RECAP: Sac State storms back against Montana in overtime thriller

Hornets remain undefeated in 31-24 win


James Fife

Senior wideout Pierre Williams finishes his 45-yard touchdown run, making the score 14-17 in Hornet Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2022. Williams ended with three catches for 68 yards and this touchdown.

Jack Freeman, Football Beat Writer

Sacramento State hosted the Montana Grizzlies on ESPN2 in their national television debut, taking them down in a comeback fashion 31-24 in overtime.

Sac State opened the game with the ball, beginning the first drive with some sloppy mistakes. The Hornets started off with three penalties on their first four plays. Forcing them into a third and 22, where sophomore running back Cameron Skattebo found some magic and converted a 25-yard reception for a first down. After working their way into Grizzly territory, the Hornets couldn’t stop a mean Montana blitz and were forced to punt.

Montana took over inside their own spot. After redshirt senior quarterback Lucas Johnson’s 26-yard scramble, the Grizzlies flipped the script and found themselves in Hornet territory. 

The Grizzlies used death by a thousand cuts, slowly working their way downfield, picking the Hornets apart. The drive was capped off when redshirt junior running back Marcus Knight found the end zone from 2 yards out.

Sac State: 0, Montana: 7

The first Montana touchdown marked the first time the Hornets have trailed in a game this season, their first time trailing in the regular season in 471 minutes. To open their first response drive of the year, the Hornets got tricky. They let Skattebo throw a ball and while it was underthrown, they picked up a first down on a defensive pass interference. 

Sophomore wide receiver Jared Gipson went up twice this drive and pulled down two catches on fourth downs. However, Gipson’s second snag was just short of the line to gain, forcing the Hornets to turn it over on downs.

The Grizzlies got the ball and kept moving it out to midfield. On a third down, Johnson stepped up and took a hit to the head from Sac State senior defensive lineman Ayodele Adeoye. Adeoye was called for targeting and was disqualified for the rest of the game. Johnson left the game, redshirt sophomore quarterback Kris Brown took over as under center.

The penalty extended Montana’s drive where they ran the ball all the way to the Hornets’ 29-yard line. There, the Hornets dialed up blitzes on consecutive plays, getting a fourth down stop and turning the ball over on downs.

Senior quarterback Jake Dunniway started off quick on this drive, finding junior wide receiver Carlos Hill for 33 yards Hill’s first catch of the season. The drive ended as soon as it started however as Dunniway looked deep on the next play and was intercepted by Montana’s junior cornerback Corbin Walker.

“He’s such a mentally tough guy, I felt like he was in control of the entire game,” Sac State head coach Troy Taylor said. “I thought he saw it well.”

With Johnson out, Montana went with a ground-and-pound attack. They ran it down the Hornets’ throats to the tune of 25 yards. Despite the success of their run-game, Montana’s drive stalled and they attempted a 45-yard field goal, which was blocked by senior nickelback Marte Mapu.

Sac State shot themselves in the foot to start their next drive. Senior quarterback Asher O’Hara pitched the ball to junior running back Marcus Fulcher who couldn’t handle the rock and lost it. Montana got the ball right back in a good field position.

The Grizzlies didn’t get a lot of yards on this drive, but they didn’t have to. Senior kicker Nico Ramos was good from 36 yards out.


Sac State: 0, Montana 10

With time winding down in the first half Sac State’s offense woke up. Skattebo dashed for a 39-yard gain on the first play. On the third play of the drive, Dunniway threw a strike to junior tight end Marshel Martin for a 38-yard touchdown. Martin finished the game with six grabs for 75 yards.


Sac State: 7, Montana 10

Montana got the ball back and returned to their slow attack. Brown finally found some rhythm completing five passes. The Grizzlies killed time and tried for another field goal, but Sac State’s junior cornerback Caleb Nelson blocked Ramos’ kick.

Both defenses came out of the halftime break hot, with both teams getting stops on the first two drives. The Grizzlies drove down the field toward the end of the third quarter, but couldn’t get any points after Knight dropped a pass on fourth down with tight coverage from senior linebacker Armon Bailey. Bailey finished with nine tackles and two pass breakups.

“[It’s] just this passion that Coach preaches a lot with us, it’s the energy that we have between ourselves just making it infectious going around everybody,” Bailey said. “I feel like the energy there is what kept us resilient.”

