Preview: Sac State football returns home to face winless Cal Poly

‘We control our own destiny’


Brandon Bailey

Freshman wide receiver Chris Miller (3) finishes off a catch at practice on Oct. 19, 2021, at Hornet Stadium. Miller scored his first touchdown of the season and his career as a Hornet on Oct. 16 against Montana.

Brandon Bailey

Sacramento State football (6-2, 5-0 Big Sky) returns home this weekend after  a narrow victory on the road to face off against the winless Cal Poly (1-7, 0-5). 

With the Big Sky title and a playoff bid within arms’ reach, head coach Troy Taylor said he does not want to get too high or too low on any of their remaining opponents. 

“We control our own destiny,” Taylor said. 

The Mustangs are winless in conference play, and it iss the opposite for the Hornets who are undefeated in conference play with three games remaining on the schedule. 

Cal Poly ranks as one of the worst teams in the Big Sky by record, scoring and points allowed. Cal Poly averages 13.4 points per game and allows its opponents 39.5 points, but Taylor does not want to underestimate them. 

“They’ve [Cal Poly] got good coaches,” Taylor said. “They’ve got good players. You have to just respect your opponent, anybody in this conference can beat us.”

Sac State enters this matchup against the Mustangs with an opportunity to build off of their momentum in the rushing game and improve in the passing game after posting a season low  173 yards through the air last weekend against Northern Colorado. 

Freshman running back Cameron Skattebo has been rolling since his coming out party against Northern Arizona, and in their last game against Northern Colorado Skattebo recorded his second consecutive 100-yard rushing total. 

The Hornets have a quartet of rushers in Skattebo, BJ Perkinson, Marcus Fulcher and quarterback Asher O’Hara, and Taylor has not been opposed to adding running backs to the team’s personnel as the season winds down. 

“It’s a physical game, so you’ve got to continue to develop your younger guys for the future,” Taylor said. “For this season everybody’s got to be ready and our expectations are that they play just as well as the guys they are replacing.”

Sac State will have another opportunity to lean on its depth in the backfield as they face the Mustangs who give up an average of 204.5 rushing yards per game, which is the most in the Big Sky. 

Read below for everything you need to know about this game including the things to look out for, both teams keys to victory and predictions from The State Hornet team. 

Things To Watch For

Will The Hornets pick it up in the passing game?

Last week, the Hornets threw for a season low of 171 passing yards, and throughout the game the wide receivers and junior quarterback Jake Dunniwayseemed to be out of sync completing only 50% of their passes. The Hornets have completed 61% of their passes this season. Taylor said that the team did not play as clean of a game as they would have liked, but “they made enough plays to come out with a win.” 

It should not be much of a struggle for the Hornets to move the ball in this matchup. The Mustangs have not been a threat on defense this year giving up an average of 456 total yards per game with 251 of those yards coming from the pass. 

Recent history shows that when the Hornets are rolling they can move the ball at will. The last time they played at Hornet Stadium against Northern Arizona they amounted 656 yards in total offense, and it came from a balance of a hard nose rushing effort led by Skattebo and a passing display from O’Hara and Dunniway. There can be opportunities to pass the ball downfield and create big plays against Cal Poly if Sac State’s offense can get in a rhythm early. 

Taking things a game at a time

The Hornets have the opportunity to expand their winning streak to six games this week, and Cal Poly has the chance to create the highlight of its season with a win that would be an upset and shocker to the rest of the Big Sky. 

Even with a 1-7 record, the Mustangs have improved every week with close games against UC Davisand most recently,against Portland State, who  they were hanging in with all game until the Vikings outscored them in the fourth quarter and pulled away 21-7. 

It will be important for the Hornets to play above their competition and disregard the Mustangs record as if they were both 0-0. The Mustangs have nothing to lose as they sit at the bottom of the conference, and a win like this can be something to celebrate for what has been a disappointing season. 

“We don’t look down on anybody, and we prepare every week like it’s the same,” Skattebo said.

Keys To Victory

Sac State: 

The game plan will be simple this week for Sac State. Continue to defend the run, pounce on the Mustangs early by taking shots down the field and assert its physical dominance with a rushing attack. 

Each week the Hornets expand their depth in the backfield and keep their backs fresh by preparing themselves to play and keeping things competitive. The Hornets will continue to rotate their backs to avoid injuries and continue to give opposing defenses like the Mustangs different looks. Skattebo said that he trusts the guys in front of him and behind him on the depth chart and their play sparks a competitive nature that translates onto the field on game day. 

“It’s the same as the quarterback room, it’s competitive,” Skattebo said. “I got three dudes behind me and three dudes in front of me. I love all these dudes, they’re all my family and I trust all of them 100 percent.” 

Cal Poly: 

Cal Poly will have to find a way to contain the run and slow down the Hornet offense before it’s too late. In their game against Davis, the Mustangs limited them to only 24 points, but they were not able to capitalize off of the defensive play and translate it to points on offense. 

This week, the Mustangs will have to get their offense going with the running game and try to keep the explosive Hornet offense off of the field. 

It will be easier said than done because the Hornets are locked in defensively and have established a principle of  being more physical than the opposing team. 

“We just preach every week about being more physical than the team across from us,” said senior defensive lineman Josiah Erickson. “So that’s what we do, we just try to be that more physical team and then let it translate.”


Football beat writer Brandon Bailey: 

Sac State escaped a close game last week in Northern Colorado, and I think this game will be a little more of a statement game for the Hornets where they will dominate both sides of the ball. Cal Poly has the worst defense in the Big Sky, and although the Hornets did not have their best outing when it came down to the passing offense, it will be the opposite this week if Dunniway and the receiving core can get on the same page. Hornets win 38-7

Sports editor John Cabales:

Sac State did not play well last week against Northern Colorado, but I believe this week they will turn it around and go back to being dominant. The Hornets should be as dominant as they were against Northern Arizona if not more. Dunniway will get back on track, and the running backs will wear down Cal Poly’s defense. Hornets win 54-3