PREVIEW: Sac State football prepares for shootout against Eastern Washington

Hornets looking for 6-0 start for second time in program history


James Fife

Junior tight end Marshel Martin (16) celebrates a fourth down conversion by signaling for a new set of downs Saturday, Oct. 7, 2022, at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento. Sacramento State has a 5-19 lifetime record against Eastern Washington, with only one win on the road.

Jack Freeman

Sacramento State football is on the road again against the Eastern Washington Eagles in Cheney, Washington on Saturday at 4 p.m. PST. 

The Eagles are coming off a 45-21 loss to Weber State and sitting at a 1-3 record. This record is deceptive however, as Eastern Washington has had the second hardest schedule according to Massey Ratings.

“[Eastern Washington’s] record is not indicative of the team they are,” Sac State head coach Troy Taylor said. “They’ve probably had the toughest schedule in the FCS.”

The Hornets have faced the 33rd hardest schedule according to Massey Ratings, but have dominated their opponents. Their average margin of victory is 29.2 points per game and have yet to trail in a game this season. 

A huge part of that has been Sac State’s stifling defense, which has improved every week. They put on a clinic during last weekend’s game, holding Northern Colorado to no first downs in the first half and only seven points. 

Eastern Washington’s defense has struggled. Ignoring their FBS losses, the Eagles are still giving up an average of 37 points. This game is sure to be a shootout – the Eagles will have to keep up with a powerful Hornets’ offense to stay in the game.

It’s a double homecoming of sorts Saturday. While students in Cheney will be celebrating their homecoming game, Taylor will be returning to Eastern Washington for the first time since he was the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator in 2016.

“I had great memories [at Eastern Washington],” Taylor said. “I met a lot of great people there, [Eastern Washington head coach] Aaron Best being one of them. It was an unbelieve dream season for us… I’ll always have fond memories.”



This is a high powered Eastern Washington offense, which is run through their senior redshirt quarterback Gunner Talkington. Talkington, with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions through five games, leads the Eagles in scoring and will be a focal point of the offense.

“This is a powerful offense,” Taylor said. “They’ve always been good at home and throwing the ball while staying dynamic on offense. [Sac State] has to tackle well, keep the ball in front of us, hopefully create turnovers.”

Talkington is not alone, Eastern Washington is loaded with offense weapons. Their redshirt freshman running back Tuna Altahir came alive in the Eagles game against Weber State with 81 yards and a score. The Eagles ran a lot of the read option against Weber State to get Altahir going – should be a lot of that against Sac State.

The Eagles also have a group of deadly pass catchers. Talkington loves to go to his tight ends, who are all over 6’4” tall. Expect senior nickelback Marte Mapu to be covering them and getting a lot of action this Saturday. 

Lastly, Eastern Washington uses redshirt junior wideout Freddie Roberson as their number one pass catcher. Roberson, a third team All-Big Sky Conference selection, has nasty route running ability. Hornets junior cornerback Caleb Nelson is going to have his hands full all game.

“Coach [Taylor] always says, ‘What’s our standard?’” Nelson said. “Getting takeaways, putting effort on the field, playing physical, those things that are keeping [the defense] playing at a high level.”

In the battle of high powered offenses, Sac State has an incredible arsenal as well. Both senior quarterbacks Jake Dunniway and Asher O’Hara have done an exceptional job in their roles. Dunniway started shaky last game just 3-10 on passing attempts. However after this Dunniway had just one incompletion, finishing the game 20-28. 

O’Hara continued to be deadly in the red zone, scoring his eighth rushing touchdown of the season. Combine this offensive power with sophomore running back Cameron Skattebo and junior RB Marcus Fulcher, and you get a deadly Hornets’ rushing attack. Sac State as a team is averaging 270 yards a game on the ground.

“[Sac State] has terrific lineman,” Skattebo said. “All our guys are really talented, athletic, smart, they know what they are doing. We have a great backfield, coach puts us in the right spot, we just succeed at it.”

This should be a big part of the offense as Eastern Washington had a tough time tackling against Weber State, allowing 223 yards on the ground. Skattebo, a hard runner, should be the primary back to run all over the Eagles defense.

If the Eagles want to contain the Hornets overpowering rushing attack, they’ll need a push from their defensive line which has struggled. The three leading tacklers for the Eagles are defensive backs, which means most plays are reaching them. They need to get more pressure and run stuff better to have a chance.



Sacramento State: D-FENSE! This is the most high powered offensive attack the Hornets have faced, the Eagles are the third best offense in the nation according to Massey Ratings. Mapu, senior linebacker Armon Bailey, Nelson will need to step up and have a big game if the Hornets want to win. If the Hornets can contain Talkington and company, they have this game in the bag.


Eastern Washington: This is going to hurt. Skattebo, Fulcher and every other Hornet runner is tough to tackle. The Eagles struggled against the tough runners of Weber State. They’ll have to step up and take some big shots to contain a vaunted Sac State running attack. If you contain the Hornets’ running attack, you stop the offense. Eastern Washington has the offensive attack to win this game, if that can happen.



Jack Freeman, Football Beat Writer (5-0): I’m jumping on the bandwagon for this Sac State team. They play such sound football, on both sides of the ball with little to no variance. The Hornets play old fashioned, work for every yard, football that is so impressive. The defense stuck out to me last week as finally playing to their full potential. They’ll slow the Eagles attack and continue rolling to 6-0.

Sac State: 45, Eastern Washington: 31


Jordan Latimore, Sports Editor (3-2): First off I want to let everyone know, I heard you, and no I am not sorry for my last prediction even though I was embarrassingly wrong last week. That being said, I am picking against the Hornets once again in week seven! Eastern Washington has played one of the toughest schedules in all of college football and they are so much better than their record indicates. Give me them Birds this Saturday, the Eagles will defeat the Hornets in an extremely close matchup.

Sac State: 31, Eastern Washington: 34


Dylan McNeill, Sports Editor (4-1): This looks to be the first real challenge for the Hornets this season as they travel north to play on the ugliest turf north of Boise. While Eastern Washington’s schedule has been tough, so is their record at 1-4. The three-headed rushing attack of Fulcher, O’Hara and Skattebo will be enough to keep Sac State undefeated. They’ll control the tempo, dominate time of possession and leave with a victory.

Sac State: 38, Eastern Washington: 27


Keyshawn Davis, Managing Editor (3-0): Eastern Washington gave up over 200 yards rushing last week. Cameron Skattebo is averaging over 100 yards a game. I still feel like Sac State will run all over their opponents once again. The Hornets will sting the birds at Roos Field. 

Sac State 45, Eastern Washington: 12