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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 revs up for trip to Northern Colorado

Hornets want to break out in the Big Sky Conference
James Fife
(L-R) Senior linebacker Brock Mather, senior cornerback Dillon Juniel and junior safety Cameron Broussard stand together before a play Sept. 30, 2023. Juniel will be a key player in the game against Northern Colorado.

The bye week couldn’t have lined up much better for a battered Sacramento State squad that was coming off of three one-score games in a row, with two on the road.

Injuries to key players were piling up and they were in desperate need of some time to rest, luckily they got it last week. Now they’ve got a winless Northern Colorado Bears team on deck, a perfect opportunity to get rolling after a break.

Although 0-5, the record doesn’t tell the whole story for Northern Colorado. They’ve taken on No. 7 Incarnate Word and FBS No. 19 Washington State. In the Big Sky, they led against No. 22 Weber State until the final minutes and played Idaho State close.

Last year, these two teams met in Sacramento in a game the Bears would rather forget. The Hornets dolled out a 55-7 whacking behind 332 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

RELATED: RECAP: Sac State dismantles Northern Colorado to move to 5-0

With how competitive the Big Sky is this season, the Hornets can’t look past the Bears, no matter how good next week’s opponent is. Let’s break down what to watch for this Saturday.

Boogity, boogity, boogity

Sac State’s defense has struggled to start games fast, instead of full throttle. In two of the last three games, the Hornet defense has conceded touchdowns on the opponent’s first drive.

With the new NCAA clock rule changes, college football games are now shorter than ever before, making every possession matter. The defense’s lack of horsepower at the start of games has really hurt the Hornets’ ability to control the game.

“We gotta be able to stop the run,” Sac State head coach Andy Thompson said. “I think our offense did a good job starting fast last week, we just gotta do that on defense.”

This game will give them quite the test, as Northern Colorado scored touchdowns on their first three drives against Weber State. These would be the only points Northern Colorado would score in the game. If Sac State’s defense can start fast, this could turn ugly early.

E for Execution

Sac State has a tackling problem and it was on full display when Northern Arizona gashed the Hornets for 195 yards on the ground two weeks ago. Thompson said the team really wanted to focus on effort when it came to making those much-needed tackles.

“It’s executing,” Thompson said. “I know we want to stop the run better than we have. Fundamentally, tackling people when you’re unblocked is a huge part of that too.”

In the cold, it will be critical that the Hornet defense can get back on track making tackles. Northern Colorado is a team that will look to lean on the run because of these issues, and the Hornets can’t afford that.

The Bears are sure to take a few deep shots on the defense as well, and the Hornets have to be ready for them. Senior corners Caleb Nelson and Dillon Juniel will be key in stopping those plays.

“I love it,” Juniel said about getting tested on deep routes. “The mindset is my guys and coaches trust me and I know the practice is going to pay off. I don’t think too much of it, it’s second nature.”

With each possession mattering as much as they do, allowing the opponent to successfully run the ball means they can easily drain even more clock. Sac State’s defense needs to get off the field and do it quickly.

Cover me, I’m healing

After the Northern Arizona game, Sac State was hurting at key positions. Junior quarterback Kaiden Bennett was dealing with a shoulder injury, while senior running back Marcus Fulcher was out with an ankle injury.

Not to mention senior tight end Marshel Martin IV’s battle with a leg injury he suffered against Nicholls and the myriad of offensive line injuries the team has had to deal with. Martin’s resurgence would be huge for the offense, which has struggled on early downs.

Even without Martin at full strength, Bennett has done a great job spreading the ball around to his entire wide receiver room. No Sac State receivers have caught more than one touchdown.Senior wideout Carlos Hill was the latest to snag a touchdown, expect Hill to contribute on Saturday.

“It took a long time,” Hill said in reference to his first touchdown at Sac State. “I knew it was going to come soon, but scoring at home and hearing the crowd roar was special.”

Going into Northern Colorado, this could be the healthiest the Hornets have been all season.

“We didn’t have pads on last week,” Thompson said. “We gave them some time off from their shoulders and necks hitting. I think everybody feels a little fresher this week.”


Jack Freeman, Co-Sports Editor (4-1): After watching five games this season I’m done predicting blowouts or shootouts. The cold weather should slow this game down as both teams shake off the rust of a bye week. Martin finally establishes himself as a star in the offense and the defense bounces back against the run.

Sac State: 38, Northern Colorado: 28

Myla Booth, Co-Sports Editor (4-1): Sac State just needs to tighten up those tackles and get ready to put all the pressure needed on Northern Colorado to pull the win on this game.

Sac State: 45, Northern Colorado: 20

Chris Woodard, Managing Editor (3-2): Don’t expect any bye-week blues from the Hornets on Saturday. Still riding the high of a crucial win at home a couple of weeks ago, Sac State is aware that their destiny is still in their hands. Any slip-ups, however, can be devastating.

Sac State: 41, Northern Colorado: 17

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About the Contributor
Jack Freeman, Sports Editor
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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