One week after starting the season with losses, Sacramento State and UC Davis play on their biggest stages of the season at Football Bowl Subdivision schools this week.
Sac State, which lost 24-0 Thursday at San Jose State, plays Thursday at Arizona State. The Hornets will try to beat a Pacific-12 Conference school for the third consecutive season.
UC Davis, which lost 10-7 at South Dakota in coach Ron Gould's debut, travels to Reno to face Nevada on Saturday.
The loss to San Jose State was the Hornets' first shutout since a 58-0 defeat to New Mexico in 2007.
The Hornets controlled the time of possession (36 minutes to 24 minutes), had more first downs (18 to 15) and kept San Jose State's high-powered spread attack largely in check.
But the Spartans turned Garrett Safron's two interceptions into 10 points, added seven after a missed Sac State field-goal attempt (one of two misses, both on errant holds/snaps), then finished with a back-breaking 55-yard third-quarter touchdown run by Jason Simpson.
The Spartans also stopped 68-yard and 39-yard drives by the Hornets with fourth-down stands on their own 2- and 8-yard lines.
Last year, Sac State and Safron bounced back from a poor performance in a season-opening loss at New Mexico State to beat Colorado in Boulder 30-28 on a late field goal. It was the Hornets' second consecutive win over a Pac-12 school, having beaten Oregon State 29-28 in overtime the season before.
Safron, who completed 25 of 37 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns against the Buffaloes, hopes the Hornets can have a similar inspiring performance in Tempe, Ariz.
"There's always a lot more hype around these type games," Safron said. "You're playing in front of a lot more fans (47,000 at Colorado), and there's a lot of energy in the stadium. It's always fun going into that environment."
It will be the season opener for Arizona State, which went 8-5 last season under first-year coach Todd Graham, tied for second in the Pac-12 South Division and beat Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.
The Sun Devils are aware of Sac State's success against the Pac-12, so Graham doesn't expect his players to look past the Hornets, a Football Championship Subdivision school.
"I think they're mature enough to understand that any team can beat you," Graham said. "You see all over the country that kind of stuff happening, and not just anybody. There are ranked (FBS) opponents getting beat by (FCS) teams."
Graham said Sac State's loss was misleading because the Hornets had four good scoring opportunities that failed to produce points.
"In the first game, I don't think their offense was indicative of how good they are," Graham said.
Arizona State has a 19-game winning streak against Big Sky Conference opponents. Its last loss to a Big Sky team was to Northern Arizona in 1939.
If the Aggies didn't have a quarterback controversy before Saturday's game, they have one now.
Four-year starter Randy Wright had his worst performance since throwing for 57 yards against Cal as a redshirt freshman in his first start in 2010.
Wright completed 7 of 14 passes for 60 yards, and the Aggies didn't score until 3:50 remained in the game after a 75-yard drive, mainly on runs by walk-on junior Gabe Manzanares (18 carries, 91 yards, one touchdown).
Jimmy Laughrea, a Boise State transfer from Rocklin, played the second quarter before Wright returned for the second half.
Laughrea was 6 of 10 for 50 yards and rushed for 29 yards. He had a 27-yard touchdown pass to Tom Hemmingsen called back by a holding penalty and put the Aggies in position for 45- and 20-yard field-goal attempts, but Brady Stuart missed one and had the other blocked.
Gould said the starting job is up in the air and will be decided based on practice this week.
South Dakota, 1-10 last season, had lost nine in a row until beating the Aggies, who managed just 267 total yards, 157 rushing.
Like Gould, Nevada's Brian Polian lost his debut, 58-20 to UCLA on Saturday in Pasadena.
Polian, the son of former NFL executive Bill Polian, replaced College Football Hall of Fame coach Chris Ault.
Ault, who stepped down in December and is now a consultant with the Kansas City Chiefs, will be honored Saturday when Nevada renames the Mackay Stadium field "Chris Ault Field."
Ault spent 41 years at Nevada as a player, coach and administrator. He won 233 games as a coach.
SACRAMENTO STATE AT ARIZONA STATE
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV/radio: PAC12 Network, 1380
UC DAVIS AT NEVADA
When: Saturday, 6:05 p.m.
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.