Sacramento State kicked off its football season on Saturday night without its leader but dominated St. Francis of Illinois 55-7 in playing reserves the entire second half at Hornet Stadium behind two rushing touchdowns from Elijah Dotson and two touchdown passes from Kevin Thomson.
Jody Sears, the Big Sky Conference co-Coach of the Year in 2017, served a one-game suspension as penalty for inadvertently playing an ineligible player for one down during the 2016 season.
Assistant head coach Paul Wulff, a Woodland native and one-time Davis High School lineman star, was the Hornets’ acting coach.
Though deemed a secondary violation, Sears was not allowed to coach or even be allowed in the stadium, a penalty issued by the NCAA because the Hornets football program was on probation for violations that occurred under the previous coaching regime. Sac State self-reported the violation in 2016.
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Sears coached the Hornets throughout summer camp, right up until Friday afternoon. He will return for the Hornets’ game at San Diego State on Sept. 8. Sears led Sac State to a 7-4 record last season, including a 6-2 showing in the Big Sky Conference.
The six league victories represented the most for the Hornets in their Big Sky existence.
“I fully accept the decision of the NCAA and will use this as a teaching point for myself and our staff,” Sears said in a Sac State release. “I know that the team will be in good hands with Coach Wulff and I look forward to getting back on the sideline next week.”
Wulff earned a scholarship to Washington State in the mid-1980s, where he excelled as a center. He was the head coach at Eastern Washington from 2000-07, winning three Big Sky Coach of the Year awards, and at WSU from 2008-11.
Wulff had assistant coaching stints with the 49ers, South Florida and Iowa State and was hired by Sac State in 2016.
Doston of Antelope High School scored on a 73-yard touchdown run to open the scoring, and his 4-yard scoring run gave the Hornets a 24-0 lead in the second quarter.