Before Sacramento State played UC Davis in the 61st Causeway Classic on Saturday, first-year Hornets coach Jody Sears called the Aggies’ dominance of the popular area rivalry game “unacceptable.”
UC Davis had won 12 of the last 14 meetings (43-19 overall), including the last four, often taking advantage of Hornets miscues and a lack of poise at the most inopportune time.
This time, UCD imploded when it counted most – after taking a three-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
UCD committed three turnovers in the final quarter, five in all, and the Hornets rallied for two touchdowns to take a 41-30 Big Sky Conference win in front of an announced crowd of 7,047 at Aggie Stadium.
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It ended the Causeway misery for 18 Sac State seniors who had never won the rivalry game. It also marked the Hornets’ first seven-win season since 2000 and only the second since the Hornets (7-5, 4-4) moved into the Football Championship Subdivision in 1995. UC Davis (2-9, 1-7), meanwhile, suffered its poorest season since going 3-7 in 1969, the year before the Aggies reeled off 37 consecutive winning seasons.
Sac State record-setting quarterback Garrett Safron and wide receiver DeAndre Carter capped their careers with two more prolific performances while a number of other Hornets had strong games.
Safron was 25 of 33 for 288 yards and four touchdowns, and Carter had nine catches for 121 yards and a touchdown. Senior linebacker and defensive captain Henry Fernandez had a game-leading 15 tackles, and senior defensive end Ben Cowger and junior defensive back Anthony Payne each had an interception and fumble recovery.
“Coach Sears asked us what our legacy was going to be, and we took it upon ourselves as a leadership group,” Fernandez said of the team’s seniors. “All year we battled up and down, but we finished strong. We laid the foundation for the young guys. It was awesome to go out like this.”
Among the young guys is sophomore running back Jordan Robinson, who rushed for 66 yards and had five catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns, including a spectacular 21-yard game-clinching grab.
The 5-foot-11 Robinson outjumped 6-4 UCD defensive end Zak Pettit for Safron’s floater near the right pylon to put the Hornets up 34-30 with 6:59 to play.
“Jordan has tremendous ball skills,” Sears said. “It’s just real natural for him to go up and catch the ball wherever it’s at. And he doesn’t drop it. It’s a little bit of a gift.”
Sac State assured there would be no UCD comeback.
On the first play from scrimmage after the kickoff, Nick Crouch intercepted a Ben Scott pass near midfield and returned it to the UCD 38. Five plays later, De’Jon Coleman rushed 22 yards to the end zone for an insurance score with 4:07 to play.
UCD’s last two possessions ended with a fourth-down stop by Fernandez on Gabe Manzanares with 3:11 to go and Cowger’s interception at the line of scrimmage with 1:30 remaining.
Safron added to his school records, while Carter concluded the season with 99 catches, the second most in Big Sky Conference history. He moved past Tony Washington to claim the Sac State season receiving yards record (1,321 yards), too.
Manzanares had another strong effort, rushing for 161 yards and going over 2,000 (2,136) during his two-year Aggies career. He had an eight-yard touchdown reception but had the critical fumble when Sac State’s Antonio Hayes stripped him of the ball.
“Hats off to Sac State and coach Sears,” said UCD coach Ron Gould. “They played better than we did today ... Anytime you are playing a good football team and turn the ball over five times, you don’t give yourselves an opportunity to win those games.”
Senior linebacker Steven Pitts said it was a disappointing way for the 15 seniors to end their UCD careers.
“It definitely hurts,” Pitts said. “We’re a good team. We just didn’t put our best foot forward today. Ultimately, they made plays when they needed to make plays.”
Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.