Sacramento State’s bid for its first 4-1 start this century fell short as the Hornets were defeated by the Idaho State Bengals 44-24 Saturday at Holt Arena in Pocatello.
Hornets quarterback Garrett Safron was impressive in both the passing and rushing games, completing 33 of 49 passes for 382 yards and three touchdowns while leading Sac State in rushing with 13 carries for 92 yards. Despite the fifth-year senior’s productive play, four turnovers at inopportune times, including two second-half interceptions, prevented Sac State from keeping pace with the Bengals.
“It’s not like Garrett to throw those interceptions,” said Sac State interim coach Jody Sears. “It’s out of character. He’s an absolute warrior and a great competitor, so he’ll bounce back.”
On Sac State’s first offensive play of the game, Safron’s read-option exchange was fumbled. Safron scooped up the ball and scrambled for 5 yards before the ball was stripped by Idaho State linebacker Mitch Beckstead. Dexter Alcala’s momentum-swinging interception of Idaho State quarterback Justin Arias in the end zone gave the ball back to the Hornets, and Safron subsequently led Sac State on a 90-yard drive that culminated in the first of three touchdown passes from Safron to wide receiver DeAndre Carter, an 11-yard strike that gave the Hornets a 7-3 lead. Carter led all receivers with 14 receptions for 158 yards and three touchdowns, while teammate Nnamdi Agude reeled in 11 passes for 153 yards.
Safron completed his first 18 pass attempts, throwing his first incompletion with just over a minute left in the first half. After leading 24-17 at halftime, the Bengals took advantage of Safron’s errors and outscored the Hornets 20-7 in the second half.
The Sac State defensive backfield struggled to contain Idaho State’s up-tempo offense, giving up 448 passing yards. Arias completed passes to eight different targets, and Madison Mangum made several tough catches despite close coverage on his way to leading the Bengals in receiving with eight catches for 174 yards. Mangum also threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to KW Williams on a trick play after hauling in a backwards pass from Arias.
“I thought we were matched up fairly well with them,” Sears said, referring to the pairing of Sac State’s cornerbacks with the Idaho State receivers. “You’ve got to tip your hat to those Idaho State guys. They’re not the same team they’ve been the past two or three years..
Though the Hornets previously squared off against fellow Big Sky Conference member Weber State, the Sept. 3 victory over the Wildcats was technically a nonconference game, making Saturday’s contest against the Bengals the conference opener for both teams. Now, after the loss to Idaho State drops his team to 0-1 in conference and puts a damper on the impressive start to the season, Sears had a simple answer to the question of where his team’s focus needed to be to right the ship.
“Us, our execution and our attention to details.”
At the start of the second quarter, the officials appeared to erroneously award Idaho State an extra down. After running back Xavier Finney was stopped at the Sac State goal line on a third-and-goal play to end the first quarter, the first play of the second quarter was also listed as a third down. After a prolonged discussion with the Sac State coaching staff, no change to the down was made, and Finney proceeded to punch it in on the following play.
When asked if he wanted to comment on the apparent error, Sears’ response was a simple, “No, sir.”