Pierre Williams came to play, and his efforts kept Sacramento State in the thick of the Big Sky Conference football race.
Williams recovered an onside kick perfectly delivered by kicker Devon Medeiros and then caught the game-winning touchdown from Jake Dunniway with 23 seconds remaining to lift the No. 8 Hornets past Northern Arizona 38-34 in Flagstaff on Saturday evening.
In his first collegiate start, Dunniway passed for 384 yards and four touchdowns, including two to Marshel Martin, as the Hornets moved to 7-3 overall and 5-1 in the Big Sky. That’s good for a second-place tie with No. 5 Montana (8-2, 5-1) in the conference behind No. 3 Weber State (8-2, 6-0).
Sac State owns a 49-22 win over Montana on Sept. 19.
Williams had been a primary target for Kevin Thomson, Sac State’s star three-year starting quarterback. Thomson was knocked out of the game last week against No. 3 Weber State and was not able to suit up Saturday.
Dunniway started hot, hitting his first six passes, and Sac State led 14-0.
“Jake was the most settled guy in the group, making good decisions, making good throws,” Sac State coach Troy Taylor said. “The guys continued to compete, especially on special teams. Jake made some great throws (late) and the rest is history Jake never quit. I’m so proud of him.”
Taylor said a moment later, “I love these guys!”
Dunniway overcame the second-half pass rush of the Lumberjacks, and he hobbled a bit with a sore ankle late but kept his poise. He hit Williams seven times for 78 yards, Isaiah Gable five times for 85 and Martin four times for 92.
Said Dunniway, “Coach Taylor came up to me and said we still have a chance to win this. He makes it all seem like it’s so simple. It comes down to believing in yourself, your teammates, your coaches, and things can happen.”
Elijah Dotson rushed for 83 yards for Sac State and B.J. Perkinson for 50 and a score, and the Hornets withstood the 210-yard, three touchdown effort by Northern Arizona’s Joe Logan.
The Lumberjacks (4-6, 2-4) were a bounce away from moving to 5-0 at home.
Said NAU coach Chris Ball afterward on Pluto.tv before huffing off, “If we get the onside kick, we win the game.”
No, coach. Williams got the onside and then the winner.
UC Davis wins on the road
Jake Maier passed for 383 yards and four touchdowns and Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. rushed for a career-best 242 yards and two scores to power UC Davis to a 45-28 win over host Portland State in Big Sky play.
Maier hit Lance Babb 10 times for 168 yards and three touchdowns as UCD hit .500 for the first time at 5-5 overall and 3-3 in conference.