SAN ANTONIO -- Sacramento State has eagerly awaited its opener since watching what could have been a magical season ruined by several close losses last year.
The Hornets showed their enthusiasm by scoring the most points in a season opener in 12 years, rolling to a 49-13 victory over Incarnate Word at Benson Stadium on Saturday.
Sacramento State finished with 386 total yards, with third-year starter Garrett Safron passing for 251 yards and five touchdowns. What truly excited the Hornets was getting a touchdown from their defense and having two more scores set up by special teams.
For a Hornets team that lost three games by three points or less while finishing 5-7, Saturday’s demolishing was the start its spirits needed.
“That was our problem last year – we gave up a lot of big plays as a defense,” Hornets linebacker Darnell Sankey said. “That’s what we’ve been focusing on, eliminating the big plays. The offense is doing their job, 49 points. … As a defense, we need to make sure we limit them.”
Sankey did his part, returning an interception 59 yards for a touchdown with seven minutes left in the third quarter for Sacramento State’s final points.
Incarnate Word was limited to 287 total yards, with its lone touchdown coming early in the fourth quarter after the game was decided.
“It was really good,” Hornets coach Jody Sears said. “I really liked the way we tackled and the energy that we played with on both special teams and defense. It’s been a huge emphasis since last winter.”
Incarnate Word quarterback Trent Brittain suffered a broken ankle during the first quarter. He will be examined today but is expected to miss much if not all of the season.
Brittain left the game with 3 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in the first quarter after taking a heavy hit from Sankey on a 4-yard run.
“When the quarterback got injured, it’s a tragedy. No one wants to get injured, and we don’t want to get the quarterback injured,” Sankey said. “We knew they would have to possibly bring in their second string, but it doesn’t matter to us. Whoever is in, we’re going to play the same way.”
The Cardinals struggled to move the ball even when Brittain was in, however.
Incarnate Word was limited to a pair of field goals in the first quarter before losing its second-year starting quarterback.
“They came in and made some plays. I was pretty excited to see them come out for coach Sears,” Safron said. “It was good. They stepped up and made some big plays.”
Safron led the Hornets to a touchdown on their opening drive.
After pounding the Cardinals’ interior defense, Jordan Robinson popped out of the backfield for a short pass near the sideline from Safron and dashed in for a 10-yard touchdown.
Consecutive hustling plays by Garrett Steele on special teams gave the Hornets a pair of touchdowns in less than 90 seconds.
With the Cardinals still getting their bearings after Steele blocked an attempted punt, Safron found DeAndre Carter sprinting behind the defense for a 33-yard touchdown.
Safron finished the game completing 17 of 25 passes.
“We had a long time to kind of scheme against what we wanted to do against Incarnate Word,” Safron said. “Coach (offensive coordinator Paul Peterson) put together a good game plan. It was just up to me to execute and feed the ball to my playmakers.”