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The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor
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 must respond against Cal Poly after blowout loss

Sac State dropped two spots to No. 9 in the FCS media poll
James Fife
Sac State senior running back Marcus Fulcher stands alone against Texas A&M-Commerce Sept. 9, 2023. Fulcher will be a key player for the Hornets against Cal Poly.

Sacramento State returns home Saturday to face Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, a 3-6 team with just one win in the Big Sky in their final home regular season game.

Sac State is coming off a 34-7 defeat on the road last Saturday against No. 3 Montana. It was their largest margin of defeat since 2018. They now have to forget about that game and bounce back against a Cal Poly team that’s coming off a 48-13 defeat to Eastern Washington.

“They’ve got a good passing game, their defense is very aggressive,” Sac State head coach Andy Thompson said. “They’ve won three games this year, so it’s an improvement from where they were a year ago. I’m sure they’ll be excited to play us.”

The Mustangs have given up the most touchdowns in the Big Sky and average 38.3 points allowed per game. In their last two defeats, Cal Poly has given up a total of 107 points.

This is a stellar opportunity for the Hornets to bounce back and make a statement after a convincing loss last Saturday. Sac State has won this matchup the last three times, with a 49-21 win in 2022 being the most recent result.

RELATED: Sac State runs out of gas early against Montana

Here are three things to watch for on Saturday as the Hornets take on the Mustangs.

Run the ball!

This is a matchup that any running back would be licking their lips over. The Cal Poly defense averages 204.7 rushing yards allowed per game and 5.5 yards per carry, the second most in the Big Sky.

Players like junior quarterback Kaiden Bennett and senior running back Marcus Fulcher, the Hornets’ top two leading rushers, should be primed for productive games on the ground Saturday.
Fulcher has dealt with injuries this season that have forced him to miss games which is why he’s only featured in six games in 2023. He is coming off a game which saw him record his season high in rushing yards, with 87 yards on 11 carries to go along with one rushing touchdown against Montana.

“I don’t really look for stats, me personally,” Fulcher said. “I just try to do what helps the team best and look to get that dub at the end of the week.”

You shall not pass

Cal Poly are going to throw the ball. A lot. They’ve attempted the second most passes and have the second least amount of rushing attempts in the Big Sky.

The Sac State secondary will almost certainly be busy on Saturday but if they can do a sound job of defending the pass, they will have a stress-free game.

Facing an offense heavily reliant on the pass is not something new for the Hornets. Two weeks ago they faced Idaho State, the only team in the Big Sky that passes more than Cal Poly and held them to 16 points and 292 passing yards, both well below their season averages.

The Hornets have done a decent job of defending the pass this season, only allowing 11 passing touchdowns in nine games and haven’t allowed more than two passing touchdowns in a single game. Opposing teams also have a 56% pass completion percentage against the Sac State defense, the second lowest percentage in the Big Sky.

Leading the Cal Poly offense is redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Huard. Huard leads the Big Sky in passing touchdowns thrown with 14 touchdowns in seven games.

Huard made the transfer from Washington to Cal Poly this season to reunite with his former high school head coach, who is the current offensive coordinator for the Mustangs. Huard was rated as a five-star prospect coming out of high school by 247sports and ranked as the third best quarterback in the class of 2021. The third spot put him one place below USC’s Caleb Williams and one place above UNC’s Drake Maye.

“We’re more so focused on ourselves,” senior safety Kylen Ross said.”We don’t really follow names or anything like that, no discredit to the quarterback. Everybody that we face, we see him as a top level athlete.”

Full focus on Cal Poly

What happened last week, happened last week. Sac State has to turn the page and forget about what happened against Montana and turn their attention to Cal Poly.

“Anytime you lose, you just want to have a better mindset, and a better way you practice from last week,” Fulcher said. “Everybody just got to keep their heads high and try to get better individually and as a team.”

This game can be tricky for Sac State, if the Hornets make things difficult for themselves. On paper, this should be a comfortable win for Sac State, but games are not won on paper.

“We need to come out fast and do our job. Come out together and make sure we have good energy,” Ross said. “Come out fast and don’t stoop down by just doing our assignment.”


Joey Aguirre, Staff Writer (0-0): I think Sac State will be fired up and come out with a lot of energy for this game and win it by a wide margin. I’m expecting Fulcher and Bennett to have big games on the ground. Huard will need to play like Drake Maye for this one to be close.

Sac State: 41, Cal Poly 17

Jack Freeman, Sports Editor (6-1): It’s senior day in Sacramento and there’s no doubt about it this is a must win game for Sac State. The Hornets need to set the tone and find their offensive identity while they still can. Give me Fulcher and his boys to run all over the Mustangs in this one.

Sac State: 34, Cal Poly: 21

Myla Booth, Sports Editor (6-1): This is the last home game for the Hornets and I believe they are going to do their best to take this game win. They just need to focus on executing their plays and stay strong offensively as well defensively. Sac State will definitely try to give Cal Poly a run for this win.

Sac State: 45, Cal Poly: 28

Chris Woodard, Managing Editor (4-3): Saturday brings us a game that is begging folks to bet the over, sign me up. I expect the price of admission to include a Hornet offense that dismantles the Mustangs’ doormat defense. Even if Sac State’s defense gives up a big play or two, I imagine the Hornets will bring plenty of their own to the afternoon party.

Sac State: 38, Cal Poly: 21

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Joey Aguirre
Joey Aguirre, Sports Editor
(he/him) Joey Aguirre is in his second semester at The State Hornet. He is a passionate sports fan and wants to pursue a career in sports media.
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