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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

Football Mailbag: Sac State is down, but not out

From Big Sky implications to special teams, all your questions will be answered
Sac+State+freshman+running+back+Zeke+Burnett+sidesteps+a+Montana+State+defender+Saturday%2C+Oct.+21%2C+2023.+Due+to+injuries+in+the+running+back+room%2C+Burnett+has+had+to+step+up+and+has+76+yards+and+one+touchdown.
James Fife
Sac State freshman running back Zeke Burnett sidesteps a Montana State defender Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. Due to injuries in the running back room, Burnett has had to step up and has 76 yards and one touchdown.

After last week’s loss to Montana State, Sacramento State’s hopes of a fourth straight Big Sky Championship are all but done.

This is the first time since 2018 that the Hornets won’t be chasing the Big Sky crown, so where does that leave them?

Welcome to the Sac State football mailbag where I seek to answer that question and more!

George: @GeorgeDeFazio: Do you think the Hornets can play better than they did last week?

This is an interesting question, but I feel like I have to preface it with the fact that I don’t think Sac State played a particularly bad game last week. Did Montana State run for 325 yards? Yes, but that’s what the Bobcats do to teams.

RELATED: Sac State struggles while Montana State runs away with victory

With that out of the way, I do think the Hornets are still searching for a game where they win in all three phases. It feels like every week one side of the ball isn’t playing up to their potential, the other sides do. There hasn’t been a game where the Hornets have been truly dominant.

It starts with getting off the field and limiting drives that go on for six, seven, eight minutes that have just killed them all year.

George: @GeorgeDeFazio: Where do you see the Hornets as they move closer to the playoffs?

In Sam Herder’s latest FCS Bracketology, he had Sac State as a highly ranked unseeded playoff team. I agree that Sac State will make the playoffs, but in order to end up as a highly ranked unseeded team they’ll have to win out.

With their win at Stanford propping them up and an undefeated slate against unranked Big Sky teams the Hornets should be a lock for the playoffs, but they aren’t in yet and those Big Sky wins are no guarantee. A win in two weeks against Montana should lock them in.

A loss to Montana could hurt their playoff spot and make the Causeway Classic a battle for a playoff spot as it’s possible both Sac State and UC Davis would be around the same spot.

Dylan McNeill: @dmcneiltypes: Do you have a particular special teamer that you enjoy watching during Hornets’ kickoff coverage?

You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to rave about Sac State’s special team kick coverage.

I would be remiss of my coverage if I did not mention sophomore cornerback Jalin Speed, who forced his first fumble on Saturday against Montana State, as someone who is frequently flying down the field.

Speed has been a starter on kickoff coverage since his arrival and has only improved, getting to the ball much quicker. Besides Idaho, Sac State’s kickoff coverage has been excellent and put their opponents in poor field position all year.

Another one of my favorites happens to be the player who recovered Speed’s fumble, junior wide receiver Sawyer Merrill. Not only has Merrill made big plays on kickoff coverage, but his work as a punt gunner is the stuff coaches dream of.

“He does a great job of playing with great effort,” Sac State head coach Thompson said of Merrill. “For two years he’s been one of our top special teams guys players. We’ve been impressed with his play on special teams.”

Rusty: @RustleLeaf83: Jack, coach indicated it was on him, but they rarely make in-play adjustments. How are they going to rectify?

This question is in reference to a quote from Thompson after the Montana State loss:

“Seemed like when we had people inside, they ran the ball outside and when we had people outside, they ran the ball inside. It starts with me as a coach, I have to do a better job getting them prepared. They worked their tails off, they gave us everything.”

— Andy Thompson

I talked with Thompson to see what he was working on specifically and how those problems could be fixed going forward.

“Being ready for what they could do to us, not necessarily what they have done on film,” Thompson said. “With [Idaho State] they have two quarterbacks we gotta hone in on some of the things they can do that they’ve shown on film, then maybe things they can do that they haven’t shown.”

Spencer: @spencerf30: What has been your favorite moment of the season so far?

This was a question I had to think about for quite a bit. The obvious answer would be covering the Stanford game and all the craziness that came with that game so that’s what I’ll go with.

Specific moments that I will always remember from that game were the heroics of senior running back Marcus Fulcher on the game-winning score and walking into Stanford’s press box and being blown away at how fancy it was.

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About the Contributor
Jack Freeman, Sports Editor
(he/him)
Jack Freeman joined The State Hornet in spring 2022 as a staff writer. He returns as the co-sports editor and resident Kellen Moore fan. He is currently a junior majoring in journalism.
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