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The State Hornet

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The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

Sac State looks to answer questions down south

Hornets make long trip on a short week to open title defense
Alyssa Branum
Two Sacramento State football players battle it out in a blocking drill at practice on Tuesday, August 22, 2023. Both the offensive and defensive lines will be critical in the continued success of the Hornets.

As August closes and fall camp ends, the Sacramento State football team is buzzing for a chance to prove themselves against someone who isn’t wearing green and gold.

The 10th ranked Hornets open their season Aug. 31 in Thibodaux, Louisiana taking on the Nicholls State Colonels of the Southland Conference.

This will be the longest road trip for the program in over 25 years and the team has had to adjust their practice schedule to make this Thursday game feel like a normal prep week.

“They got a full day off like they normally would and we have been working since Saturday,” Sac State’s head coach Andy Thompson said. “They think [Monday] is a Thursday practice and tomorrow is another Thursday practice… We worked a little backward”

RELATED: PREVIEW: A new era dawns on Sac State football before 2023 season

Let’s get into why that is and what you should be watching out for this Thursday.

Carson Camp vs Kaiden Bennet

All eyes will be on these two in the Hornets’ matchup against the Colonels. Thompson has still yet to name a starter, but said both quarterbacks will get their chance in this week’s game.

“We are excited, we’ll see exactly who we are going to play and when we will play them,” Thompson said. “I don’t want to give you anything right now, that would be giving our opponents something.”

It would be easy to assume Sac State will try the two-quarterback system again, but don’t expect to see the frequent switching between Camp and Bennett as last season with Jake Dunniway and Asher O’Hara.

Whoever makes the start, it’s clear that Thompson trusts both his guys to play the level they need from a quarterback.
“I think all the quarterbacks worked extremely hard and are extremely talented,” Thompson said. “I feel like coach [Bobby] Fresques has done a good job getting those guys prepared and we will see how they do when the lights turn on.”

Offensive Line/Running Game

A large part of the Hornets’ 2022 success was because of the dominant offensive line play. Last season, the group upfront cleared gaps even I could run through. If Sac State hopes to maintain their success it starts with the big boys.

Sac State is returning a lot of key starters on the line such as junior Jackson Slater and sophomore center Nathan Mejia. All three made All-Big Sky teams last season and will be key contributors.

“We got a tight front five, we are all boys,” Slater said. “If you see a group of people out who are big guys, odds are it’s our offensive line. In the locker room, we are all friends with each other and talking the whole time.”

The two running backs, senior Marcus Fulcher and sophomore Elijah Tau-Tolliver, have a lot to live up to after last season’s Hornet squad averaged an astonishing 240 yards on the ground per game.

“We’ve got some good backs,” Slater said. “Just knowing that if they are having success we are having success, it’s a good thing to see.”

Bennett should be able to bring a lot of what O’Hara did to the running game and if it looks as good as it did last season the Hornets will be a top-tier offensive team all year.


Defensive Line/Secondary

Last season, the defensive line was a weak spot which forced the Hornets to bring a lot of pressure sending linebackers after the quarterback, which they saw success with. Even still, Sac State only had 18 sacks which ranked 105th in the nation.

“We are always putting a lot of work in,” sophomore defensive lineman DeShawn Lynch said. “I’ve been working on how I eat, my strength and getting my playbook all the way down to a tee.”

Bringing pressure means leaving the secondary on an island. While the secondary is experienced, nobody can hold up like that for a whole game, eventually, the cracks show and offenses take advantage.

It’s crucial the defensive line gets pressure with four rushers. If they can pull it off, this will be a much better defensive unit than last season. Key players to watch on the defensive line are senior Jett Stanley and Lynch.

These two position groups work in sync and they’ll need to be in tune for the Hornets to continue their regular season winning streak.

“I’m ready to cause havoc,” Lynch said. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long minute.”


Jack Freeman, Co-Sports Editor: Despite Sac State’s unknowns at key positions, the skill gap is clear between these two teams. The Colonels went 3-8 last season and have very few key returners on offense. I expect to see the Hornets light up the scoreboard, with their big-play brand of football on full display in Thibodaux.

Sac State: 48, Nicholls: 24

Myla Booth, Co-Sports Editor: It sounds like Sac State has been putting in a lot of work and already knows what they need to focus on going into this season. Looking at the Colonels record last season compared to the Hornets, I expect the Hornets to take this win.

Sac State: 41, Nicholls: 21

Chris Woodard, Managing Editor: Sac State has a large amount of questions that need answers. Fortunately, the picture should be clearer after Thursday’s game. I expect the Hornets coaching staff to discover the valuable pieces to the puzzle that is the 2023 season in a win over the Colonels.

Sac State: 48, Nicholls: 17

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About the Contributor
Jack Freeman
Jack Freeman, Managing Editor
Jack Freeman joined The State Hornet in spring 2022 as a staff writer and is currently a junior majoring in journalism. He returns as a Managing editor, resident Indoor football aficionado, and Kellen Moore fan.
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