Last season Garrett Safron dazzled Sacramento State football fans with his quarterbacking skills.
He set single season school records for completions and completion percentage while throwing for 22 touchdowns.
But through the first nine quarters of the 2013 season, the junior from Santa Monica seemed to be AWOL.
Entering the second quarter of Saturday's home opener against Southern Oregon, Safron had thrown five interceptions, fumbled once and had no touchdown passes, which included one-sided shutout losses to San Jose State and Arizona State.
Then the Safron of old appeared and the Hornets needed every bit of him to hold off an upset-minded Raiders team in a game that turned into a wild shootout.
Safron threw for a school record seven touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime and the game-tying touchdown with one second to play in regulation, to lift the Hornets over Southern Oregon 63-56 in front of a well-entertained announced crowd of 7,543.
Both of Safron's touchdown passes were to DeAndre Carter, a six-yarder in regulation and the 14-yarder in the first series of overtime.
Sac State then kept Southern Oregon and its standout quarterback Austin Dodge out of the end zone in their overtime series that started at the Hornets' 25.
"We hung in there, and it was just a hard-fought game by both teams," said Sacramento State coach Marshall Sperbeck. "We were very fortunate to pull it out."
Safron completed 34 of 52 passes for 368 yards. He added 51 yards rushing. He broke the school record of six held by Ryan Leadingham since 2003.
Carter caught 12 passes for 122 yards and a school-record five touchdowns. That broke the mark of four set by Chris Kelly in 1999.
Morris Norrise had 10 catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns.
Running back Ezekiel Graham rushed for 166 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries as Sac State rolled up 639 total yards.
But they weren't the only stars.
Southern Oregon, an NAIA school from Ashland that set a college football record by averaging 642 total yards last season, almost matched the Hornets play for play.
Junior quarterback Austin Dodge completed 27 of 57 passes for 366 yards and six touchdowns without throwing an interception. And former Vacaville running back Melvin Mason rushed for 236 yards and two touchdowns, including a 59-yarder that put Southern Oregon ahead 56-49 with a 1:48 to play.
Sac State got the ball back on its own 25 and Safron drove the Hornets to the Southern Oregon six-yard line with four seconds to play.
With one second showing, Safron hit Carter with a quick toss over the middle for the six-yard touchdown, the 12th play of the drive.
Southern Oregon (0-3) pressured Sac State's defense throughout in gaining 599 total yards, and the Hornets (1-2) didn't help their cause with some untimely penalties (13 for 129 yards).
But the Hornet defenders played flawlessly in the overtime.
Dodge threw an incomplete pass to Jeremy Scottow on the left side, then Sac State's JC Totty and Russell Smith smothered Mason for a one-yard loss. Dodge threw incompletions to Dylan Young and Mason in plays that were well defended on third and fourth downs.
In all the two teams combined for 1,238 total yards, 60 first downs and 17 touchdowns.
Defensively, linebacker Todd Davis led the Hornets with 12 tackles and a sack and Smith, the true freshman from Del Oro, added seven tackles. Former Oak Ridge player Dustin Fretwell had nine tackles for Southern Oregon.
Southern Oregon led 21-14 in the second quarter, fell behind 35-28 at halftime after Safron threw touchdown passes of 12 and seven yards to Carter sandwiched between a 24-yard score to Norrise.
But Southern Oregon scored twice in the third quarter, taking the lead 42-35 on a brilliant 76-yard touchdown run by Mason, a redshirt freshman.
Safron's five-yard touchdown to Norrise tied it 42-42 early in the fourth quarter, then the Hornets went up 49-42 midway in the period on Safron's 22-yard scoring strike to Carter.
But Dodge's 36-yard scoring strike to Young tied the game again at 49-49 with 4:43 to play, then the Raiders forced the Hornets to punt with 3:14 to go.
On the sixth play of their drive, Mason found a hole in the middle of Sac State's defense and went 59 yards for the touchdown to put the Raiders up 56-49 with 1:48 to play.
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.