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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 loses heavyweight playoff bout against South Dakota

Hornets surrender 21 points in second quarter, season ends with 34-24 loss
Senior+running+back+Marcus+Fulcher+runs+ahead+against+South+Dakota+Saturday%2C+Dec.+2%2C+2023.+Fulcher+scored+twice+against+the+Coyotes+in+his+final+game+as+a+Hornet.
Aaron Mercado (Courtesy of South Dakota Athletics)
Senior running back Marcus Fulcher runs ahead against South Dakota Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. Fulcher scored twice against the Coyotes in his final game as a Hornet.

At the start of a boxing match, both fighters will spend time studying their opponent looking for weaknesses they can exploit before they attack.

The first quarter of the Sacramento State and South Dakota FCS playoff game was that time when both teams felt each other out, waiting for the dam to burst. At the end of the quarter, South Dakota threw the first punch.

A pass from junior quarterback Kaiden Bennett slipped through the hands of senior wideout Carlos Hill, and South Dakota’s junior defensive back Josiah Ganues made a diving interception. Two plays later, they threw the second haymaker, an 18-yard strike to sophomore wideout Javion Phelps that put the Coyotes up 10.

Sac State was down, but came back with an uppercut of their own. A 33-yard run by senior tight end Marshel Martin IV made this game look like it was about to turn from a boxing match into a boat race.

The Coyotes weren’t done however, as they loaded up a sucker punch that would send the Hornets reeling. As Bennett took off on the next play, South Dakota knocked the ball loose and ran it back for a 56-yard scoop and score.

As South Dakota went up 17-0, the Hornets lost Bennett to a shoulder injury that would keep him out for the rest of the game. He was replaced by South Dakota transfer junior quarterback Carson Camp, who came in and led the Hornets to their first touchdown drive.

“[Bennett] got hit last week and hoped he would be able to play this week, he gave everything he had,” Sac State head coach Andy Thompson said. “Carson was the next guy up and I thought he provided a spark for us.”

South Dakota wouldn’t let Camp’s spark light a fire. On the second play of their response drive, sophomore quarterback Aidan Bouman found junior tight end JJ Galbreath wide open up the seam for a 75-yard touchdown.

Sac State was left battered and bruised, fighting a 24-7 uphill battle. Despite efforts from senior running back Marcus Fulcher and Camp, the South Dakota scoring burst in the second quarter was too much.

“We beat ourselves,” junior wide receiver Anderson Grover said. “We didn’t play our best game, we left a lot out there.”

Both players would engineer scoring drives of their own, with Fulcher’s coming at the end of the second quarter after a fumble forced by Sac State’s senior cornerback Dillon Juniel. Fulcher would finish the game with 73 yards on 14 attempts and two touchdowns.

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Camp came in against his former team and was not afraid to sling it, he finished the day with 168 yards, completing 61% of his passes and one touchdown. He also ran for 53 yards on nine attempts.

“He is familiar with South Dakota’s defense,” Thompson said of choosing Camp. “I thought he gave us the best chance to win at that moment.”

After committing no penalties last week, the Hornets’ pre-snap penalty demons reappeared in this one. Sac State was called for four pre-snap penalties on four separate drives. Of the four dives, only one resulted in points.

South Dakota dominated through the air because Sac State was committed to stopping the run, the Coyotes used the play action pass to move the ball down field with ease. Bouman finished the day completing 69% of his passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns.

“We knew coming in they were going to be similar to [North Dakota],” junior defensive lineman Leke Fashola said. “They did a good job on offense and I think on defense we did a good job as well.”

In the second half, Sac State’s rushing defense improved, only allowing 3.5 yards per carry in the third quarter. But it was only a matter of time before South Dakota loaded up the knockout punch. It would be freshman running back Charles Pierre Strong Jr. who delivered it.

“I thought in all three phases they played a nice game,” Thompson said. “Running the ball, they had some big plays.”

A 50-yard run from Pierre with seven minutes remaining set South Dakota up for a 34-yard field goal to extend their lead to 17, putting this game out of reach for Sac State.

Sac State wraps up Thompson’s first year at the helm with a 8-5 record, including a playoff win that ties him with former head coach Troy Taylor for the most FCS playoff wins in school history.

“That’s the thing about the playoffs, these guys give everything they can and then it’s over,” Thompson said. “I really appreciate our seniors and everything they can give to this program.”

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Jack Freeman, Managing Editor
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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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