Sac State squeezes out victory against Idaho State with second half shutout

Hornet secondary led defensive charge with two interceptions


James Fife

Junior quarterback Jake Dunniway (12) and junior wide receiver Pierre Willams (84) stand side by side walking off the field at California Memorial Stadium on Sept.18, 2021. The Hornets pulled out a slim 23-21 victory in their game against Idaho State on Saturday.

Brandon Bailey

It was homecoming for Idaho State University, and with that in mind the Bengals came ready to play at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho.

Sac State came in with intentions to spoil the celebration and bounce back after their second straight loss against Cal last Saturday and did exactly that as they pulled away with a 23-21 victory. 

The first half was a back and forth offensive showdown. 

Sac State outgained the Bengals 442-281 in what started off as an offensive explosion from both teams in the first half. 

Similar to last week when the Hornets ran a flea flicker to open up the game, head coach Troy Taylor dug into his bag of trick plays and ran the Philly Special. A play that started as an end-around reverse to the strong side senior wide receiver Lucas Triplett ended as a passing touchdown to junior quarterback Asher O’Hara to put the Hornets on top 14-7. 


For the first time this season, the Hornets got off to the fast start that they’ve been hoping for all year, but struggles on special teams and defense in the first half, allowed the Bengals to stay in the game.

True freshman wide receiver and kick returner Benjamin Omayebu swung the momentum back to the Bengals early by taking a 99-yard kickoff return to the end zone, giving them their first touchdown of the game. 

Omayebu seemed to be uncontainable for the Hornet secondary in the first half as he scored his second touchdown of the game on a pass from the Bengals backup freshman quarterback Hunter Hays to put them in front 21-14 as the first half came to an end. 

The freshman  came to play for the Bengals following an injury to their starting junior quarterback Tyler Vander Waal in the first quarter.

The second half came down to the wire and what started off as an offensive shootout turned into a defensive battle. 

The Hornet defense stepped up and shut down the Idaho State offense in the second half. It started with an interception from senior defensive back Munchie Filer III, putting the Hornets in position to get their third field goal of the game to take the lead 23-21. 

Junior kicker Kyle Sentkowski bounced back after missing two field goals last week and gave the Hornets just enough to win by drilling three field goals that would ultimately be the deciding factor of the game. 

“Just hit the ball good, hit it straight, stay down my line and follow through, knowing I’m not going to go in there and miss, just keeping that mindset of I’m going to make the ball,” Sentkowski said. “I’m going to make the kick.” 

A missed field goal in the third quarter by junior kicker Kevin Ryan came back to haunt the Bengals late in the game as the offense struggled to move down the field and take back the lead. 

 The game was sealed when Hays threw an interception to junior nickelback Marte Mapu with just over a minute left to play. 

“I remembered one of their plays, I was waiting on it the whole game,” Mapu said. “They didn’t really hit it like that, but then I saw my opportunity, read the quarterback’s eyes, and then that’s when the play happened.”

Saturday’s matchup was a tale of two halves.

In the end it came down to which team was more sound defensively and which team could execute on special teams.

“We knew that we could stop them,” Mapu said. “We did it earlier in the game. Once we got into halftime we just gathered up again, regrouped and that’s when we came out together and performed as a unit. That’s what gave us that edge again to finish the game.”

It wasn’t pretty, but it worked out in the Hornets’ favor as they head into their bye week with a close win to beat out the Bengals in their first game of Big Sky play. 

“We do a pretty good job of throwing it, but we’ve got to run it better, especially when we get into the redzone,” Taylor said. “We did some good things, but it was too many mistakes on offense.”

The Hornets will have a week to recover before returning home to face off against Southern Utah on Saturday, Oct. 9, at 6 p.m.