College Sports

Sacramento State, UC Davis football hit the road

Senior Parker Smith practices at UC Davis on Sept. 10, 2015, in Davis. The Aggies (0-2) head to Hawaii (1-1) looking for a spark.
Senior Parker Smith practices at UC Davis on Sept. 10, 2015, in Davis. The Aggies (0-2) head to Hawaii (1-1) looking for a spark. rpench@sacbee.com

Sacramento State’s trip to Ogden, Utah, on Saturday to play Weber State could be a revealing test for the Hornets before the start of Big Sky Conference play a week later at home against No. 14 Eastern Washington.

Sac State’s season has gone as expected so far, beating NAIA Eastern Oregon in the opener and losing to Washington of the Pacific-12 Conference last Saturday.

Although Weber State (0-2) and Sac State (1-1) play in the Big Sky Conference, it’s not counted as a conference game, but Hornets coach Jody Sears and Weber State coach Jay Hill know it could have postseason implications.

“It’s a (Football Championship Subdivision) opponent, and it does count toward the playoffs,” Sears said. “That’s ultimately all of our goals. So it may not count in conference, but it counts.”

Weber State was 2-10 last season and lost at Oregon State and four-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State to open this season, so Hill is eager to start building momentum.

“Football is all about confidence and getting off on the right foot,” the second-year coach said. “This team has enough talent to win games. We need something good, we need get on the roll and get a little mojo.”

Sac State has won three consecutive games against the Wildcats, but those Hornets teams were led by veterans, including quarterback Garrett Safron. Now the Hornets are inexperienced throughout their lineup. Sophomore quarterback Daniel Kniffin has started just two games.

Sears said Sac State came away “fairly healthy” from its 49-0 loss at Washington, which provided the young team some experience. The Hornets opened the game by moving the ball on an 11-play, 48-yard drive that ended in Brad Cornish’s 44-yard missed field goal. They held Washington scoreless in the first quarter, and the defense had three sacks.

“We played really good football for a quarter,” Sears said. “But that’s not good enough.”

The Hornets played 18 freshmen in their first two games and five of their top eight tacklers are either redshirt or true freshmen. Redshirt freshman rover Joey Banks leads the team with 17 tackles.

Sears landed his first head coaching job at Weber State in 2012 but was let go after going 4-19 in two seasons. He was hired as Sac State’s defensive coordinator, then was promoted before the start of the 2014 season when Marshall Sperbeck abruptly resigned.

Sears said there is no special motivation in playing his old team, which features some of his former players.

“I loved my time there,” he said. “They were extremely kind to me. When you start talking about personal motivations in a team environment, it never bodes well.”

Island escape – After a crushing 27-17 loss to South Dakota on Saturday in their home opener that had several UC Davis fans calling for third-year coach Ron Gould’s ouster on social media, the Aggies (0-2) head to Hawaii (1-1) looking for a spark.

But that may be tough to find against the Rainbow Warriors, a higher-tier Football Bowl Subdivision team that has won its last nine games over FCS opponents. Hawaii beat Colorado 28-20 to open the season but lost to top-ranked Ohio State 38-0 last week.

Gould doesn’t figure Hawaii will be looking past the Aggies after playing against the defending national champions.

“In terms of how Hawaii is going to approach it, it’s the next game,” Gould said. “Whether or not you’ve played the No. 1 team or the last-ranked team in the country, it’s irrelevant. It’s about the preparation. It’s about the execution. It’s about the attention to detail. … It’s about fundamental football.”

Gould said those attributes were lacking at times in the Aggies’ loss to South Dakota, which played more physical and inspired for longer stretches. The Aggies committed four turnovers and allowed South Dakota 257 rushing yards, including Trevor Bouma’s career-high 186. The junior also scored two touchdowns, including a 63-yard, third-quarter burst shortly after UCD had closed to 20-17 on Ben Scott’s 75-yard touchdown pass to Chris Martin.

▪ UCD will feature a different look against Hawaii.

The players will wear blue helmets with “Davis” in gold script on the right side and a gold facemask, joining the trend of college football teams using different uniform schemes. The Aggies wore blue helmets until the early 1970s.

Hornets soar – The Hornets women’s volleyball team enters its 13th annual four-team Sacramento State Invitational Friday and Saturday at The Nest having matched its best start in school history.

Sac State opens at 7 p.m. Friday against Nevada and on Saturday plays Kent State at 12:30 p.m. and Santa Clara at 7:30 p.m.

Sac State is 11-1 after beating UC Davis 26-24, 25-20, 25-15 in a Causeway Cup match Tuesday in Davis. The last time Sac State started 11-1 was in 1995.

One of the leaders of the team is junior middle blocker Madeline Cannon, a former Rio Americano star and three-time Bee All-Metro selection.

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP

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