With Menlo College’s football team coming to Sacramento State on Saturday night, the Hornets hope their battle cry “Remember the Raiders” will resonate with those with short-term memories.
Last year, the Southern Oregon Raiders, an NAIA school like Menlo, a tiny private school from Atherton, came to Sacramento and almost ruined the Hornets’ home opener.
Sac State needed a last-second touchdown pass from Garrett Safron to DeAndre Carter to tie the score in regulation, then another scoring strike between the two to prevail 63-56 in overtime.
Sac State senior safety Robbie Kendall mentioned 2013’s near-debacle during a team meeting Monday night, two days after the Hornets topped Weber State 42-31 in their 2014 season home opener.
“He was quick to tell his teammates that this isn’t a throwaway at all – remember what happened last year against Southern Oregon,” said Sac State coach Jody Sears. “We were fighting our guts out just to get it to overtime.”
The Oaks may have something else working in their favor. They are coached by Mark Grieb, a former quarterback at UC Davis, the rival school that has had the upper hand over the Hornets for years, even when the Aggies were still at Division II.
Grieb had a long career in the Arena Football League, primarily with the San Jose Sabercats. He is in his second season as coach at Menlo.
Menlo, a school of 750 students (nearly 100 on the football team) is 1-2 after beating Canadian team Simon Fraser 31-24 on Sept. 6, a week after falling to Southern Oregon 51-14.
“They’ve got some scrappy players who can make plays,” Sears said.
Sears gave the Hornets mixed reviews after beating Weber State, the school he coached the previous two seasons before being fired.
“Our biggest enemy is ourselves,” Sears said. “We had 10 penalties, which is inexcusable. We made some mistakes to let them back into it.”
But Sears was pleased how senior leaders Henry Fernandez, a linebacker, and Carter rallied their respective units after the Wildcats closed to within six points early in the fourth quarter.
“DeAndre challenged the offense and we went down in five or six plays and scored a touchdown on Jordan Robinson’s 30-yard (run),” Sears said. “That was a defining moment not only for that game, but for our leadership.”
Brad Cornish garnered most of the headlines in booting a school-record five field goals, including a personal-best 48-yarder, to earn Big Sky Conference and Football Championship Subdivision Special-teams Player of the Week honors.
Sears was impressed with Sac State’s veteran offensive line of John Wallace, Derek Nielsen, Lars Hanson, Aleksander Milanovic and Casey Dakin for helping the Hornets rush for 277 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, linebacker Darnell Sankey, Fernandez and Kendall finished with double-figure tackles, while Sears praised 6-foot-3, 260-pound senior end and captain Jaycee Totty for his efforts harassing Weber State quarterback Billy Green throughout the game.
The Aggies struggled defensively without injured senior free safety Charles Boyett, who sprained an ankle in practice last Thursday and did not play against the Rams. He could return against the Eagles.
UCD continued to make strides offensively since being shutout by No. 16 Stanford in the season opener. The Aggies passed for 200 yards and rushed for 179, did not have a turnover and led the Rams in time of possession (34:01 to 25:59 minutes).
The Hornets (2-2-1) will host Grand Canyon (1-3-0) at 1:30 p.m. Friday and Air Force (3-0-2) at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Aggies (2-0-3) will host Air Force at 5 p.m. Friday and Grand Canyon at 1 p.m. Sunday in Davis.
Teams will receive three points for a win and one point for a tie to determine a champion. An all-tournament team also will be selected.
Graham-Miller was a three-year assistant at UC Davis before working last season at Illinois. She joins Olympic discus gold medalist Stephanie Brown Trafton on the Hornets’ staff.