College Sports

In routing FCS-No. 5 Montana, Sacramento State earns possibly its biggest win ever

Troy Taylor likes to say that his Sacramento State football team is not a “fear-based” outfit.

He’s right.

The first-year Hornets coach instills confidence without bravado, leading with a sense of calm in a violent sport, and going for the jugular when it feels good and right.

In going for it on fourth-and-6 on Saturday night against the No. 5-ranked team in the Football Championship Subdivision, Taylor dialed up the ideal call, and Kevin Thomson delivered a nifty 39-yard scoring toss to Elijah Dotson with 14 seconds left in the third quarter for a four-touchdown lead.

Behind Thomson’s six-touchdown effort and an attacking defense, No. 15 Sac State prevailing 49-22 over the storied Montana Grizzlies in a Big Sky Conference showdown of title contenders on Homecoming night for perhaps the most significant victory in program history in front of 15,140 fans at Hornet Stadium.

The only thing that would rival this effort would be a Causeway Classic win over rival UC Davis. Saturday’s crowd was the third largest at Sac State for a non-Causeway Classic game and eighth all time.

What is known is that Montana marks the highest-ranked victim at Sac State, and this comes a week after the Hornets (5-2, 3-0) beat then-No. 5 Montana State in Bozeman. That was the highest ranked win for Sac State in its FCS era, which started in 1993.

It seems the Treasure State has had enough of the Hornets. Montana (5-1, 2-1) came into Saturday’s game with a 20-1 all-time record against Sac State since the programs started competing against each other in 1993.

Montana has quite a résumé, having sent an FCS-record 23 teams to the playoffs, reaching the FCS final seven times since 2001 and winning 18 Big Sky championships since 1969. The Grizzlies came into this one with 599 victories all time.

John Volek was Sac State’s honorary captain. He coached the Hornets to their last conference championship, in 1995, and he spoke passionately about pride and opportunity to the team Friday night and was joined by his wife of 51 years, Vicki, at midfield for the pregame coin toss.

“This is what we’ve all been dreaming of,” Volek said later to The Bee of the atmosphere, the team and the results. “It’s just amazing to see what Troy Taylor and this team has done.”

Even Sacramento State president Robert S. Nelsen, the man who hired the locally raised Taylor away from the coaching staff of Pac-12 member Utah, got into the fun. He tossed footballs into the crowd at the half, with the Hornets leading 35-15.

Saturday marked the third consecutive game that Thomson has passed for at least three touchdowns and run for two in a game as the third-year starter outdueled his counterpart and friend Dalton Sneed. Thomson passed for 369 yards. Dotson, the starting running back, had eight receptions for 124 yards, and teammate Pierre Williams had eight catches for 153 yards and a score.

Sneed passed for 140 yards and ran for 18 and a score, modest numbers for a star who shredded UC Davis for five touchdowns in a blowout win earlier this season and took Sac State apart a year ago to the tune of 234 passing yards, 206 rushing yards and three ground scores in a 41-34 Montana victory.

Snead was knocked out of the game with 4:43 left in the third quarter, his team down 42-15.

It was also a joyous night for Andy Thompson, Sac State’s first-year defensive coordinator who is a Montana graduate. His unit recorded six sacks, 2 1/2 by Dariyn Choates, and eight tackles for loss. The Hornets broke up five passes and had interceptions by Daron Bland and Malik Jeter.

Maier breaks 10,000 yards in UC Davis victory

Jake Maier passed for 271 yards and three touchdowns, and Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. rushed 28 times for 140 yards and a touchdown to power the No. 23 Aggies to a 33-25 Big Sky win over Southern Utah in Cedar City.

Maier completed 25 of 37 passes and became the second quarterback in the program’s 101-year history to eclipse the 10,000-yard passing mark, joining J.T. O’Sullivan (1997-2001).

UC Davis (4-4, 2-2) led 26-7 at the half on Maier’s three touchdown passes and 200 yards, and it led 33-7 in the third quarter.

Connor Airey and Eric Flowers led UCD with 10 tackles each, and the Aggies had three sacks.

The Aggies have won back-to-back games after a three-game skid and will host No. 4 Weber State on Saturday at UC Davis Health Stadium. Southern Utah is 1-7.

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Joe Davidson has covered sports for The Sacramento Bee since 1988 and is award-winning authority on high school sports, specializing in going behind the scenes. Davidson was a high school athlete in Oregon, where he participated in football and track.