Sac State football: Running game carries weight for offense

Hornet running back trio leads Big Sky’s second best rushing attack


Emily Wight

Senior Sacramento State football running back BJ Perkinson runs against Dixie State on Sept. 4, 2021. Perkinson finished the win against Dixie State with 98 total yards.

Dylan Mcneill

Sacramento State football has enjoyed a stellar 8-0 start to Big Sky play this season, thanks in no small part to the Hornets’ balanced rushing attack led by junior quarterback Asher O’Hara and a trio of dynamic running backs.

Senior BJ Perkinson is the veteran of the group with 54 carries for 287 yards through the first 10 weeks. His “young bucks” sophomore Marcus Fulcher and freshman Cameron Skattebo have carried the weight for the Hornets offensively. 

“They listen, they take teaching and they [are] cool,” Perkinson said. “They’re a good group.”

They have proved to be more than just a good group thus far for the Hornets. As a team, Sac State is averaging 198.4 rushing yards per game and are second in the Big Sky Conference. 

The Hornets have unleashed the three running backs on defenses throughout the year. The best example was last month against Southern Utah when head coach Troy Taylor had the three backs combine for 155 yards over 19 touches in a blowout win for Sac State. 

Since then Skattebo has taken the starring role scoring four rushing touchdowns and totaling 292 yards. 

“It’s trusting the guy next to you,” Skattebo said. “You gotta trust that person, and he’s [going to] make that block for you or he’ll read the right read when you’re blocking for them. It’s all about the trust factor in the backfield.” 

As the Hornets head into their last conference matchup of the regular season, they have accumulated over 1,900 yards of offense via the run game, that total is aided by O’Hara leading the way with 655 of his own, but add in 497 yards by Skattebo and another 239 yards by Fulcher and it begins to make sense why the Hornets lead the Big Sky Conference in time of possession per game. 

The Hornets finished first in time of possession throughout the year in the Big Sky Conference.

What did all that time of possession result in for the Hornets? A lot of points. The Hornets’ 35 points per game is second in the Big Sky, and the Hornet defense has allowed 35 points or more only once this season- and that was an early season matchup with Cal who is not a Big Sky opponent. 

Sacramento State football freshman running back Cameron Skattebo picks up a first down at Hornet Stadium against Cal Poly in a 41-9 win on Nov. 6, 2021. Skattebo totaled seven carries for 85 yards, a rushing touchdown on the ground, another four receptions for 40 yards and a receiving touchdown in the game. (Jordan Parker)

“We just play together as a team,” Perkinson said. “We’re not really selfish, so we don’t care who gets the ball or not. We [are going to] do our assignment. If we got to block, we got to block. If you run the ball, you run the ball. We just do whatever helps the team.”

The success of the backs not only helps the Hornets but also inspires the others. 

“It’s because they play together and with each other,” said Malcom Agnew, first-year running backs coach. “They feed off each others’ energy. When Marcus has been in and gone off, you’ve seen BJ and Skattebo really happy and vice versa.”

Agnew credits the trio’s work ethic, selflessness and confidence for its successes on the year. 

“They have to block like an offensive lineman,” Agnew said. “They need to know a lot of the route tree like they were a wideout and do a lot of motioning within our system. So they have to know a lot.”

It isn’t just Agnew that sees the running backs inspire each other, the backs said they do themselves.

“It juice[s] us up,” Fulcher said. “We get hype. [It] builds that momentum.”

Lately, the trio’s momentum has meant eight straight wins for the Hornets as they head into the second round of the Big Sky tournament with a home match versus South Dakota State on Saturday at Hornet Field.