Area college football fans will have the opportunity to see both UC Davis and Sacramento State play at home on Saturday.
At 1 p.m., UCD (0-4, 0-1) hosts No. 13 Montana (2-2, 1-0), one of the Big Sky Conference’s perennial heavyweights and a team the Aggies have yet to beat in six tries. Five hours later, Sac State (1-3, 0-1) faces Northern Colorado (2-2, 0-2), a team the Hornets have beaten in nine previous meetings.
UCD and Sac State are looking for their first Big Sky wins of the season after losing conference openers last Saturday. The Aggies fell 31-24 at North Dakota while Sac State stayed with No. 9 Eastern Washington with a strong first half before falling 28-20 at Hornet Stadium.
UCD continues to struggle while dealing with defensive attrition because of injuries, a problem that also plagued the Aggies last season. Four defensive starters and a key reserve were sidelined the past two games. Cornerbacks Shamawn Wright (foot) and Isiah Olave (ankle) are believed to be out for the season.
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The Aggies continue to commit critical turnovers and have struggled to establish a running game while also defensively getting beat up on the line. Both UCD turnovers led to North Dakota touchdowns, the Aggies gained only 67 rushing yards on 32 carries and allowed North Dakota to rush for 240 yards after gaining just 28 in their previous two games.
But UCD coach Ron Gould thinks the Aggies can salvage the season.
“Our kids are resilient,” Gould said. “...We have a good football team.”
Montana comes to Davis ranking third in the Big Sky in both offense and defense. The Grizzlies have a nonconference win over four-time defending Football Championship Subdivision champion North Dakota State and beat Northern Arizona 23-14 in its Big Sky opener last week.
Montana 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end Tyrone Holmes, who Gould calls an “NFL guy”, was named the FCS and Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week after he had four sacks and 5 1/2 tackles for losses against the Lumberjacks.
“We thought he was good last year, but he’s like Superman this year,” Gould said.
Holmes isn’t the only defensive standout in the Big Sky. Sac State senior linebacker Darnell Sankey continues to produce impressive numbers for the Hornets.
He had a team-high 13 tackles against Eastern Washington, his third-double digit performance of the season. It came one week after he had a school-record 27 tackles against Weber State. The 6-2, 250-pound Sankey ranks third in the FCS in averaging 14 tackles.
“You’ve got to know where No. 44 is at all times, no question about that,” said Northern Colorado coach Earnest Collins. “He’s a great player. … We’ll know where he is at all times. He’ll make his share of plays, and we’ll have to deal with that.”
Sac State coach Jody Sears was pleased how his team took a 20-7 first-half lead against Eastern Washington last week.
“We challenged the kids last week, and they came out and were ready to play,” Sears said “We’ve just got to sustain that kind of consistency and sustain that level of football for four quarters instead of two.”
Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin came away impressed with the Hornets.
“Sac State outcoached right from the get-go and outplayed us for the first 30 minutes,” Baldwin said. “We had to really gut-check at halftime…. It was a hard-earned win.”
Sophomore wide receiver Isiah Hennie was one of the Hornets to give Baldwin some headaches. The 5-7, 150 pound Hennie, one of the smallest players in NCAA Division I, turned a short slant from quarterback Daniel Kniffin into a 45-yard touchdown that gave the Hornets a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter.
The team’s punt and kick returner is Sac State’s leader in all-purpose yards with 497.
Montana at UC Davis
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Radio: 1140 KHTK
Northern Colorado at Sacramento State
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Radio: 1380 KTKZ