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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 meets UC Davis for monumental 69th Causeway Classic

Playoff implications and a trophy on the line, could there be a nicer matchup?
James Fife
Senior linebacker Armon Bailey flexes after making a tackle against UC Davis Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Bailey leads the Hornets’ defense with 73 tackles in just nine games.

As another Sacramento State football regular season draws to a close, it’s time for the annual Causeway Classic matchup against UC Davis.

But this is no usual Causeway Classic, the 69th edition of this storied rivalry carries with it heaps of drama. From playoff implications to one team trying to break back into the win column, this is one regular season finale worthy of its name.

Sac State is fresh off of a dominant 41-30 win over Cal Poly that showcased how explosive their offense can be at full strength. The Hornets are the winners of the last three Causeway Classics, including last year’s 27-21 nailbiter that saw them claim their first undefeated season in school history.

“Anytime you’re playing against a rival it energizes your alumni and fans,” Sac State head coach Andy Thompson said. “I think there is a lot of pride in Sacramento and we want to make sure we do everything in our power to represent them the right way, a victory usually works.”

UC Davis just scraped by Idaho State last week in a father-versus-son matchup and is in the midst of a rollercoaster of a season. Sitting at 6-4, the Aggies are looking for an upset win in the Big Sky that could propel them into the FCS playoffs, eerily similar to the position they were in last season.

Now that the scene is set, here are the three key things to watch for in this Causeway Classic.

Carson conked them

Ever since true freshman quarterback Carson Conklin stepped onto the field he has been in full control of the offense. Last week, he boasted 313 yards and three touchdowns on 26 attempts.

RELATED: Hornets’ potent offense secures a win over Cal Poly

In the three games Conklin has been behind the reins, the Hornet offense has scored over 40 points twice, a mark they failed to hit earlier in the season.

His accuracy and throwing ability have impressed Thompson, he said.

“He’s done a good job of getting the ball to playmakers and helping the offense score points,” Thompson said.

It hasn’t been all Conklin however, the impressive young gunslinger has had some help from a revitalized running game. The full return of senior running back Marcus Fulcher was on full display against Cal Poly and sophomore running back Elijah Tau-Tolliver has come on strong as a change of pace back.

“Making people miss, getting those tough yards, any of those move-the-chains types of runs are good,” Fulcher said about his favorite plays to make.

Even with some rain in the forecast, the Hornets will look to attack through the air to avoid facing the Aggies’ defensive front that has been excellent at stopping the run.

“They are a very physical, very big group,” Thompson said of the Aggies defense. “They do a good job of mixing coverages as well.”

Hornets, aggies and a wildcat

UC Davis’ offensive identity is running the football with junior running back Lan Larison and the run-pass option. In the last four games, Larison has toted the ball at least 20 times and gone over 250 yards twice.

The Aggies will do anything to get the ball to their back, against Idaho State they moved Larison to the quarterback position on multiple plays.

“They use their running back at quarterback, he scored three touchdowns from the quarterback position,” Thompson said. “Montana State was really similar with how much their quarterback ran. They are using their running back in a bunch of different ways.”

All day against Idaho State he cemented his name in the UC Davis history books, scoring three times and taking home Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week.

The flip side of the Aggies’ attack is their heavy use of RPOs where the quarterback has the choice at the snap to give it to his running back or throw it.

“We’ve seen some of that, but not as much as we are going to see Saturday,” Thompson said. “Gotta win one-on-one matchups. It splits the defense in half and you have to do your job.”

Sac State will have to load the box to stop Larison, which will leave their corners on an island when defending RPOs. Senior cornerbacks Dillon Juniel and Caleb Nelson will need to have perfect days if the Hornets want to contain the Aggies.

“Whenever we take the field, we come out with energy, we are flying around the ball, swarming,” Nelson said. “I feel like that’s the biggest thing that we need going into this game and going forward.”

Playoffs? Are you kidding me? Playoffs?

Yes, Jim Mora, it is indeed time to talk about the FCS playoffs. With a win in this one, Sac State’s eight wins, including a Power-5 win over Stanford, should lock them into the FCS playoffs.

In Sam Herder’s newest Bracketology, he has the Hornets with a win sitting on the bubble of a playoff seed with the possibility of a home playoff game if the chips fall their way. However, if the Hornets lose this one, their playoff chances could be diminished.

While they would likely still make the playoffs as a low seed, a loss would set the Hornets close to the bubble, competing with the team that just beat them. It would secure another road trip for the Hornets as it would eliminate their chances at a home playoff game.

Needless to say, this game carries a lot of weight and if the Hornets can make a statement, it could skyrocket them into a seed and a home playoff game for the fourth season in a row.


Jack Freeman, Sports Editor (7-1): So far this season my preseason predictions have been perfect so I won’t stray away from sticking with my gut on this one. I foresee this game turning into an offensive shootout with both defenses struggling to stop offenses who are firing on all cylinders. The Aggies don’t have enough to keep up with the Hornets’ offense and Sac State will be heading home with the Causeway trophy yet again.

Sac State: 38, UC Davis: 34

Myla Booth, Sports Editor (7-1): I think Sac State is going to give their all in this matchup against our rivals UC Davis. However, the Aggies won’t go down without a fight at their home. The Hornets will need to make sure to play strong defense and keep up offensively to stop the Aggies.

Sac State: 31, UC Davis: 27

Chris Woodard, Managing Editor (5-3): The Hornets have scored exactly 27 points in the last three Causeway Classics and secured Ws in each one. A similar output will not be enough this year, fortunately, this Sac State offense will be bringing their big plays to Yolo County. If the Hornets can rise above that 27 number, they will secure the fourth-consecutive Causeway Classic.

Sac State: 41, UC Davis: 27

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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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  • Mike FrostNov 17, 2023 at 2:55 pm

    Luv the hornets, unfortunately we have a jr high pass defense. If Cal Poly put 30 on the board with 500 yd passing Davis could put 50+ up. Makes you wonder about coach Thompson’s defensive coaching abilities. Sac State will lose big. UCD 38-13. I hope I’m wrong!