RECAP: Sac State football staves off hungry Vandals in thrilling victory

Hornets come back on their last drive to end Vandal run, win 31-28


James Fife

Senior Sac State quarterback Asher O’Hara twisting mid-air into the endzone to score the Hornets game-winning touchdown over Idaho Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022 at Hornet Stadium. Sacramento State held off an upset-hungry Vandals team Saturday with a 31-28 victory.

Jack Freeman, Football Beat Writer

Sacramento State Hornets held off an upset-hungry Idaho Vandals team at Hornet Stadium Saturday with a 31-28 victory.

While Sac State dominated the first half of this game, leading 17-7 at halftime over Idaho. The tables quickly turned in the second half as two costly turnovers by the Hornets led the Vandals to score 21 unanswered points.

Five minutes on the clock the Hornets got the ball back in need of a response, down by four points. The rushing duo of sophomore running back Cameron Skattebo and senior quarterback Asher O’Hara pushed the Hornets down the field. O’Hara capped it off by leaping and spinning into the end zone to elevate the Hornets to a historic 8-0 record. 

“Skattebo was saying [Idaho] was cutting the [offensive] line,” O’Hara said. “I kinda had it in my mind and I’m not as strong as Skattebo, so I’m not running through people like him. I think it is harder to get [runners] out of the air.” 

Over 17,000 fans were in attendance Hornet fans showed out, for the fourth-highest crowd in school history.

“Electric, better than last week,” O’Hara said about the crowd. “It was the best I’ve seen.”

Sac State opened the game on offense after losing the coin toss looking to control the clock on their first drive. The O’Hara and Skattebo duo moved the Hornets across midfield. Senior quarterback Jake Dunniway checked in and found junior wide receiver Chris Miller for a 31-yard touchdown.

Sac State: 7, Idaho: 0

Idaho had no problems picking up yards to start this game. Three plays of over 15 yards propelled the Vandals into field goal range. After a third down stop, junior kicker Ricardo Chavez attempted a 40-yard field goal, which Chavezhooked  wide left.

While Skattebo moved the Hornets out past midfield to begin theirdrive, the drive stalled. Dunniway had some shaky play and couldn’t find any of his targets on four straight attempts, turning it over on downs.

The Vandals started their next drive, moving the chains. On a miraculous sideline catch by redshirt sophomore Hayden Hatten, Idaho moved into Hornet territory. Sac State’s defense stood tall and forced a fourth down. Redshirt freshman Gevani McCoy’s pass was just a little outside and the Vandals’ turned it over on downs.

O’Hara and Skattebo regrouped on this drive. Skattebo’s tough 27-yard run moved the Hornets down the field quickly. After getting into the red zone, the Hornets couldn’t find anything else and brought out senior kicker Kyle Sentkowski for a 26-yard field goal.

Sac State: 10, Idaho: 0

McCoy brought vengeance on this drive for the Vandals,taking just two plays to move the Vandals into Hornet territory. Junior running back Aundre Carter scampered for 20 yards, which set up sophomore running back Elisha Cummings to get into the end zone from 16 yards away.

Sac State: 10, Idaho: 7

Skattebo continued to be effective on the ground for the Hornets, gaining 16 yards on the second play of the drive. O’Hara’s 16-yard rush allowed the Hornets to overcome an illegal block below the waist penalty and keep the drive going. The duo moved the ball to the 7-yard line, where junior running back Marcus Fulcher scored. The Hornets finished with 299 total rushing yards.

“[Sac State] are real warriors when we run the football,” Taylor said. “They would not be denied.”

Sac State: 17, Idaho: 7

The Vandals failed to get much going on their next drive toward the end of the first half. Sac State ran with Skattebo twice but ultimately let the clock run out. Skattebo finished the half with over 100 yards.

Idaho started the second half with the ball.Despite picking up a first down, the Vandals struggled. Vandals went for it on fourth down again; McCoy went deep but underthrew the pass for a turnover on downs.

The Hornets took over in good field position and continued to run the ball. Working their way into the red zone, O’Hara went to the end zone finding senior wideout Pierre Williams for an 8-yard touchdown.

Sac State: 24, Idaho: 7

McCoy and the Vandals came out swinging on this drive. A drive of chunk plays culminated with an 11-yard touchdown score from McCoy to Hatten. 

Sac State: 24, Idaho: 14

A series of three-and-outs ensued, with both teams bringing pressure on third down, getting some and sacking the quarterback. 

Dunniway’s shaky play continued as he looked deep to Williams. The Vandals’ sophomore cornerback Marcus Harris went up and made a play on the ball, intercepting it.

Idaho lived on third downs this drive, converting on four third downs ending in another McCoy, Hatten touchdown connection.

Sac State: 24, Idaho: 21

Sac State took the field but didn’t stay there for long.

Dunniway threw over the middle; the pass was bobbled and intercepted by Idaho’s redshirt junior linebacker Paul Moala. McCoy turned to his favorite target deep and connected with Hatten for the Vandals’ third unanswered score.

Sac State: 24, Idaho: 28

The dynamic Hornet rushing duo took the drive needing a time-killing response. O’Hara had a 26-yard run that moved the Hornets across midfield. Skattebo then moved the Hornets into the red zone. O’Hara hit a fancy 360-degree spin into the end zone to give the Hornets their lead back. The spinning dive was O’Hara’s 14th touchdown of the season, and he finished with 129 rushing yards.

“[O’Hara] and I actually had an argument right before that [series of] play[s],” Skattebo said. “I told coach Taylor to give it to me, [O’Hara] told coach Taylor to give it to him. I got stopped and he got in, so he has that one on me.”

Sac State: 31, Idaho: 28

Idaho got the ball back with one and a half minutes left in the game. McCoy started with a first-down stroke but stalled around midfield. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Micheal Graves lost control of the ball after a hard hit to the ground, and the Vandals were on the ropes. On fourth-and-11, the Hornets brought pressure, forced McCoy back and senior linebacker Armon Bailey sacked him. Bailey was a force all night, finishing with three sacks in the game.

The Hornets knelt out the clock and advanced to a historic 8-0, holding off the upstart Vandals.

“We love winning,” O’Hara said. “We could win by one-point and it would still be the best feeling.”

While the Hornets stay undefeated, Taylor thinks Sac State’s best football is ahead of them.

“We have had moments where we play really well,” Taylor said. “As John Wooden says ‘You need to play your best when you need your best’ that’s what these guys have done, but our best ball is still ahead of us.”