Sac State begins title defense with victory against Dixie State

Hornets win first game of season with 19-7 score


Emily Wight

Sacramento State Tight End Marshel Martin (16), helps his quarterback Asher O’Hara up at end of the play. O’Hara connected with Martin twice to give the Hornets their only two touchdowns of the game against Dixie State University Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021.

Brandon Bailey

Sacramento State won 19-7 against Dixie State after displaying their strong defense early in their first game of the season on Saturday. 

Senior linebacker Marcus Hawkins intercepted a pass minutes into the game, which led to a Hornet field goal the following drive to give them an early 3-0 lead. 

Going into the game, there was no certainty of who would be named the starting quarterback for the Hornets as juniors Jake Dunniway and Asher O’Hara battled it out through fall training camp. Head Coach Troy Taylor decided to play both quarterbacks in their regular season debut but started the game with O’Hara. 

The Hornets struggled early offensively, but the defense prevailed after a great punt. 

Taylor said that he loved the way that the team played overall, but emphasized how important it was for them to win the turnover battle. The Hornets had no turnovers throughout the game but forced one turnover early with an interception in the first quarter. 

Taylor also said that he was happy with the way special teams played, giving the defense good field position throughout the game and scoring an early field goal to give them an early lead. 

“Our guys were in good shape, I think we played sloppy at times but I felt we were well conditioned,” Taylor said. “Proud of our guys, obviously there are things we’re going to improve on but we need to make a big chop from week one to week two returning back home, but our guys will, they’ll improve, and we’ll be ready for next week.”

Sac State flipped field position on Dixie State putting them inside of their own five yard line. Senior Josiah Erickson helped force An intentional grounding penalty on Dixie State resulting in a safety and gave the Hornets a five-point lead to end the first quarter. 

“Our game plan was just to come out fast, come out strong, and that’s exactly what we did,” senior defensive lineman Josiah Erickson said. “We’ve been waiting on this for about two years, so we’re all hungry, we’re all ready and more prepared for this game than we’ve ever been.”

O’Hara capitalized off of a fake punt by the Hornets, which gave the offense a jolt of momentum.  The Hornets’ first touchdown of the game came on a pass inside the Dixie State five yard line from O’Hara to sophomore tight end Marshel Martin. 

Dixie State scored the following possession after a big drive ended with their quarterback Kody Wilstead scoring on a designed-quarterback-run play to close in on a five-point lead. 

In the middle of the second quarter, the Hornets decided to put in Dunniway, who would go on to complete 6 of 9 passes and gain the Hornets 74 yards, to put the team in field goal range with four seconds remaining in the first half. However,  the Hornets would miss the 48-yard field goal, keeping the score at 12-7 at the end of the half. 

Two big plays by sophomore running back Marcus Fulcher sparked a drive for the Hornets toward the last two minutes of the third quarter. Fulcher converted a short run on third and two to keep the drive alive, and caught a pass the following play.

Fulcher’s ability to catch the ball out the backfield got the Hornets to midfield on a 31-yard receiving play. O’Hara finished this drive with another passing touchdown to Martin as they connected for their second touchdown of the game. 

Hawkins carried his momentum from the early interception in the first quarter to the final quarter of the game, with two huge sacks on third down situations that sealed the game for the Hornets. 

The defense held Dixie State to one touchdown, and the offense found what could be a connection to look for in the future between O’Hara and Martin, who both ended the game with two touchdowns. 

 With a final score of 19-7, the Hornets defeated the Trailblazers to start the season with a record of 1-0. 

The Hornets will play again Sept. 11 at home against the University of Northern Iowa.