Dunniway loaded up a shot on the first play of the drive but was intercepted by redshirt junior nickelback Nash Fouch, who returned it to the Hornet 27-yard line.

The Grizzlies wasted no time. Brown found sophomore wide receiver Aaron Fontes who made a spectacular catch in the corner of the end zone to extend the Grizzlies’ lead to ten.

“Even though we weren’t scoring a lot of points,” Taylor said. “I thought that if we just got a couple things going we’d have a chance.”


Sac State: 7, Montana: 17

After a personal foul penalty from Montana, Sac State took over at their own 45-yard line. Skattebo picked up a first down to send this game to the fourth quarter. To open the quarter, Dunniway found wide-open senior wideout Pierre Williams who raced into the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown.


Sac State: 14, Montana: 17

Montana went back to their slow, methodical offense. Almost every set of downs reached third down, and they converted. They capped their six-minute drive with a 2-yard score from sophomore running back Nick Ostmo.


Sac State: 14, Montana: 24

Sac State, down 10 points with just eight minutes left in the game, needed points on this drive. Dunniway stepped up big time, finding Gipson and picking up two defensive pass interference calls to set the Hornets up for points. They couldn’t find the end zone, but senior kicker Kyle Sentkowski stayed true and was good from 27 yards out.


Sac State: 17, Montana: 24

Taylor took a page out of the Idaho Vandals book and attempted a surprise onside kick. The Hornets tricked the Grizzlies and fell on the ball, giving them an opportunity to tie the game.

Sac State got to fourth down and long with a big decision on their hands. They lined up to go for it and Dunniway lined up a shot to Gipson deep. Gipson barely made a spectacular sideline catch to set the Hornets up at the 4-yard line. O’Hara checked in and found the end zone from 3 yards out.


Sac State: 24, Montana: 24

A tie game with three and a half minutes remaining and it was time for the Grizzlies to answer. The Hornet defense was strong and held Ostmo to 4 yards on two runs. On third down, there was an offensive pass interference call that set up a third and 22. The Grizzlies couldn’t convert and gave the Hornets the ball back with a minute and change left.

The Hornets drained a lot of clock while slowly moving the ball. Sac State got to midfield and the drive stalled. With the ball at the Grizzlies’ 38-yard line, the Hornets lined up for a game-winning field goal try. But at the last second, they took a delay-of-game penalty and threw a hail mary. It was intercepted and both teams prepared over time. Despite the three interceptions, Dunniway finished with 284 yards through the air and two passing touchdowns.

Sac State won the toss and chose to put their offense on the field first. They went to what works in short-yardage situations, their run game. The O’Hara and Skattebo duo made their return as O’Hara faked a pitch to Skattebo and took it himself for a 6-yard score. O’Hara’s two scores took him up to 13 on the season, a career-high.

“Anytime we can get [O’Hara] the ball down close near the goal line — [Skattebo] is the same way — we got a pretty good shot,” Taylor said. “I told him to be ready and I knew we were gonna do that if we got into overtime.”


Sac State: 31, Montana: 24

In college football overtime, the other team gets a shot to even it up. The Grizzlies ran for two yards on first down. On second down, Brown threw an incomplete pass. On third down, Brown threw again, this time to the end zone, but it was broken up. This fourth down was do-or-die time for the Grizzlies

Brown dropped back, quickly looked left and lofted a ball for the end zone. Sophomore wide receiver Keelan White and sophomore safety Gavin Davis-Smith had a one-on-one shot to win the game. White fell, Davis-Smith dropped the ball and Hornet fans rushed the field.




FINAL: Sac State: 31, Montana: 24 (OT)

“They’re a really good football team. I told the guys it’s gonna take four quarters, but I was wrong,” Taylor said. “It took four quarters and an overtime, no surprise [with] that they’re a really good football team.” 

With the win, Taylor moves to 3-0 all-time against Montana.

The Sac State Hornets are 7-0 for the first time in program history and return back to Hornet Stadium to take on the Idaho Vandals next Saturday at 6 p.m PST.

“[Sac State] can’t stop now, we can’t be happy,  We can’t feel like we’re set in stone and we’re gonna be undefeated the rest of the year,” Skattebo said. “We gotta keep fighting for it, it feels good to be seven, and oh, but we still have to focus on the future.”