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  • José Luis Villegas Sacramento State quarterback Garrett Safron is brought down by San Jose State's Eugene Taylor (94) and Esston Al-Uqdah in the third quarter Thursday.

  • José Luis Villegas Disappointed fans have little to cheer about in the fourth quarter with the Hornets getting shut out by the Spartans.

No 'giant killer' this time

Published: Friday, Aug. 30, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Friday, Aug. 30, 2013 - 8:03 pm

In his news conference early in the week, San Jose State coach Ron Caragher called the Sacramento State Hornets "giant killers" with "instant credibility" because they have beaten Pacific-12 Conference schools in back-to-back seasons.

"They don't quit, they don't give up," he said.

But while the Hornets had an overtime win against Oregon State in 2011 and a late-comeback victory over Colorado last season – they play at Arizona State next Thursday – they have struggled against less-renowned FCS schools.

Last season, it was New Mexico State in Las Cruces. The Hornets lost that season opener 49-19.

In Thursday's opener, it was San Jose State delivering the blow, although the Spartans are on a big upswing and may be better than a lot of Pac-12 schools after last season's breakthrough 11-2 record.

Behind NFL quarterback prospect David Fales and some opportunistic plays by their defense, the Spartans rolled to a 24-0 win in front of a crowd of 13,136 at Spartan Stadium.

The Hornets, who moved the ball on the Spartans on several series, had to be thinking what could have been almost from the beginning after holding San Jose State on downs to open the game.

After some nice runs by Ezekiel Graham and De'jon Coleman that moved the ball to the San Jose State 47, wide receiver Morris Norrise ran a deep slant toward the Spartans' end zone without a blue shirt near him.

But quarterback Garrett Safron's pass stayed in the air too long, allowing the Spartans' Jimmy Pruitt to swoop in and almost intercept before the ball fell incomplete at the 3-yard line.

Safron was intercepted on the next play by Bene Benwikere, which led to a 37-yard field goal by Austin Lopez and a 3-0 first-quarter lead.

Fales then hit Chandler Jones with a 31-yard touchdown pass with 12:43 to go in the second quarter and a 15-yard scoring strike to Noel Grigsby just before the half for a 17-0 lead.

For the rest of night, it was a battle of futility for the Hornets. Several long drives came away with no points, including a couple inside San Jose State's 5-yard line. The Hornets also missed two field goals.

"We moved the ball well on offense in the second half but had some struggles punching it in," said Sac State coach Marshall Sperbeck. "Give San Jose State credit, they did a good job of keeping us out of the end zone."

The Hornets ran 79 plays and gained 278 total yards. San Jose State had 367 yards on 61 plays.

Safron was 23 of 40 for 192 yards with two interceptions and three sacks. Graham had 49 yards rushing on 18 carries and four catches for 32 yards.

Fales was 16 of 32 for 226 yards and two touchdowns. Jason Simpson rushed for 135 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown burst in the third.

"We had some tough moments, but our guys battled through it and fought until the end," Sperbeck said. "I thought our defense played their hearts out and held them to seven points in the second half."

It was the first meeting between the two California state university schools. Both have had a lot in common in trying to keep football viable.

They have fought to put fans in stadium seats and have played in the shadow of more renowned neighboring universities and football programs. For Sac State, it's been UC Davis. For San Jose State, it's nationally ranked Stanford.

Both colleges almost dropped football because of financial concerns, but somehow found a way, unlike many other state university schools that have dropped the sport.

Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.

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