PREVIEW: Sac State football gears up for home opener against Utah Tech

The defending Big Sky Champions look to start on the right track Saturday


Jordan Latimore

Sac State sophomore receiver Chris Miller running a route against cornerback Jalin Speed at practice Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Hornet practice field. The Hornets open their season Saturday against Utah Tech at Hornet Stadium at 7:30 p.m PST as the Hornets begin their pursuit of a third straight Big Sky title.

Jack Freeman

A new college football season dawns at Sacramento State as the Hornets look to defend their reign over the Big Sky Conference in their week-one matchup Saturday against Utah Tech at 7:30 p.m. in Hornet Stadium.

“Guys are excited,” Sac State head coach Troy Taylor said. “[When] you’ve been in camp going against the same guys over and over again, you’re just ready to play your opponent. So our guys are fired up in that same sense.” 

Despite their back-to-back championships in the Big Sky, some Hornets say they don’t feel a target on their backs.

“It’s not very much pressure,” sophomore running back Cameron Skattebo said. “You don’t play for someone down the street, you play for yourself and the people next to you.”

The Hornets look to repeat their performance in their opener last year against Utah Tech, where they won 19-7 in Saint George, Utah when the team was still named Dixie State. This year’s meeting between the two teams will take place at Hornet Stadium and will serve as the only home game for the Hornets in September. 

Senior cornerback Prince Washington played in the game last year and says there isn’t much of a difference from a season ago.

“It’s the same. It’s game one,” Washington said. “[We]Treat every opponent like the next one.”



Both teams have the majority of their starters returning from last year; expect these players to make the most impact throughout the matchup.

“[Utah Tech] has a lot of guys coming back: returners, players on both offense and defense,” said Taylor. “It’ll be a good matchup. I think both teams have significant experience coming back.” 

For Sac State, both starting quarterbacks are returning. With pin-point passer Jake Dunniway leading the helm, the leaping Asher O’Hara is expected to come in from time to time to run the option. The two combined for a total of 28 touchdowns last year, nine coming on the ground from O’Hara.

“We got a lot of experience, especially on offense,” Taylor said. “Having the two quarterbacks who have played a lot is big. There is no substitute for experience.”

Dunniway and O’Hara will be looking to spread the ball to All-Big Sky tight end and receiver duo, Marshel Martin and Pierre Willaims. Despite an injury, Williams still put up 764 yards on just 50 catches. 

On the defensive side, All-American cornerback Marte Mapu — who had four interceptions alongside 35 tackles — will look to be the leader of this defense. 

Alongside Mapu will be senior safety Abel Ordaz, the second leading tackler returning from last year’s Hornet defense.

Meanwhile, Utah Tech has their leading offensive player, quarterback Kobe Tracy — who appeared in eight games last year — scoring eight touchdowns and throwing for over 1,500 yards. 

Tracy will be looking to throw to junior Keith Davis, who led the Trailblazers in receiving yards with 479 on 35 catches last season. 

On the defensive side, Utah Tech’s leading tackler, defensive back Tyrell Grayson is returning. Grayson will be alongside linebacker Malaki Malaki, who led the Trailblazers with 9.5 tackles for loss last year.

In an email Thursday from President Nelsen, Sac State announced that, due to extreme heat, the school is suspending tailgating activities prior to the Hornets’ game this Saturday.




Sac State: For the Hornet to win this game, their most important position group will be the defensive lineman. While Tracy had a decent showing in eight games last year, he totaled negative 31 rushing yards last season. If the Sac State defensive line can put pressure on Tracy and keep it up all game, they should be able to force mistakes which will be the difference-maker in this one.

Utah Tech: If the Trailblazers want to pull off the upset in Sacramento, they will need to get back to fundamentals and control possession of the ball. Last season, Utah Tech had 35 turnovers in just 11 games. A team averaging a little over three turnovers a game is bound for nothing good. If they can hang onto the ball and control the time of possession, Utah Tech will have a shot at a win.



Jack Freeman, Football Beat writer: In my mind, Sac State would have to play incredibly poorly to lose this game. While I think some rust will show early, this Utah Tech team just isn’t quite at the same level as Sac State.

This season, Sac State’s defense is really strong and I feel the offense will be even better. Dunniway and O’Hara should throw and run all over this Utah Tech defense. I believe that Tracy will be under constant duress all game long. 

Sac State should take this one handily and deliver a win for the home crowd.

Utah Tech 17 Sacramento State 38


Jordan Latimore, Sports Editor: The culture head coach Troy Taylor has built in his four years at the helm of the Hornet football program is nothing short of remarkable. I expect Sac State to come out and punch Utah Tech in the mouth early with aggression, especially in the trenches with the running game.

I expect Cameron Skattebo to be a focal point for the Hornet offensively, as he was one of the team’s leading rushers last season. 

Utah Tech 7 Sacramento State 28


Dylan McNeill, Sports Editor: These two teams met last year for Week 1 in which Sac State enjoyed a 19-7 victory. The Hornets dominated on the ground, accumulating over 200 rushing yards while holding the Trailblazers to 2.3 yards per rush.

If Sac State can control the run game and time of possession, the Hornets will be in great shape to pick up another Week 1 victory.

If Sac State plans to repeat as Big Sky champions, they’ll have to handle games like these against a team which finished winless on the road and 1-10 overall last season. 

Utah Tech 10 Sacramento State 31