Sacramento State coach Jody Sears knew the defensive front his team would face Saturday against Southern Utah would be a challenge.
Heaven only knows if he expected the Thunderbirds’ offense to be so dominating.
Southern Utah scored touchdowns on three of its first four drives to open a huge early lead, and the Hornets couldn’t recover, suffering their sixth straight loss in a 44-0 disappointment at Eccles Coliseum.
Sac State freshman quarterback Nate Ketteringham completed 14 of 33 passes for 117 yards, and Jordan Robinson and Mister Harriel each ran for 29, but the Hornets were overwhelmed in almost every facet and fell to 1-6 for the season and 0-4 in the Big Sky Conference.
“There’s only one way to handle these situations, and that’s to stay united,” Sears said. “You have to look at yourself in the mirror and ask, ‘How can I get better?’ ”
The T-birds entered the game having outscored the opposition 129-10 over their previous three games and wasted no time in pushing their offensive agenda on the Hornets.
Quarterback Ammon Olsen went 6 of 6 on the game’s opening possession and capped it with a 10-yard strike to Mike Sharp that put Southern utah ahead 7-0 just two minutes into the game.
The seven-play drive covered 75 yards and gave the T-birds an offensive spark that allowed them to keep building the lead.
Olsen would throw touchdown passes on two of Southern Utah’s next three drives, one to Justin Brown and another to Sharp to give his team a 21-0 lead before 10 minutes had ticked away.
But a series of defensive stops and a spell of rain helped the Hornets cool down the offense, and the T-birds would not get on the board again until late in the third quarter.
“We kind of locked in after they scored a couple of times,” said Sac State defensive back Anthony Payne. “Our mindset changed, and we honed in and said, ‘We’re here now; that happened’ – that’s how we got those stops.”
Payne snagged an interception late in the second quarter, and Sac State stopped Southern Utah twice on downs when the T-birds were in position to score.
But those would be the only bright spots for the Hornets as the offense was awful, scraping the bottom of the depth chart to find a healthy quarterback, and the defense eventually succumbed to the T-birds’ offensive advances.
Sac State rushed for only 70 yards, and the Hornets were outdone in total offense, 570 yards to 187.
Fourteen of their 19 possessions ended in punts.
The Hornets come home on Saturday to face Idaho State at 6 p.m.
“It’s going to be a big game for us,” Payne said. “We’ve got to get out of this hole. That’s homecoming, and that’s got to be a must win.”