PREVIEW: Sac State football continues hunt for first FCS Playoff win

For the third straight season, the Hornets attempt a playoff run


James FIfe

Sac State offense lines up for a first down play against UC Davis at Hornet Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. The Hornets will need their offense to have a big day as they seek their first FCS playoff win.

Jack Freeman, Football Beat Writer

After two consecutive disappointing playoff appearances, the #2 Sacramento State Hornets will attempt to topple their FCS playoff demons against the Richmond Spiders in Hornet Stadium on Saturday at 2 p.m.

In 2019, the Hornets made their FCS playoff debut, falling at home to Austin Peay 42-28. Sac State returned the season after but came up short, dropping their second straight home playoff game to South Dakota State 24-19.

For Sac State football, making the playoffs is no longer the bar. They need to win a game and make a run at the National Championship game.

“The expectations are definitely higher,” senior offensive lineman Brandon Weldon said. “When we played Weber, we treated that [game] like it was the halfway point of the season. Setting the expectation that the National Championship [game] is a full season.”

RELATED: Sac State football’s record stays clean in rainy contest against Weber State

The Hornets will have to get through the Spiders, who sit at a 9-3 record after dominating the Davidson Wildcats in their first round matchup 41-0. Richmond has played an up-and-down season, notably dropping their rivalry game against #5 William and Mary to end their regular season.

After their blowout win, the Spiders will head to Sacramento with confidence and hungry for an upset.

“You’re in the second round of the playoffs so you’re going to play someone good,” Sac State head coach Troy Taylor said about Richmond. “We are going to have to play really well to beat them.”

Sac State is coming off a week of rest, and coaches prioritized not resting on their laurels. The Hornets practiced through the bye, although there was less contact than usual.

“[Players] had their regular break and then we went right back to practice,” Taylor said. “We wanted this year to keep our guys sharp and not give them as much downtime. We had a lot of momentum; sometimes when you’re playing well you don’t want to stop.”

The weather elements will play a factor in this matchup, it’s expected to rain throughout the game. The rainfall will play into the hands of the Hornets, who have a run-first attack.

“We’ve had a couple games in wet weather,” Taylor said. “You have to do the things you do to keep the ball dry, but we should be fine.”



This game features the first ever matchup between these two schools. The Richmond Spiders will present a challenge for the Hornets, bringing a balanced attack on both sides of the ball.

Richmond’s main offensive weapon is their graduate student quarterback Reece Udinski who set an FCS record last week, completing 90% of his passes. Udinski’s insane 6:1 touchdown to interception ratio has propelled the Spiders offense.

“[Udinski] is really good and very accurate,” Taylor said. “He makes good decisions and [Richmond] has good skill players.”

The Spiders use three primary receiving targets in their passing game. Graduate student wideout Jakob Herres leads the team in receiving yards and will test the Hornets defense deep.

The other wideouts are a duo of sure-handed players, with graduate student Leroy Henley and redshirt sophomore Jasiah Williams providing a set of reliable targets for Udinski.

On the ground, redshirt senior running back Aaron Dykes leads Richmond with 663 rushing yards. The Spiders are not a team built to win on the ground, which could become a problem in the rain.

Sac State has struggled against strong passing games this season and has had the ball fall their way a few times. Star senior linebacker Armon Bailey will play a large role again, containing short and over the middle passes.

The Hornets’ secondary will see a huge test in the Spider air-attack. Junior cornerback Caleb Nelson and senior cornerback Prince Washington are tasked with shutting down the deep attack. 

“Every week we are ready for any challenge that we have to face,” junior cornerback Dillion Juniel said. “We are going to trust the coaching, then come out and play ball.”

Turning to the Sac State offense, their running game needs no introduction. Big Sky Offensive MVP and Sac State sophomore running back Cameron Skattebo leads the way.

He’s had big games in the rain this season, so look for him to get a lot of play this week.

Combine Skattebo’s attack with senior quarterback Asher O’Hara’s running prowess and you’ve got the duo that has propelled Sac State to their best season ever. Get these two going and the Hornets will have stung the Spiders.

“We are not all a bunch of big guys,” Weldon said. “We are athletic and able to move around. It provides a lot of diversity to our plays. We might be smaller than the normal offensive line, but we are stronger.”

Another Hornet who excelled in the rain was junior tight end Marshel Martin. Against Weber State, Martin caught two touchdowns, including a 48-yard bomb from O’Hara. 

Expect senior quarterback Jake Dunniway to look Martin’s way when Dunniway checks in. It’s been a stellar connection all season.

Tasked with stopping the dominant Hornet offense is redshirt junior linebacker Tristan Wheeler, the Spiders’ leading tackler. If Richmond has any hope of staying in this game, they’ll need Wheeler to step up and have a big game.



Sacramento State: Shake off the rust and pound the rock. Sac State wins games on the ground and they need to stick to that philosophy against Richmond. The Hornets need to get Skattebo on the edge and let him wreak havoc on the Spider defense. Let Automatic O’Hara do the rest in the red zone.


Richmond: Control the ball. One area where Sac State has been bad is the turnover differential. The Spiders will have to turn the ball over and sustain drives for as long as they can. I believe in the Spider offense attacking the Hornet defense and the best way to stop the Hornet offense is by taking the ball away from them.



Jack Freeman, Football beat writer (11-0): Someone call Steve Young because the Hornets are about to take the playoff win monkey off their backs against Richmond. The Spiders are good and a really solid team, but they aren’t made to win this game. This Hornet group is special and they’ve found a way to win every game. They’ll find a way on Saturday.

Sac State: 30, Richmond: 21


Jordan Latimore, Sports Editor (7-4): Troy Taylor and the Hornets are facing a real challenge in getting over the hump of winning an FCS playoff matchup, and I think they will accomplish it. Sac State’s physical style of play has the means to win in any weather conditions, and I expect them to do so on Saturday.

Sac State: 24, Richmond: 14


Dylan McNeill, Sports Editor (9-2): For the first time in Sac State football, the Hornets will pick up an FCS playoff victory. Richmond is a very competent team, but Sac State won’t fall in their first playoff game for the third time under Troy Taylor. If the Hornets can control the line of scrimmage as they did all year, they’ll live to see another game.

Sac State: 23, Richmond: 20


Keyshawn Davis, Managing Editor (10-0): The Hornets are looking to get their first playoff win under coach Taylor and I feel like they will find that win this Saturday. I know the game will probably be raining, so that could affect the game a bit, but I don’t think it will affect how the Hornets play on offense, which is punch-you-in-the-mouth football. They will dominate the run game and also dominate the game, period. I have the Hornets winning convincingly.

Sac State: 26, Richmond: 10