PREVIEW: Hornet football looks to bring home third straight Big Sky Championship


Dylan McNeill

Sophomore Hornet receiver Sawyer Merrill (15) getting upfield after a catch Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, during practice. The Hornets are gunning for their third straight Big Sky title as the season kicks off at Hornet Stadium against Utah Tech University Saturday, Sept. 3 at 6:00 p.m PST.

Dylan McNeill and Jordan Latimore

As another fall inches closer, football season accompanies it as the Sacramento State Hornets look to three-peat as Big Sky champions under Head Coach Troy Taylor, who led the Hornets to a 9-3 record last season. 

RELATED: Sac State football crowned Big Sky champions after 27-7 victory over UC Davis

The Hornets 9-3 season included going undefeated in Big Sky play but ended in a 24-19 home loss to South Dakota State University in the second round of the FCS playoffs.

Last year is so far gone,” said Taylor.

Despite his two Big Sky championships, Taylor sits at 0-2 in the FCS playoffs.

“We’re just day-to-day, there’s no looking past today and there’s no other way to do it. It’s just locking into what we’re doing and getting better.” said Taylor, ”You put enough of those days together and you’ve got a chance to have a good year.”

Ranked #7 in the NCAA FCS preseason coaches poll, Sacramento State features several returning contributors that have the Hornets viewed as a highly touted squad coming into the new year.

The offense features dual senior quarterback threats in Jake Dunniway and Asher O’Hara to go along with sophomore running back Cameron Skattebo who averaged 9.1 yards per carry as a freshman.

Hornets also have returning pass catchers such as senior Pierre Williams and junior Marshel Martin. As the only two Hornets to catch at least 50 passes last year, the duo accumulated 40% of the team’s receiving yards.

“It definitely helps when you have that chemistry,” Dunniway said. “When you’ve worked millions and millions of reps with these guys— obviously the more and more comfortable we feel within the offense, the more we’re just gonna be on the same page.” 



On the defensive side for Sac State, where experience is slightly lacking compared to the other side of the ball, there is still much to be optimistic about. 

“There’s a lot of guys that weren’t here last year that are obviously coming in, but there’s also a decent amount of people that have already been here and had game time,” senior nickelback Marte Mapu said. “All I do is just communicate what we have on the field to try and make sure that we execute what we already gameplan.”

Senior nickelback Mante Mapu signals to his defense pre-snap in a practice Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, at the Hornets practice field. Sacramento State had the third-best scoring defense in the Big Sky conference, allowing just 19.1 points per game. (Dylan McNeill)

Mapu led the Hornets with 10 passes defended and tied for the team high with four 

interceptions. Mapu was one of the four Hornets named to an FCS preseason All-American team. 


“It’s hard because our offense is really good,” Mapu said with a chuckle, “They come out and change stuff up every day. That’s also what gets us prepared for everything that we do during the season,” said Mapu.

With fall camp coming to a close, players can attest to how they were met every day with a unique set of challenges.

“You can’t take any day for granted,” Dunniway said. “Defense is doing different things. We’re trying different things, but playing quarterback, [it’s a] chess match every day.”

The Hornets’ season opens Saturday, Sept. 3, at Hornet Stadium against Utah Tech. 

“Our guys train hard all year, so when we got into this [season], they were in great shape. We don’t call it grind, we love it out here,” said Taylor. “We enjoy it, our guys love football, so it’s like going to Disneyland every day.”