PREVIEW: Sac State football readies for historic 68th Causeway Classic

First undefeated season in Hornet history and Big Sky title is on the line


Mercy Sosa

Sac State freshman running back Cameron Skattebo (32) celebrates his first-quarter touchdown run against UC Davis on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at UC Davis Health Stadium. The Sacramento State Hornets return home to Hornet Stadium Saturday to host the annual Causeway Classic matchup against the UC Davis Aggies.

Jack Freeman, Football Beat Writer

The Sacramento State Hornets return to Hornet Stadium Saturday to host the annual Causeway Classic matchup against the UC Davis Aggies. This marks the fourth consecutive Causeway Classic where one team is playing for a share of the Big Sky Conference title.

In order to take home a share of the Big Sky Conference title for the third season in a row, they’ll have to beat the Aggies. If the Hornets can win, the conference comes down to the Brawl of the Wild in Montana.

“There is no substitute for experience,” Sac State head coach Troy Taylor said. “Our guys have experience playing in these types of games.”

If Montana can defeat Montana State, the Hornets will take home sole possession of the Big Sky title. If Montana State wins, the two teams will be co-champions, with Sac State taking the auto-bid for the FCS playoffs.

This game is critical for Sac State’s FCS playoff seed. The Hornets have a decent chance at the number one overall seed with a win. 

The number one overall seed guarantees Sac State home-field advantage for the rest of the playoffs and a bye-week in the first round. 

Sac State is getting a UC Davis team that needs a win to make the FCS playoffs and continue their season. 

“It’s easy with all this buzz and hype to lose track of what we are doing and what we are doing it for,” senior defensive lineman Ariel Ngata said. “Not just coaches, but players as well keeping the energy up. It’s been a well-oiled machine.”

An Aggie team with nothing to lose and a Hornet squad with everything to lose sets up a historical Causeway Classic.

“[The Causeway Classic] means a lot,” senior quarterback Jake Dunniway said. “Growing up, I knew a little bit about the rivalry. I started at UC Davis — it was a huge deal there and still a huge deal now.”

As a player with a history on both teams, Dunniway offers a unique perspective on the rivalry.

“It’s a good feeling to know that [Sac State] has gotten the better of [UC Davis] since I’ve been here,” Dunniway said. “I’ve never lost to them and it is a bit of a rivalry, personally and then obviously for Northern California. We are excited to keep the winning on this side.”

With this being the last home game of the regular season, it’s Senior Day for Sac State. Graduating seniors will be honored in a ceremony before the game to get the crowd and players fired up.

“It’s a little different because we know we are playing again,” Taylor said about Sac State’s upcoming playoff home game. “One of those things where it is good to recognize them, but I know I’m going to see them again next week. Hopefully, many more weeks after that, but it is a great class.”



UC Davis started their season 1-4, dropping games against Montana State, Weber State and South Dakota State. But they’ve caught fire as of late, winning five straight games and destroying Idaho last week 44-26.

“[UC Davis] is playing well,” Taylor said. “They’ve got a little bit of swagger and confidence… anytime you’re playing a team that has theory rhythm going it’s always a challenge.”

Their offensive attack starts with senior running back and preseason Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. He leads the Big Sky Conference in rushing with 1,268 yards. 

“[Gilliam] is a great back,” Taylor said. “You have to gang tackle them, get a lot of hats on the ball because he’s elusive and strong too. Have to have great points of leverage and play team defense.”

Gilliam ran all over Idaho, scoring three times. If Sac State can contain him, the Aggie offense takes a significant hit. 

The Aggie passing game leans on sophomore quarterback Miles Hastings. Hastings’ 2,741 yards and 19 touchdowns have led the Aggies to an offensive renaissance. 

Hastings’ favorite target is a fellow sophomore, wideout C.J. Hutton. Much like the Hornets, this team loves to spread the ball around to every receiver. 

A defining trait of the Hornet defense has been their resilience and team play. Keeping the energy high as a team has been key for Sac State to keep winning.

“Offense goes out and makes a big play, gets the defense turned up,” Ngata said. “Now the defense is like ‘we have to match the offense now; keep that going.’ That is how the team keeps going.”

Both of these teams are built to win through the run game. The Hornets’ offense is led by sophomore running back Cameron Skattebo and senior quarterback Asher O’Hara. 

The duo has run for a little over 1,900 yards this season and 22 touchdowns. If those two get going there is no stopping this Hornet team; they will win the game.

When it comes to the air, Dunniway’s play has been much improved over the past two weeks with no turnovers. 

Dunniway will surely look for a fellow senior, wideout Pierre Williams who broke out for 136 yards and two scores against Portland State last week. Junior tight end Marshel Martin leads the Hornets in receptions and will provide a set of sure hands when the Hornets need them the most.

“A lot of the veteran guys showed me the way when I came in, and Pierre was one of those guys,” Dunniway said. “He is a guy that when you show up on campus you know he is the real deal. He has all the talent in the world and someone I take pride in playing with.”

UC Davis will try to contain Williams and the Hornet passing attack with redshirt freshman cornerback Rex Connors and senior cornerback Devon King. These corners will be critical in containing the outside running game of Sac State as well.



Sacramento State: Seniors, stand up! This Hornet squad is filled with seniors who are big contributors: Bailey, O’Hara, Dunniway and Williams,to name a few. Playing their last regular season game at Hornet Stadium will propel them to perform at their highest level. The seniors play well and the Hornets win.

UC Davis: Run like the wind, you Aggies! UC Davis thrives off running the ball. Gilliam and the Aggies would love to play spoiler on the rival Hornets. When they control the clock and run, UC Davis will have a chance to ruin Sac State’s perfect season and retake the Causeway Classic trophy.



Jack Freeman, Football beat writer (10-0): Perfect, perfect, perfect. Sac State is playing at too high a level and proved themselves against high-level opponents this season. Skattebo and O’Hara are the best running duo in the nation; nobody has been able to stop them. I’m taking Sac State to finish off their first undefeated season in school history and winning their third straight Causeway Classic.

Sac State: 31, UC Davis: 24


Jordan Latimore, Sports Editor (6-4): This matchup is shaping up to be one of the best Causeway Classics in recent memory and I expect both teams to really come out and bring their best effort. The Hornets are going to run the table and get to the 11-0 mark for the first time in program history behind an extremely tough and ground out win against the Aggies.

Sac State: 34, UC Davis: 28


Dylan McNeill, Sports Editor (8-2):  UC Davis is hotter than fish grease right now, not dropping a game since the start of October in a road loss to Montana State. Despite that, Sac State has been a juggernaut this season and I struggle to see the Aggies’ defense halting the Hornet offense. The Hornets will head into the playoffs with a flawless 11-0 record.

Sac State: 34, UC Davis: 20


Keyshawn Davis, Managing Editor (9-0): The Hornets are one win away from perfection on the season. Sac State has won the last two Causeway Classic’s and that’s exactly what will happen this time. This game is being played at home so I feel like the Hornets won’t lose. I have Sac State winning and finishing with a perfect record. 

Sac State: 35, UC Davis: 10