Quarterback Garrett Safron and wide receiver DeAndre Carter have combined for a number of record-breaking days during their four years together at Sacramento State.
But Saturday at Hornet Stadium, when Carter shattered two of the school’s longstanding single-game receiving records with Safron’s help, the sunny afternoon appeared a little brighter for Sac State.
The Hornets (5-5, 2-4 Big Sky Conference) played their best and most complete game in what otherwise has been a disappointing season, defeating Southern Utah 42-21.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Carter set school records for catches (16) and receiving yards (273). The senior set another school record for touchdown catches in a season by grabbing four of Safron’s five scoring passes as the Hornets snapped a two-game losing streak. The Thunderbirds, a playoff team last year, fell to 2-8 and 2-4.
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Carter broke Fred Amey’s record of 15 catches set in 2004 and Alex Estrada’s mark of 228 receiving yards set in 1995. His 15 touchdown catches this season broke the record of 14 that Mike Carter set in 1969 and Carter tied last season.
Carter said the performance was more about his teammates’ resolve, his respect for first-year coach Jody Sears and honoring the memory of his little brother.
“When coach Sears came in, he preached to us unity in the locker room,” Carter said. “Everybody has done a great job of that this season. This has been the closest-knit team I’ve been a part of since I’ve been here.”
Carter’s younger brother Kaylan, an Enochs of Modesto football player, died two summers ago after it was discovered he had an enlarged heart.
“Losing my brother was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to go through in my life,” he said. “I want his legacy to live on… . As long as I am on earth and do well in school or sports, I will always continue to shine light on my brother.”
Carter broke the receiving yardage record on his fourth touchdown catch, which came with 13:56 to go in the fourth quarter.
In a sprint down the right sideline, Carter got a jump on his stumbling defender, corralled Safron’s pass at the 10 and easily sprinted into the end zone to complete a 40-yard play.
“He makes my job easy,” said Safron, who completed 25 of 33 passes for 425 yards with no interceptions and tied his single-season touchdown pass record with 27. “He’s so smart on the field and knows where the play is going to be, so all I have to do is throw it up.”
Entering Saturday, the Hornets’ defense was allowing 469.7 yards and 37.9 points per game with a penchant for giving up big plays. Sac State’s top defender, linebacker Darnell Sankey, also was sidelined because of a knee injury.
Yet the Hornets led 42-7 early in the fourth quarter against a team that broke Sac State’s hearts last year by rallying for a 24-21 overtime win at Hornet Stadium that tied the series between the teams 7-7.
“We didn’t give up any big plays on defense … and we got some pass rush, which probably was the difference,” Sears said. “We didn’t change the scheme; we didn’t reinvent the wheel. We just got better at what we’re doing.”
Senior end Jaycee Totty, who made two sacks for 14 yards in losses, led a defense that had four sacks among seven tackles for losses. Sophomore linebacker Russell Smith had 16 tackles and rover Dexter Alcala and linebacker Henry Fernandez 12 apiece.
With the Hornets out of the playoff picture, Carter said the team’s goal is to finish strong and try to produce the program’s first seven-win season since 2000.
Sac State hosts Portland State next Saturday, then visits UC Davis in the Causeway Classic on Nov. 22.
“We want to go out with two more victories,” Carter said. “We want to get the momentum going for next year’s team so they have something to build on. Me personally, I want to beat Davis since I haven’t done it since I’ve been here.”
Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.