The festive halftime musical presentation and fireworks show had to serve as the highlight for Sacramento State football fans during Saturday night’s homecoming game against No. 24 North Dakota at Hornet Stadium.
The Fighting Hawks (4-2, 3-0), dominant in every phase, handed the Hornets a crushing 40-7 defeat in front of an announced crowd of 9,614.
The dreary performance by Sac State (1-5, 1-2) against the Big Sky Conference co-leaders came a week after the Hornets’ impressive 41-38 comeback home win over Montana State, a promising result that ended the Hornets’ four-game losing streak to open the season. Sac State had outscored Montana State 20-0 in the fourth quarter.
But the Hornets beat Montana State in spite of allowing the Bobcats 385 rushing yards.
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The struggles against the run continued as the Fighting Hawks rushed for 422 yards in finishing with 625 total yards.
“We didn’t play physical enough; we didn’t get off enough blocks to make plays,” said Sac State coach Jody Sears. “We missed tackles. We’ve got to do a better job of making sure our guys are in position to make plays.”
North Dakota quarterback Keaton Studsrud passed for 203 yards and rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries, a 14.3 average. Running backs Brady Oliveira (111 yards, two touchdowns) and Austin Gordon (102 yards) also starred.
North Dakota was just as formidable on defense against a Hornets team that had averaged 39 points in its first two conference games. The Hornets were limited to 272 total yards, 95 rushing.
“There are not too many positives on that stat sheet,” Sears said.“We don’t have any excuses. We should have played better. … I know those kids are extremely disappointed in the way they played. But we’re not going to pout. We’re going to go to work and fix it.”
Sac State didn’t score until Jordan Robinson rushed for a 14-yard touchdown with 7:34 to play in the third quarter and the Fighting Hawks up 34-0.
Sac State quarterback Nate Ketteringham was 15 of 34 for 177 yards with an interception.
North Dakota used long drives and big plays in building a 27-0 halftime lead.
On their first possession of the game, the Fighting Hawks went 99 yards in eight plays, capped by Studsrud’s 6-yard touchdown run up the gut. Nolan Merker’s 50-yard punt after the Hornets’ opening possession had pinned North Dakota at its 1.
North Dakota scored 21 second-quarter points on touchdown runs of 40, 26 and 17 yards by Studsrud, John Santiago and Oliveira. North Dakota had 369 total yards, including 247 rushing, in the first 30 minutes.
Sac State was unable to take advantage of a handful of opportunities in the first two quarters.
Ketteringham hooked up with Johnnie Rucker for a 52-yard pass-and-run play midway in the first quarter, but Tanner Kuljian’s 33-yard field-goal attempt was blocked. The Hornets’ Allen Perryman recovered Josh Seibel’s fumble on a punt at midfield early in the second quarter, but the Hornets couldn’t move the ball.
Tyler Meteer led Sac State with 15 tackles and recovered a fumble. Nick Couch added 11 tackles, and Manny Scott-Anderson had 10.
Sac State will play its next two games on the road, Oct. 15 against Montana and Oct. 22 against Northern Colorado.