Sacramento State quarterback Nathan Ketteringham had a nice coming-out party in front of an announced homecoming crowd of 9,135 Saturday night at Hornet Stadium.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound true freshman, making only his second collegiate start, completed 20 of 26 passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns and rushed 15 times for 51 yards to lead the Hornets to a 38-13 win over Idaho State and ignite a moribund Hornets offense. Sac State ranked last in the Big Sky Conference in scoring (15.4 points) entering the game.
The Hornets (2-6, 1-4) earned their first conference win and snapped a six-game losing streak.
The shocking dismantling of the Bengals (2-6, 1-4) wasn’t a one-man production.
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Among the highlights:
▪ Senior wide receiver Shane Harrison, who sat out last season, had eight catches for 159 yards and three touchdowns. The yardage and touchdowns are career highs.
▪ Joey Banks (Franklin High School) returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown, and Ernest Jenkins (Burbank), Anthony Payne and Austin Clark also picked off passes as Sac State tied the school record for interceptions in a game. Malcolm Thomas (Woodcreek) recovered a fumble, and the Hornets did not commit a turnover.
0 Turnovers committed by Sacramento State
▪ Senior linebacker Darnell Sankey, who entered the game as the Football Championship Subdivision tackle leader with 94, added a game-high 18 as he chased Bengals all over the field.
“It’s great,” Sankey said. “We’ve overcome a lot of adversity this year being 1-6. So it’s great to come out and see (us) play as a team. It’s great to see us connect in all phases of the game.”
Harrison said it was a joy to see the smiles on his teammates’ faces after the disappointing weeks.
“(We were) having fun out there on all sides of the ball,” Harrison said. “Everyone was praising their teammates. There was high effort.”
Ketteringham’s dominating first half set the tone for the Hornets, who led 17-10 at halftime. He completed 17 of 22 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns and rushed eight times for 54 yards.
“You can see his capability, and he’s a pup,” said Sac State coach Jody Sears. “He looks like a young fawn out there running around. But he’s got moxie. He’s got a feel for it. ... He’s a great competitor with a good football IQ. That’s a recipe for some good stuff.”
In addition to his quick feet and flair for improvisation, Ketteringham displayed physicality. In the second quarter, after he took off running, he was tackled hard along the right sideline by free safety Cody Sorensen at the Bengals’ 35-yard line. It was Sorensen who was slow to get up.
You can see his capability, and he’s a pup. He looks like a young fawn out there running around. But he’s got moxie. He’s got a feel for it. ... He’s a great competitor with a good football IQ. That’s a recipe for some good stuff.
Sacramento State coach Jody Sears on quarterback Nathan Ketteringham, a true freshman
“We need to teach him how to slide,” Sears said, smiling.
Then on fourth and inches from the 35, everyone in the press box wondered why Ketteringham was in the shotgun. He answered with a 24-yard run around right end, then threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Steele four plays later.
That fired up a Sac State defense that Idaho State had exploited for 64- and 72-yard scoring drives that resulted in a touchdown and a field goal on two of the Bengals’ first three possessions (Idaho State missed a field-goal attempt on the other).
The Hornets forced Idaho State to punt after the Bengals gained five yards in three downs. Ketteringham and the Hornets turned that into a 31-yard Brad Cornish field goal.
Sac State ended another Idaho State scoring bid late in the second quarter when Jenkins intercepted a Tanner Gueller pass in the end zone intended for Broc Malcom.
Sac State really got rolling in the second half when Payne intercepted Gueller on Idaho State 27. Two plays later, Ketteringham hit Harrison for a 20-yard touchdown.
Idaho State’s Zak Johnson booted a 31-yard field goal to cut Sac State’s lead to 24-13 with 10 minutes to play in the third quarter. But a little more than a minute later, Ketteringham hit Harrison with a 61-yard scoring strike.
Banks and Clark then had successive third-quarter interceptions to put the dagger in the Bengals.
Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP