead.
Hornets head coach Troy Taylor gave credit to Thomson for not folding under the pressure when the game got tough.
“He didn’t necessarily play his best football in the first half, and he knew that,” Taylor said. “But he just hung in there and kept competing. Without Kevin, none of this is possible. He’s the heart and soul of our offense and I’m happy for him because he stayed healthy, he worked so hard. I think he’s the best player in the conference.”
Sac State finally got into the endzone with under three minutes left in the first half when Thomson scrambled on fourth down to get a three-yard rushing touchdown. The Aggies took a 17-10 lead into halftime when Medeiros missed a 49-yard field goal to end the half.
A long drive to start the second half brought another field goal from Medeiros, this time from 24 yards out, bringing the score to 17-13.
Another breakout for the Hornets’ offense came when freshman tight end Marshel Martin spun away from a defender and took a pass 51 yards for a touchdown, giving Sac State their first lead of the day at 20-17. Martin also earned the record for most touchdowns by a tight end in Sac State’s Division I history during the game.
The Hornets had another long drive late in the fourth quarter drained the Aggies of their timeouts before Thomson sprinted 33 yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 27-17.
Taylor said it was important for the team to run the ball well on the long drives to limit Davis’ chances on offense.
“At the end there, we want to be able to run the ball,” Taylor said. “We want to be able to keep them on the field, shorten the game. And we hadn’t done a great job running the ball really. (Junior running back Elijah Dotson) made some big runs.”
Story continues below gallery.
UC Davis had one last drive, but couldn’t get a first down, ending the game and giving the Hornets a share of their first Big Sky title in school history.
Senior defensive linemen Dariyn Choates said that it was nice to see the team’s hard work pay off with a title.
RELATED: Dominant defense leads way for Sac State football team
“(I’m) blessed man, we’ve been through it all,” Choates said. “All the hard work paid off finally, but (we) still got a lot more to do. Our goal is higher than just a Big Sky Championship but as of right now, (I’m) happy that we’re seeing the fruits of our labor.”
Thomson, who finished with 300 yards passing, 134 yards rushing and three total touchdowns, said that as long as the team stuck together and trusted in Taylor’s vision, they would be successful.
“As long as we just trusted him, good things were going to happen,” Thomson said. “We just stuck together (and) never got down on one another when the defense gave up a touchdown. If we were struggling, we just stuck together as a team. We never pointed fingers and we knew that the other side was going to make a play when we needed it.”
Story continues below tweet.
“Everyone bought in from the moment Coach Taylor got here.”
Hear from QB @KevinThomsonX following the team’s win over UC Davis on Saturday night. @SH_Sports pic.twitter.com/xwMrmT81Q3
— Mack III (@MackErvin7) November 24, 2019
The Hornets finish the season with a 9-3 record, including going 7-1 in Big Sky play. The nine wins is the most wins in a single season in program history.
No. 6 Weber State clinched a share of the conference title by beating Idaho State 38-10. Due to Weber State’s victory at Sac State on Nov. 2, the Wildcats get the conference’s automatic berth into the playoffs.
RELATED: No. 6 Sac State football team shut down by No. 3 Weber State in 36-17 loss
The Hornets have a good chance of being selected as one of the eight seeded teams by the FCS playoff committee. If Sac State is seeded, they will get a bye into the second round of the playoffs with an extra week to prepare and get healthy.
Thomson said that after spending multiple seasons with losing teams, he’s happy to be able to taste success.
“We’re just going to really enjoy this moment, it feels great,” Thomson said. “We put ourselves in a good spot going into the playoffs. Once tomorrow comes, we’re gonna get back to work and we’re fired up to be able to go play in the playoffs and show people around the country what we’re about.”
Sac State will now wait for the playoff selection tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. on ESPNU to find out its placement in the postseason and next opponent.