Preview: Sac State football prepares for a battle against University of Montana

The Hornets look to stay undefeated in conference play as they face the #5 ranked Grizzlies


Junior quarterback Asher O’Hara (left, 10) drops back for a pass against the University of Northern Iowa and senior running back BJ Perkinson (right, 21) looks for a hole to open as he rushes the ball against Dixie State. The Hornets play the University Of Montana on Saturday at 12:00 p.m. Graphic created on Canva by Brandon Bailey.

Brandon Bailey

Sacramento State football will travel to Missoula, Montana for an anticipated Big Sky showdown against #5 ranked University of Montana.

The Hornets are coming into this game following a blow-out victory against Southern Utah University in what looked like one of their most complete efforts as a team. 



It’s up in the air whether Montana will have their starting quarterback Cam Humphrey. He didn’t play last week due to injury and they might have to rely on redshirt freshman quarterback Kris Brown. The last time the Hornets played a freshman quarterback in their game against Idaho State they caused two interceptions. 

This week the Hornets will have to replicate what they did on both sides of the ball in order for them to do something they’ve never done, which is win at Montana. The Hornets are 0-12 when Montana has  home field advantage but since head coach Troy Taylor has been at the helm, the Hornets are 6-0 on the road against FCS opponents.

Head coach Troy Taylor said they can’t let that the atmosphere of the Montana crowd be a factor if they plan on being victorious. 

“To be honest, I think we’ve just got to stick together, and stay focused,” Taylor said. “We can’t let the crowd and all the noise get to us, we’ve just got to stay locked in.” 

Last weekend the Hornets were fortunate enough to come away with a victory,  but as mentioned in the press conference following their victory last Saturday by coach Taylor, the Hornets are without former All-American running back Elijah Dotson. 

Despite losing a key player like Dotson, Taylor said that he is confident in the depth that they have in the backfield. 

Senior running back B.J Perkinson and his sophomore partner in the backfield Marcus Fulcher,  led the way last week for the Hornets rushing for a combined total of 136 yards and also contributed with 214 total yards from scrimmage. Perkinson said that he knows that losing Dotson was a big loss, but he says he trusts the talent that they have in the backfield as a whole. 

“We know he’s a big loss, but we have a lot of running backs that are also good,” Perkinson said. “We trust them and they all can do their own little thing, they might not exactly be Dot, but they have their own physical attributes.” 

The Hornets’ depth was a key factor in their win against Southern Utah and without   Dotson, the Hornets will have to continue to lean on it. Last weekend, eight different players contributed to the 240 rushing yard output for the Hornets and it was the best statistical rushing game that the Hornets had all season. 

The Hornet offense played balanced football on Saturday, scoring touchdowns  on the ground and through the air.

Part of that came from the quarterback play from both Asher O’Hara and Jake Dunniway. The formula for the quarterback rotation has been Dunniway leading the passing attack, while his “evil twin” O’Hara keeps the defense honest by using his athleticism to contribute in the rushing game. O’Hara has scored four touchdowns on the ground in the last three games and the Hornets will be hopeful that he can repeat that success as they go against the Grizzlies who have only given up 303 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the season, making them the #1 rush defense in the Big Sky. 

Kickoff will be live on ESPN+ Saturday at 12:00 p.m pst. 

Read below for everything you need to know for the Big Sky showcase between the Hornets and the Grizzlies. 

 Things To Watch For:

Can the Hornet Secondary continue to force turnovers? 

The Hornet secondary has been a nightmare for opposing offenses. In their last three games the Hornets have forced six interceptions and they have made it hard for opposing teams to throw the ball. Junior nickelback Marte Mapu says that the difference in the secondary now compared to the first few games of the season, was getting back the experience of playing in an actual game after not playing for two years. Mapu has come into his own , leading the team with three interceptions, all of which he earned in the last two games.

“I feel like the difference was really just experiencing the first couple of weeks, it was just about getting back into playing actual football again since we took two years off,” Mapu said. “Besides that it was kind of a mentality switch too. We just started preparing a little bit harder knowing that we had to be a little bit more intense. It wasn’t just going to come back to us as easy as we thought it did, but that’s how it was.” 

Matchup in between the trenches

The winner of this game will come down to which team will be able to run the ball on offense  and contain the run on defense. The Hornets will continue to try and build off of their  success last week with their trio of O’Hara, Perkinson, and Fulcher but it won’t be easy as they face one of the stingiest rushing defenses that they have faced all season. 

The Grizzlies won’t be afraid to make this a physical competition as they come in  as the 4th ranked rushing offense in the Big Sky. They will be led by their freshman running back Xavier Harris who leads the team with 383 rushing yards on 71 carries. 

Keys to victory

Sac State:

The Hornets played their best game of the season last weekend, they were balanced and on offense it seemed like any play they called worked in their favor. This week they hope they will be able to do the same thing but it will be against a tougher opponent in the Grizzlies. So far the passing game has been clicking for the Hornets but they will need for the running game to continue to be effective in order to stay in front and maintain the time of possession against a team that also likes to run the ball. 

Winning the turnover battle will also be a key to the Hornets success, they haven’t turned the ball over that much this season and they have also been able to force turnovers consistently. 


The last time Montana faced Sac State they lost but it was on the road and in the teams’ history Montana has been most successful when playing Sac State at home. The Grizzlies will have to capitalize off of their home field advantage and jump on the Hornets quickly by running the ball early and often, something that the Grizzlies have been good at all season. 


Football beat writer Brandon Bailey:

This will be the toughest Big Sky matchup that the Hornets will have to overcome on their campaign to another  conference title. It will be intense,  but the Hornets will find a way to win as long as they can assert their dominance in the trenches early. The Hornets will win in a close one  27-24. 

Sports editor John Cabales

Against a team who likes to run the ball and control the time of possession, the Hornets will have to make them turn the ball over and also take advantage of opportunities as they arise throughout the game on offense. The Grizzlies are going to try and keep Dunniway off the field and give him as little time to work with as possible so he must make sure the Hornets are scoring whenever he does get the team in the red zone. The Hornets will win 23-20 on a walk off field goal.