College Sports

Sac State dominates yardage, but mistakes prove fatal vs. N. Colorado

A 100-yard kickoff return allowed to start the game, a trio of personal fouls, a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and a fumble that was returned for the game winner were the most glaring mistakes committed by the Sacramento State Hornets on Saturday.

Sac State lost 27-20 at Hornet Stadium to fall to 1-4 on the season despite almost tripling the offensive output of the Northern Colorado Bears (438-179), who beat the Hornets for the first time in 10 tries. Sac State committed a season-high nine penalties for 93 yards despite ranking 19th nationally in the Football Championship Subdivision for fewest penalty yards whistled per game (45.2).

“No excuses, and we will not tolerate it,” Hornets coach Jody Sears said of the four 15-yard penalties that led to two Bears field goals. “ ... It will be corrected.”

Sac State running back Jordan Robinson’s fumble that was returned 58 yards for the game winner with 4:12 left soured an impressive performance from the junior from Chino Hills in Southern California. Robinson finished with a career-high 158 yards on 28 carries. but the fumble was the only thing on his mind late Saturday.

No excuses, and we will not tolerate it. ... It will be corrected.

Hornets coach Jody Sears, on four 15-yard penalties that led to two Northern Colorado field goals

“The ball just popped out, and that’s unacceptable,” said Robinson, who has three consecutive games of 100 rushing yards or more. “The team needed me to get a first down, and I failed.”

The mistakes also dampened the debut of quarterback Kolney Cassel. He finished 28 of 44 for 294 yards and two touchdowns and surpassed Daniel Kniffin’s record for a Hornets debut of 282 yards set in Week 1 against Eastern Oregon.

Cassel transferred from SMU after the 2014 season and was in spring camp for the Hornets. But an injured back kept him from competing for the starting job with Kniffin (Rocklin High). But with Kniffin on the sidelines with a tender shoulder, Cassel got the starting nod.

294 Passing yards by Sac State’s Kolney Cassel, a school record for a debut

Saturday against the Bears, mistakes in all facets of the game haunted the Hornets.

PJ Johnson was called for unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct on the same play in the third quarter. That cost the Hornets 25 yards, and the Bears later converted a field goal to lead 13-10.

Peter Nonu committed two personal fouls in the first half, the second one for attacking the long snapper during a long Bears field-goal attempt. The penalty gave the Bears an automatic first down, which they later converted into a field goal to take a 10-7 lead.

“Consistency. Playing all four quarters, that’s what’s killing us,” Sears said. “That’s the dragon we have to slay.”

Mark Billingsley is a Carmichael-based freelance writer. Reach him at or @editorwriter001.