PREVIEW: Sac State Football seeks second 5-0 start in program history

Hornets host Northern Colorado in first home game in a month


Dominique Williams

Assistant head coach and offensive line coach Kris Richardson watches as senior quarterback Asher O’Hara receives the snap at practice on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Sac State has never started 5-0, a feat they wish to conquer this Saturday at home against Northern Colorado.

Jack Freeman, Football Beat Writer

The Sacramento State Hornets return to Hornet Stadium for the first time in a month against the Northern Colorado Bears this Saturday at 6 p.m PST. 

Sac State comes into this game undefeated, opening Big Sky conference play last week beating Cal Poly 49-21. Meanwhile, Northern Colorado dropped their last game 55-35 against the Idaho Vandals, bringing the Bears to 2-3.

“[Sac State is] just trying to get to 5-0,” Sac State head coach Troy Taylor said. “We are really programmed to move forward, enjoy it on the bus ride back, but then move onto the next opponent. There is no other way to do it.”

Related: RECAP: Sac State advances to 4-0 for second time in program history

The Hornets have yet to trail in a game, dominating their opponents so far this year. They’re the only FCS team yet to trail this season.

“Starting fast is really important,” Taylor said. “Doesn’t always happen, but coming out fast means a lot of things. It means being ready mentally, energy and passion wise.”

The Bears have also started quick in their games, but tend to falter in the second halves of games. Most recently, only putting up 15 points in the second half against the Vandals last week.


Sac State’s offense found the big play element that has been lacking in their offense against Cal Poly last week. The Hornets had three big plays, including sophomore wideout Jared Gipson’s 40-yard touchdown reception.

“The connection is almost natural,” Gipson said. “[Receivers] get a bunch of reps with both the quarterbacks. It comes over time, but the connection is always going to be there with those two.”

However, the Hornets continue to move the ball methodically down the field. Junior running back Marcus Fulcher and sophomore running back Cameron Skattebo continue to be the main focus of the offense. Both backs are averaging over seven yards a carry, which has propelled the Hornets to keep the ball and set up long drives. 

“They are unbelievable,” Taylor said. “They are guys who can make something out of nothing and when you block for them they can take it to the house…two incredibly hard-working, talented backs.”

One of the more spectacular things about this Sac State offense is their ability to move the ball consistently. The Hornets have the sixth least third downs, while still converting at the 11th best rate in the nation. That starts with both senior quarterbacks Asher O’Hara and Jake Dunniway. Dunniway has done a great job converting on third downs, while O’Hara remains almost automatic in the red zone. 

It’s a homecoming of sorts for Northern Colorado graduate student running back Elijah Dotson, who was playing at Sac State until he left the team after four games last season. Dotson eventually transferred last spring to Northern Colorado. Dotson won Big Sky Special Teams Player of the Week during the Bears’ victory over Idaho State.

The Bears, however have not found all that much success on the ground, being outgained almost 2:1 on rushing yards this year. They’ll have to step up their game to stop the Hornets fearsome rushing attack.

Northern Colorado have also used two quarterbacks this season: graduate student Dylan McCaffery and junior Jacob Sirman have split the attempts. McCaffery should get the start as he played the majority of the Bears’ loss in Idaho. 

Sac State’s defense has been rock solid, senior linebacker Armon Bailey has been a big part of it. Bailey has led the Hornets in tackles the past two weeks, including a sack against Cal Poly. Not to mention Bailey has won back to back Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week.

“I’m honored obviously,” Bailey said about his Big Sky Conference Player of the Week streak. “It’s really a team thing; everyone around me is playing well and so I feel like I’m just playing up to the team’s level.”

One of the most important parts of defense is getting off the field, which the Hornets have done wonderfully. Sac State has held opponents collectively to 16-54 on third down, which means that the Hornets are getting off the field quickly and giving their offense the ball in good field position.

“On third down, you have to get off the field,” Taylor said. “You try and put yourself in a position through first and second down to get them in some longer third down situations. Our defense has done a great job on third down and in the red zone.”

The Bears defense has really been lackluster to start the season. They’ve allowed an average 32.4 points per game. They’ll need to step it up to stop a Sac State offense averaging around 45 points a game.

That starts with redshirt sophomore linebacker Elijah Anderson-Taylor who leads the Bears with 24 tackles, almost double the next Northern Colorado defender. Anderson-Taylor will have to play the game of his life to contain Fulcher and Skattebo. If he can pull that off, the Bears have a shot at this game.

One area where Sac State has shown weakness is in their undisciplined play. Last week, the Hornets had 12 penalties for 105 yards. Their big play ability helped them make up their lost yards last week, but the offense isn’t built to play that way. Sac State has to play more disciplined to stay in this game.

“Part of those holds were effort plays,” Taylor said. “You have to adjust to the way they are officiating, we didn’t do a great job adjusting, but that being said we have to do less holding.”


Sacramento State: The Hornets have done the same thing every game to great success. Stay disciplined, pound the rock and keep the ball moving. It’s classical, methodical football; there is not much to it. Sac State is good enough to stay on schedule. If they do that, it’s undefeated town for these Hornets.

Northern Colorado: Stop the run. Sac State’s offense starts with the running game. If the Bears can get after that, they’ll have a fighting chance. Dotson will be running with a vengeance; he should put his all into this game. If he could pop off, it really could propel the Bears to a win. 


Jack Freeman, Football beat writer (4-0): It feels like the Sac State offense got the final infinity stone, finding their big play ability. Combine the big plays with their usual methodical offense,  a difficult offense to stop, just became almost impossible to stop. This Northern Colorado defense just doesn’t have enough firepower to stop them. The Bears’ offense can’t win a shootout, they won’t keep up with Sac State’s scoring.

Sac State: 52, Northern Colorado: 24

Jordan Latimore, Sports Editor (3-1): This week is finally gonna be some trouble for the Hornets. This matchup with UNC not only features a huge Big Sky brawl, but the return of Elijah Dotson, who comes back to a field he knows very well. Dotson is going to come back home and torch the Hornets in a really tight game. 

Sac State: 21, Northern Colorado: 24

Dylan McNeill, Sports Editor: (3-1): I’m sipping the Sac State football Kool-Aid; don’t get me wrong, but I still find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I do not see that shoe dropping Saturday. The Hornets have won every game by at least 16 points and are locked in at just about every facet. Northern Colorado isn’t at the same level, the Hornets will let them know that this weekend.

Sac State: 41, Northern Colorado 23

Keyshawn Davis, Managing Editor (2-0): Sac State is going to steamroll Northern Colorado. I see the Hornets running the Bears into the ground. No contest. 

Sac State: 45 Northern Colorado: 10