College Sports

No. 7 Sac State football leads Big Sky in offense and defense, but challenges loom

Three successive ranked teams have buckled under a tidal wave from the surprise team of all FCS-level football.

Sacramento State has crashed the party.

The Hornets are ranked seventh and stand at 5-2 overall, 4-0 at home. They are in first place of the Big Sky Conference and field the league’s No. 1 scoring offense and defense.

Sac State averages 40.7 point a game behind quarterback star Kevin Thomson and coach Troy Taylor and have accumulated 26 sacks and nine interceptions.

And yet Hornets coaches continue to throw caution to the wind. Hungry teams don’t relax, certainly not in the Big Sky, where upsets happen and a team’s fortunes can crash in an instant.

The Hornets visit Cal Poly (2-5) Saturday, where the Mustangs lean on the triple-option rushing attack that gave ranked Montana State and ranked UC Davis fits before the Aggies eventually fell.

History suggests this is generally a fierce meeting. This will be the 39th time the programs have faced off. Cal Poly leads the series 21-17, including a 41-27 victory last season in Sacramento.

Cal Poly has won 10 of the last 12 meetings, and Mustangs coach Tim Walsh is 18-3 against the Hornets, including a 12-1 showing while coaching Portland State.

“Humble people wake up every day thinking they can get better, and that’s us,” Taylor said. “Cal Poly is hell on wheels with what they do offensively. The triple-option is a new challenge for us.”

Sac State’s first-year defensive coordinator, Andy Thompson, has the attention of his roster. Sac State flexed its defensive muscle in beating then No. 5 Montana last Saturday at Hornet Stadium.

“Coach Thompson let the dogs free,” Hornets defensive lineman Dariyn Choates said after recording 2.5 sacks and four tackles for loss. “That’s all we do – produce and execute. We work on pass rush and we emphasize pass rushing all week. As soon as that third down comes and they let us free, chasing the quarterback.

He added of his defense, “We’re the best. That’s what we think. And we humbly say that. We work.”

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

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.