PREVIEW: Sac State Football opens Big Sky Conference play against Cal Poly

Hornets look for second 4-0 start in program history


Dominique Williams

Redshirt freshman quarterback Dorian Hale fires up a deep throw as the starting defense rushes after him during practice on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Sac State is seeking their first 4-0 start for the second time in program history.

Jack Freeman, Football Beat Writer

Sacramento State football closes out their three-game road trip in San Luis Obispo against Cal Poly this Saturday at 5 p.m. PST.

The Hornets took the Mustangs to task in their last meeting, winning 41-9 in Sacramento last season. Cal Poly was in a rebuilding year as the Mustangs were transitioning offenses from the triple option to a more traditional offense.

RELATED: Sac State football cruises to 41-9 victory over Cal Poly

The Mustangs seem to be figuring it out this year, as they are the number five passing offense in the country– when counting by total yards. 

Cal Poly is coming off a bye week and the game against Sac State will be the first action for the Mustangs since Sept. 17. The Mustangs should be well rested for one of their toughest tests of the season. 

“[We’re] feeling good; we’re healthy,” Sac State head coach Troy Taylor said. “Our guys have got a lot of positive energy, but we are going against a team that has had two weeks to prepare for us.”

This game should feature two high powered offenses. Sac State has the sixth best offense in the country, while the Mustangs have the 17th best offense.


Cal Poly wants to throw their way to a victory against this Hornets secondary. Redshirt junior quarterback Spencer Brasch leads the Mustang attack. His favorite target, grad transfer from Fresno State Chris Coleman, will be a big part of that.

Coleman leads the team with 19 receptions and two touchdowns and will likely be lining up against senior cornerback Marte Mapu, who leads Sac State with two interceptions on the season. 

The Hornets have struggled defending deep passes– it’s been the only weak spot of a strong Hornet defense. 

Sac State has given up the most passing yards in the nation this season. This stat is a little misleading, however, since the Hornets have yet to trail in a game, forcing opponents to throw more often.

The Mustangs will surely look to exploit this weakness, so the Hornets’ pass rush will need to get home before Brasch has time to throw it deep.

The story of the Hornets defense has been turnovers. The Sac State defense has forced at least one turnover every game while only having one giveaway. Cal Poly cannot afford to be careless with the ball– that is how the Hornets can gain an easy advantage on them.

“It’s our standard,” senior cornerback Caleb Nelson said. “We come out [to practice] everyday, our standard is to get three takeaways. We want to take that to the game– it’s something we harp on.”

Sac State’s offense has built out a more balanced attack throughout the season. Senior quarterback Jake Dunniway has emerged as a great option to help the Hornets move the ball on first and long third downs, while fellow senior quarterback Asher O’Hara has been unstoppable in the red zone with six touchdowns through three games.

“[O’Hara] has got really good instincts as a runner. He sets up blocks really well and can maneuver himself to find small spaces,” Taylor said. “He’s got a nose for the end zone– it makes him tremendous in the red zone.”

Dunniway’s favorite target last Saturday was sophomore receiver Jared Gipson who had five catches. However, senior receivers Marshel Martin and Pierre Williams will be the main targets through the air.

“[Sac State] has so much talent everywhere,” Dunniway said. “It makes it tough to game plan against us. It helps me as a quarterback [to] spread the ball around, knowing whoever has the ball in their hands can make a play and anything can happen.”

Cal Poly’s defense ranks 104th in the nation and allows an average of 7.4 yards a play. The Mustangs also give up a lot of yards through the air. Viewers should expect Dunniway to throw a lot in this game.

Not to mention, one of the strongest parts of Sac State’s offense is their running back room. Sophomore RB Cameron Skattebo and junior RB Marcus Fulcher have come on as not only strong runners, but good pass catchers. Fulcher has been used well in the screen game, which will be a big part of the Hornets early down offense.


Sacramento State: There is no secret sauce to Sac State’s success here. The Hornets just have to keep up what they’ve been doing. Dunniway needs to convert on third downs to keep their long methodical drives alive. Meanwhile, the defense needs to keep up their stifling third down defense. The Hornets held the Rams to 3/13 on third down; if they do this again, a victory is within their grasp.

Cal Poly: Come out fast and shake off the rust. Coming off a bye week, the Mustangs have struggled and fallen behind quickly in their first three games. If they do this against the Hornets, the game is already over. They have to come out quickly and put points on the board. A late third or fourth quarter charge will be too little too late.


Jack Freeman, Football beat writer (3-0): I think this game will be decided in the first half. I expect the Hornets to come out quick as they have in every game this season. The Mustangs have been outscored 49-7 in the first quarter and the Hornets will take advantage of this. Dunniway and Martin will have a big day, the Hornets will secure their second 4-0 start in program history.

Sac State: 49, Cal Poly: 21

Jordan Latimore, Sports Editor (2-1): This game will be a repeat of the Hornets victory against Colorado State last week. Sac State is rolling and that won’t change against Cal Poly. I fully expect the Hornets to get out to 4-0 start after Saturday and do so in convincing fashion.

Sac State: 45, Cal Poly: 14

Dylan McNeill, Sports Editor (2-1): Much like the first three weeks of the season, don’t be surprised to see the Hornets cruise to another win. The Mustangs have been outscored by 14 points a game so far this year. The Hornets have averaged over 230 rushing yards a game. I envision the Hornets riding the run game to a 4-0 start to their season. 

Sac State: 51, Cal Poly: 23

Keyshawn Davis, Managing Editor (1-0): Just like last week, I expect the Hornets to come out firing on all cylinders. I think Cal Poly won’t be able to stop the run game and it’ll end in a blow out. I have the Hornets winning by a large amount. 

Sac State: 56, Cal Poly: 17