SAN LUIS OBISPO Entering Saturday, the story for Sacramento State was its reliance on junior quarterback Garrett Safron and the rest of the offense's ability to make up for one of the Big Sky Conference's worst defensive units.
But in a crucial conference matchup against Cal Poly, the Hornets' offense never showed up as Sac State dropped a 42-7 decision to the Mustangs.
"They played good defense, but we knew coming in that they were a top defense in the conference," Sac State coach Marshall Sperbeck said. "In the second half, Garrett got dinged up a little bit, but give them credit. They outplayed us."
The Hornets (4-6, 3-3 Big Sky) were eliminated from conference title contention after Eastern Washington defeated Montana State, which had been the only other undefeated Big Sky team, earlier in the day. Cal Poly (5-5, 4-2), meanwhile, stayed in the hunt. Cal Poly and Sac State entered Saturday's game with identical overall and Big Sky records.
Cal Poly now leads the all-time series 17-16.
"It's tough," Sac State wide receiver Morris Norrise said. "It's my senior year, so these might be my last two games (coming up)."
Sac State got its lone score of the game with 7:48 left in the first half on a 99-yard drive capped by Safron's 15-yard pass to DeAndre Carter on fourth and 2.
Other than that, the Hornets' offense sputtered for most of the night as they finished with 258 total yards to Cal Poly's 490, including 424 on the ground. Sac State finished with just 62 yards of total offense in the second half.
"They had a similar look as Montana, but they played back and gave us the underneath, but we just didn't make plays," Norrise said.
Safron finished 24 of 43 for 204 yards with two interceptions. He also led the Hornets with 25 rushing yards.
Safron appeared to get injured on the final play of the first half as he was sandwiched by Cal Poly defenders after releasing a pass headed for the end zone. He returned for the second half but threw a pick to Cal Poly's Vante Smith-Johnson on the first play of the third quarter.
Cal Poly sophomore Chris Brown completed only six passes in 10 attempts, but four went for touchdowns. Cole Stanford caught two of the scoring passes.
Cal Poly's Akaninyene Umoh and Kristaan Ivory rushed for 129 and 118 yards, respectively.
"The (triple option) is always a tough offense to face, Hornets senior linebacker Todd Davis said. "If you're not sound in every key element, you're going to get gashed a little bit, and that's what happened tonight."
After Cal Poly's Alex Hubbard ran back the game's opening kickoff 76 yards to Sac State's 22-yard line, Stanford scored on a 16-yard pass from Brown.
The Mustangs scored one more touchdown in the first quarter, then added a touchdown in the second and third quarter each and 14 points in the final quarter to put the game away.