College Sports

Causeway Classic: A backyard brawl or a bore?

Video: It’s the spirit of the game that makes Causeway Classic

Sacramento State football head coach Jody Sears talks at the annual luncheon about Saturday's Causeway Classic at Hornet Stadium. Friday, Nov. 20, 2015.
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Sacramento State football head coach Jody Sears talks at the annual luncheon about Saturday's Causeway Classic at Hornet Stadium. Friday, Nov. 20, 2015.

The rivalry between Sacramento State and UC Davis usually sells itself, even in a year when the teams have combined for just three wins and some are calling it the “Lost Causeway Classic.”

But UCD coach Ron Gould and Sac State coach Jody Sears did their best to try to inject a little buzz into Saturday afternoon’s 62nd annual contest between the Aggies (1-9, 1-6 Big Sky Conference) and Hornets (2-8, 1-6) at Hornet Stadium.

“It’s going to be a bloodbath – it’s going to be very physical,” Gould said during the weekly Big Sky Conference media call.

“Does the luster come off this game because of the records?” Sears added. “Absolutely not. ... It’s about taking your seniors and your program and fighting the guys across the street. ... It’s the good old backyard brawl with the fistfight with your brother.”

Tough times for both – UCD once was a Division II powerhouse, but it has struggled in D-I with five consecutive losing seasons. This is the Aggies’ worst season since going 0-8-1 in 1960, and they are staring at a dubious program first of 10 defeats should they lose.

Sac State won a program D-I-tying seven games last season in Sears’ first year, but the Hornets have slipped to 2-8 this season in beating only NAIA Eastern Oregon and Idaho State. The Bengals are in a three-way tie for last with Sac State and UCD.

A loss would give the Hornets their first 2-9 season since 2005.

Young leaders – Both teams will be in the hands of freshman quarterbacks on Saturday.

True freshman Nate Ketteringham will make his sixth consecutive start for Sac State since three older quarterbacks went out with season-ending injuries. Redshirt freshman C.J. Spencer gets his third straight starting call for the Aggies in place of the injured Ben Scott.

Gould said Spencer made tremendous strides from his starting debut at Weber State two weeks ago to last week’s 55-38 loss to Cal Poly. The former Inderkum High School star threw for 311 yards and two touchdowns against the Mustangs.

“C.J. was absolutely exceptional,” Gould said. “He’s such a bright guy. He’s learning to be a student of the game ... and all the nuances required of that position.”

Gould also is impressed with Ketteringham, who had a career-high 339 yards and tossed four touchdowns in a 49-35 loss at No. 24 Northern Arizona. The 6-foot-2 San Diego product has thrown for 961 yards and nine touchdowns in the last three games. He joins Ryan Leadingham and Garrett Safron as the only Sac State players to have multiple four touchdown games.

“He’s a really special player,” Gould said. “He’s done a great job of carrying their offense and allowing his playmakers to make plays. ... He has been playing like a veteran quarterback.”

True veterans – UCD wide receiver Alex Cannon and Sac State tackle Lars Hanson will wind up careers as the longest-tenured players in their respective programs.

Cannon received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA this season because of two season-ending injuries earlier in his career and had his career-best game last Saturday against Cal Poly. He caught six passes for 122 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown.

The 6-foot-8, 300-pound Hanson, expected to make his 39th consecutive start on Saturday, committed to Sac State in the spring of 2010, gray-shirted (postponed his enrollment) that fall and then redshirted in 2011.


Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP