RECAP: Sac State football sneaks out with 37-21 victory over Northern Iowa

Hornets move to 2-0 for the first time since 2000


Photo Courtesy of Dallas Smith

Junior tight end Marshel Martin carries the ball after a reception on Sept. 17, at UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa during a 37-21 victory over Northern Iowa. Martin led the Hornets in receiving yards on Saturday with 76.

Jack Freeman

The Sac State football team had a dominating home opener in the 2022 season, but the same story could not be said in 2021 after the Northern Iowa Panthers spoiled the Hornets’ home opener last season. 

RELATED: Sac State football loses home opener after offensive struggles

Along with a new year, the Hornets, the FCS’ #8 ranked squad, secured a new outcome in their rematch with the Panthers in a 36-21 victory in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Despite coming into the UNI-Dome off of an abnormally early bye-week for the Hornets, there wasn’t any form of rust for a Sac State team who got off to their first 2-0 start in 22 seasons.

“I didn’t choose that as my bye-week,” head coach Troy Taylor said with a chuckle. “The only thing worse than a second week-by-week is the first week-by-week, [and] that’s just starting your season.

The game started slow with three straight punts, two coming from Northern Iowa. This ignited a field position battle that would define the first quarter. 

After the second punt from the Panthers, the Hornets started at their own 32-yard line. Sac State went with a combo of sophomore running back Cameron Skattebo and junior back Marcus Fulcher who caught and ran the ball across the 50-yard line. 

Fulcher was used primarily as a receiver out of the backfield, grabbing nine catches for 61 yards.

Senior quarterback Jake Dunniway got the start and went quick to sophomore receiver Jared Gipson for a solid 8-yard gain. Despite Skattebo finding a first down on the drive, Dunniway soon after took a sack by redshirt senior Spencer Cuvelier, setting up third down.

Dunniway went back to the air and found senior wideout Piere Williams for a first-and-goal situation. Senior quarterback Asher O’Hara checked in for two straight draw plays and found the endzone. Dunniway ended the game, going 20-33 for 199 yards and a score through the air.


Sac State: 7, UNI: 0

Northern Iowa’s redshirt sophomore quarterback Theo Day was the star of the Panther’s third drive. Panther’s redshirt senior running back Dom Williams started it off with some quick runs. That set up Day to find his tight end, redshirt junior Alex Allen, over the middle for a 17-yard strike in the endzone. 


Sac State: 7, UNI: 7

Dunniway led the Hornets back out, working with Williams and Skattebo to move the ball right up to the 50-yard line. Dunniway then looked for the endzone on the ensuing play and found junior Marshel Martin for the pair’s third touchdown connection of the year. Martin finished the game with six catches for 76 yards. 

Sac State: 14, UNI: 7

The Panthers started their first drive with a false start, to which they couldn’t recover. Day waited like he had all day in the pocket, where Sac State senior defensive end Ayodele Adeoye sacked him. UNI punted– which set the Hornets up at their own 48.

O’Hara started at quarterback on this drive and threw a risky pass towards Williams that fell incomplete. O’Hara picked up a first down, then checked it down to Skattebo on a screen pass to put Sac State into the redzone. The second verse was the same as the first– a screen to Skattebo that put the Hornets at the 1-yard line. O’Hara called his own number and scored for the second time.


Sac State: 21, UNI: 7

Another Panther drive started with a false start. On second down, Day found senior receiver Quan Hampton, but Sac State senior cornerback Marte Mapu knocked the ball out. Senior Sac State corner Prince Washington fell on the ball.

Dunniway and the Hornets would go down the field into the redzone, but couldn’t convert on third down. Senior kicker Kyle Sentkowski made a field goal– his first of the year.


Sac State: 24, UNI: 7

The teams traded punts, but UNI drove down the field. Around the Sac State 25-yard line, Hornet senior Jace O’Hara hit Day and knocked the ball loose. Junior linebacker Jeremy Harris recovered the ball for Sac State and the Hornets kneeled out the remaining 58 seconds to bring it to the half.

UNI’s defense came out of the half with speed, forcing a quick Sac State three-and-out. Northern Iowa then came out quick with their offense.  

Day threw a deep bomb down the left side of the field towards redshirt junior Logan Wolf in the endzone. It was a 50/50 ball and Wolf jumped up and made the catch. 


Sac State: 24, UNI: 14

The Hornets punted on their following drive, but pinned the Panthers inside their own 10-yard line. This would set up a Northern Iowa three-and-out, giving Sac State field position advantage once again. 

Another Skattebo screen put the Hornets inside the red zone. On third-and-2, Sac State tried to get cute with a toss to Martin, which went nowhere. Sentkowski’s second attempt was good.


Sac State: 27, UNI: 14

The third quarter was Day’s time to shine. He started with another huge gain to junior wideout Sam Schnee, then attempted another deep shot on an ensuing play. Mapu was called for defensive pass interference which moved the Panthers into the red zone. 

Day finished Saturday’s game with 270 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception while completing 20 of 36 passes.

Senior running back Vance McShane bounced a carry off right and punched it in to cut the lead to six points. McShane totaled 84 yards on 12 rushes and found the endzone for a touchdown.


Sac State: 27, UNI: 21

With things getting close, Sac State got the ball back at their own 25-yard line. On the first play, O’Hara fumbled a handoff as Sacramento collectively held their breath. He fell on it, recovering the ball as the whole county exhaled. The drive stalled quickly and ended in another Hornet punt.

Northern Iowa came out on offense with an opportunity to take the lead for the first time in the game. Their hopes were quickly dashed after a holding penalty and good coverage from Sac State. 

With 10 minutes left in the game, the Hornets were on the ropes. Sac State started this drive at their own 10-yard line. 

The Hornets went to Skattebo in their time of need and he stepped up. In two plays, they were approaching the 50-yard line while draining the clock.

“We weren’t executing the way we were in the first half and, I mean, it took us a second to get going again,” Skattebo said. “So [we] came back out and we had just set the standard of what we’re about.”

Seemingly— every play— the Hornets were draining a minute off the clock; they were able to drain six minutes before they were stopped. 

Sentkowski hit on his third field goal attempt — a critical one.


Sac State: 30, UNI: 21

With under four minutes left to play, UNI needed a quick score. Day started with a laser down the field to Wolf, which put them into Hornet territory.

 McShane picked up another big gain to put the Panthers inside the red zone.

On the ensuing play, however, Mapu would jump a Day pass and intercept it, returning the ball all the way back to the Panthers 20-yard line, all but sealing the win for the Hornets, This was the third turnover of the day for Northern Iowa.

Tacking on a garbage time-rushing touchdown for O’Hara, his third of the day, would wrap up a win for Sac State on the road.


Sac State: 37, UNI: 21

“We expected [UNI] to give some pushback, we [didn’t] expect them to roll over,” Mapu said. We had to make some of our own adjustments and then that’s when we came out with a win. Obviously we hope for it to be cleaner, but the win’s a win. We’ll take it. ”


Marshel Martin caught his 16th touchdown of his career. That catch tied Martin with Lamont Webb for fifth most touchdowns by a tight end in Sac State football history.

Cameron Skattebo went over 100 yards for the second game in a row, the second time in his career. He finished with 110 rushing yards, plus another 44 yards through the air.

Ayodele Adeoye recorded his first sack as a Hornet. Adeoye is a transfer from the University of Texas at Austin playing his first season with the Hornets.