Preview: Hornets seek to bounce back on the road against Idaho State

Sac State football stopping the run will be key to victory


Brandon Bailey

Sophomore safety Davion Ross (24) closes in on a tackle against Cameron Broussard during practice on Sept. 23, 2021. The Hornets prepare for their first Big Sky match of the season against Idaho State.

Brandon Bailey

Sacramento State is 1-2 this season following a loss to Cal (1-2) in their final game of non-conference play last Saturday. 

It’s been an up and down start to the season for the Hornets, and since starting the season with a win against Dixie State they’ve shown flashes of potential on both offense and defense but have failed to put it all together. 

Head coach Troy Taylor said that they were able to take a lot away from their game against Cal as they head into their first game of conference play against Idaho State. 

“You go up against an exceptional team that’s very talented and very well coached and you know that you can go toe-to-toe against them,” Taylor said. “We got to take advantage of our opportunities, and we have a chance to win it, so I think it’s one of those things where you play on a big stage and go against a good team and really talented guys. And now we’re going to the Big Sky and hopefully we’re ready to roll.”

The Hornets will have a chance this week to show if they can be consistent on both sides of the ball when they go up against a struggling Idaho State defense that gave up 49 points last week to the University of Nevada, Reno. 

Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. at Holt Arena. ESPN+ will live stream the game. 

Below is a guide to everything you need to know regarding game day and how to follow along, what to watch for, depth charts, who has the advantage and our predictions. 

Via Hornet Athletics 

Three Things To Watch For:

QB Battle

Jake Dunniway and Asher O’Hara have shared snaps this season at quarterback. In their game against Cal, the Hornets rotated both quarterbacks throughout the game, and it resulted in touchdowns for both quarterbacks. O’Hara had two rushing touchdowns, and Dunniway had two passing touchdowns late In the game. Head coach Troy Taylor has leaned on both quarterbacks thus far and hasn’t shown any sign of taking a different approach as they prepare for Big Sky conference play this week against Idaho State. 

Can the Hornets stop the run? 

The Hornets struggled to stop the run in their last two games. They’ve given up over 465  rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. As they face Idaho State, the Hornets will attempt to tighten up this week against a team who hasn’t proven to be a threat in the run game, with only 219 rushing yards in their first two games. Senior linebacker Marcus Hawkins said that their struggles with stopping the run has been their fault. 

“That’s just on us executing our play calls and just the basic stuff,” Hawkins said. “When we get a crack block we have to be able to replace it, making tackles from level one all the way to level three and just making sure we’re tackling everywhere.” 

Special teams & Turnovers

The difference between winning and losing comes down to executing the details in a game. Last week, the Hornets gave up opportunities on special teams and a late interception while they were down by 15 points in the third quarter. If the Hornets expect to win this game, they can’t afford missed field goals and mistakes that lead to kickoff return touchdowns. 

Keys to victory

Sac State

Getting the ball to your weapons: Pierre Williams, Marshel Martin and Elijah Dotson have been a three-headed monster for the Hornets. Both Williams and Martin have 20 receptions and over 200 receiving yards in their first three games. Dotson follows right behind them with 17 receptions and 105 receiving yards.  The Hornets will have the chance to exploit a questionable Idaho State secondary that gave up 441 passing yards in their last game against the University of Nevada, Reno but it may be without Martin, who is listed as questionable and hasn’t practiced this week due to an ankle injury.

“I think we just need to be confident and  know that we’re a great team,” Willams said via press conference following the Cal game. ”There’s a few little things here and there, we fix those, and we’re able to win these past two games that we weren’t able to finish.” 

Idaho State 

Creating stops on defense: In two games, the Bengals have given up 954 total yards and 84 points on defense. In order for them to get their first win of the season Saturday, they will have to find a way to create turnovers and get their defense off of the field. The Bengal secondary has yet to get an interception, and their inability to  stop the pass will be tested by a Hornet team that prides itself on moving the ball through the air. 


Sports editor John Cabales: Having Dunniway under center for the majority of the game, while using O’Hara the same way the New Orleans Saints use Taysom Hill may be a winning formula going into conference play. Idaho State is allowing 42 points a game while only scoring 12 points a game themselves. Dunniway will have time in the pocket to get the ball to his playmakers and there will be holes for O’Hara to run through. As long as the Hornets defense can play the same way they did against Dixie State, this should be a dominant game for them. Sac State wins 35-15

Football beat writer Brandon Bailey: In their last game against Cal, Sac State demonstrated that they can score at an elite level once they get the ball rolling on offense. If the offense can get off to a hot start early this game by getting the ball into the hands of their playmakers, Williams and Dotson, they will run away with this game early. The Hornets will also have to show up on defense by fixing their mistakes against the run, and converting on special teams. Sac State wins 28-7

Editor-in-Chief Jordan Parker: If Sac State does the right thing and starts junior quarterback Jake Dunniway, that will go a long way towards improving their chances of winning this game. Let’s face it, Kevin Thomson isn’t walking through the door any time soon and splitting snaps between quarterbacks is something that doesn’t work in high school, college or the NFL. Their mascot may be the Bengals, but Idaho State’s defense isn’t nearly as ferocious as any tiger I’ve ever seen. The defense has not only yielded 84 points in its first two games, but it also has failed to record a sack. I look for Dotson and Williams to have their first breakout games of the season in what should be an easy victory for the Hornets. Sac State wins 42-10.