Cal’s offensive attack too much for Sac State football to overcome in second consecutive loss

Hornets yield over 500 yards to Golden Bears in defeat


James Fife

Sac State wide receiver Dewey Cotton (17) looks for a running lane in between his linemen Brandon Weldon (78) and Thomas Parker (79) against Cal in the first half at California Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. The Hornets fell to the Bears 42-30, dropping their record on the season to 1-2.

Brandon Bailey

It was a gloomy Bay Area Saturday at California Memorial Stadium in Berkeley as Sac State football hit the road to face a winless Cal football team. It wasn’t gloomy for the Golden Bears who put up 42 points to Sac State’s 30, dropping the Hornets to a 1-2 record on the season. There were a lot of open seats throughout the stadium, but you could hear the roar from the student section as the trumpets played from the Cal band, hyping up their home team. 

For the first time this season, the Hornets started junior quarterback Jake Dunniway, and they did not hesitate to be aggressive as they opened the game with a flea flicker attempt thrown by senior wide receiver Lucas Triplett, but it fell incomplete.  The team started the game with an unorthodox game plan, switching off between junior quarterback Asher O’Hara and Dunniway  throughout the first half.

“It’s a little different to get used to, I think it’s actually a lot of fun,” Dunniway said. “I think It keeps the defense on their toes and gives defenses a lot to gameplan for throughout the week, but you know we both prepare as if were the starter. We both feel like we’re the starter, I think we both have shown that we can play, so week-in, week-out, we’re going to do our best to execute the offense.”

Dunniway would get the start for the Hornets, but following the first score of the game from Cal’s sophomore running back Damien Moore, the Hornets would drive down the field to get their first touchdown of the game on a dive from an O’Hara run up the middle.  

The Golden Bears had no trouble answering back as they drove the length of the field and Moore scored his second rushing touchdown of the game to end the first quarter with a 14-6 lead. 

As the second quarter began, the momentum was in favor of Cal. The Hornets struggled to drive down the field, and the Golden Bears continued to have their way offensively with a balanced rushing and passing game plan. That was until senior cornerback Munchie Filer III snagged an interception, putting an end to Cal’s first drive of the quarter. 

Following their first turnover of the game, the Hornets put together a drive led by Dunniway who connected on a 35-yard bomb to junior wideout Pierre Williams. The Hornets would get inside of their own 40-yard line, but junior kicker Kyle Sentkowski failed to convert on a 37-yard field goal attempt. 

Cal used this opportunity to swing the momentum back in their direction and scored on a 45-yard passing play from senior quarterback Chase Garbers to sophomore wideout Jeremiah Hunter for their first and only touchdown of the second quarter. 

The Hornets continued to fight, but they struggled to convert on their opportunities. In the last two minutes of the second half the Hornets mounted  a drive that put them inside of Cal’s 20-yard line, but it wouldn’t be enough as Sentkowski failed his second field goal of the game keeping the score at 21-6 to end the first half. 

It would only get uglier for the Hornets. 

The Golden Bears began the third quarter with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from senior wideout Nikko Remigio only 13 seconds into the second half to make it 28-6.

In the first game of the season against Dixie State, head coach Troy Taylor said how happy he was with his team’s success on special teams, but this week special teams failed to show up for the Hornets after missing two field goals and giving up a 99 yard kick return. 

“Special teams disappointed, we gave up 14 points on special teams, with the two point deal thing, then the two missed field goals, and then the kickoff return for a touchdown,” Taylor said. ”You know we lost by twelve, so  you just can’t do that against good teams. You have to be solid.”

Still, the Hornets pushed back and tried to inch their way back into the game. Two crucial catches by sophomore wideout Parker Clayton led them back inside of Cal’s redzone as they found a way to finish the drive with another designed quarterback-run play for O’Hara’s second rushing touchdown of the game. 

The Golden Bears continued to move the ball effortlessly against the Hornets’ defense, and as they failed to adjust, Garbers continued to dial it up through the air, this time on a 12-yard touchdown pass to senior wideout Trevon Clark to go up 35-13. 

Just when things started to turn sour for the Hornets defensively, their offense answered the calls necessary to get their team back into the game. Dunniway led the way on this drive and connected on a touchdown to sophomore tight end Marshel Martin to put the Hornets back within two scores of the game.

 For the first time this season, the Hornets were able to put together a string of consistent drives, but mental errors and forced throws would be their downfall. As the Hornets drove down the field and marched inside of Cal’s 25 yard line, Dunniway threw an interception to Cal senior safety Daniel Scott. 

Dunniway was pleased with the way he and the rest of the team played throughout the game but in the end he said it just came down to making plays. 

“Game planning they didn’t do anything crazy, we thought we had a really good plan going in,” Dunniway said. ”They didn’t surprise us with anything, obviously they’re a really big, strong, fast, physical team, but I like how our guys competed. It comes down to making plays, and I think we made a lot of good plays, and obviously we felt short of a couple but we’ll get better.” 

The Golden Bears did not hesitate to take advantage. 

Following the interception, Moore would continue to pound the ball and eclipsed a 32-yard run that would lead to Garbers third touchdown of the game, this time on the ground for a 16-yard rushing touchdown.

Williams had another big game for the Hornets, reeling in nine receptions, for 121 yards and a touchdown. He said the problem for them this game was their slow start in the third quarter. 

“We’ve come out kind of slow in the third quarter I feel like, so we don’t really get things going,” Williams said. “I believe we gave up the kickoff return first off, so that’s never good, so I mean if we just get all three phases firing initially when we come out I think we’ll be good.” 

Sac State’s offense tried to answer in the second half with a passing attack led mostly by Dunniway, but it wouldn’t be enough as the Golden Bears offense steam rolled their way to victory. 

The Hornets struggled to contain the Golden Bear offense and early failures in the first half decided the fate for Sac State as they dropped their second loss in a row.

“We expected to win the game, you just got to play a little better, and we weren’t that far off against a good quality football team,” Taylor said. “Every opportunity you just got to take advantage and we clearly did not do that.”

Sac State continues their road trip next week as they begin conference play against Big Sky opponent Idaho State.

“I think after a game like this, we’re all really confident with what we can accomplish and our skills,” Dunniway said. “We played a really good football team and competed for four quarters, but you know we trust one another. We’re out there everyday lifting, getting better at practice in the heat. We’ve gone through a lot together so I think as a group we are really close. We trust one another and when you trust one another you love one another.You play hard, good things can happen, so we’re excited for conference play.”