College Sports

Sacramento State, UC Davis win battle of clock but not scoreboard

Sacramento State running back Mister Harriel, left, stiff-arms Idaho State linebacker Hayden Stout during the fourth quarter on Oct. 24.
Sacramento State running back Mister Harriel, left, stiff-arms Idaho State linebacker Hayden Stout during the fourth quarter on Oct. 24. Special to The Bee

Winning the time of possession is usually a recipe for success in football.

UC Davis, Cal Poly and Sacramento State rank one, two and four, respectively, in that category in the Big Sky Conference.

But the Big Sky’s three California schools are 1-4 in conference and tied for last place with Idaho State entering Saturday’s action. UCD (1-7, 1-4) plays at Weber State (4-5, 3-3), and Sac State (2-6, 1-4) travels to San Luis Obispo to play Cal Poly (2-6, 1-4).

“You look at most teams leading in time of possession, and they usually have winning records,” UCD coach Ron Gould said.

But Gould said there are several reasons why having the ball nearly 12 minutes more than their opponents hasn’t translated into more wins for the Aggies.

“We need more explosive plays – those of 25 yards or more,” Gould said. “Defensively, we’re surrendering too many big plays. And when we methodically take the ball into the red zone, we don’t get enough points.”

UCD ranks fourth in the Football Championship Subdivision and first in the Big Sky in converting 21 of 22 opportunities inside the 20-yard line into points. But the Aggies also have had to settle for eight field goals.

Sac State coach Jody Sears said that winning time of possession is fine, but it can be nullified by turnovers, which have hurt the Hornets this season. But in their lone conference win, 38-13 over Idaho State two weeks ago, the Hornets did not have a turnover and forced the Bengals into five.

We’re going to get first downs, and outside of the Southern Utah game (a 44-0 loss), we’ve been moving the ball. But what does your red-zone scoring chances and what does the turnover margin look like? Now that’s going to tell a little bit of the story there.

Jody Sears, Sacramento State football coach

The Hornets have failed to capitalize on their red-zone chances, where they rank last in the conference.

“We’re going to get first downs, and outside of the Southern Utah game (a 44-0 loss), we’ve been moving the ball,” Sears said. “But what does your red-zone scoring chances and what does the turnover margin look like? Now that’s going to tell a little bit of the story there.”

Turnover margin certainly tells the story for Cal Poly’s shocking record. The Mustangs lead the FCS in rushing average with 410 yards per game and were considered a top-four team by the Big Sky coaches when the season began.

The Mustangs had 555 yards, 35 first downs and a 13-minute time-of-possession advantage against one of the best defensive teams in the Big Sky in No. 20 Southern Utah last Saturday. But the Mustangs lost 54-37 because of six turnovers, including three fumbles that were returned for touchdowns and another that set up another Thunderbirds’ score. Cal Poly also had four lost fumbles in the game before, a 38-35 defeat to No. 10 Portland State.

“Our mistakes have been deadly,” Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh said. “The numbers we are putting up statistically in conference are good enough to be in the hunt for a championship.”

Scott uncertain for Aggies – Gould said that it will be a game-time decision whether Ben Scott plays against Weber State.

Scott was carted off the field two weeks ago in the fourth quarter of the Aggies’ loss to Southern Utah.

Gould said Scott didn’t suffer a concussion but is all “banged up” with shoulder and back injuries.

“Ben is getting better and better, but we’ll see what transpires with our medical staff as far as Ben’s situation,” Gould said. “But C.J. Spencer has had a good week of practice.”

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP

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