By Kent Schmidt
College Sporting News
I have been a proponent of the Sacramento State Hornet program's potential for the past two or three seasons under c2oach Marshall Sperbeck.
I have claimed that the Hornets would be a suprising team and a team to watch in the Big Sky Conference over that time period, but while the Hornets have improved over prior seasons, they have not quite gotten over the hump to be a playoff or conference contender.
While Sac State has shown some of the potentional over the past couple of seasons, it seemed to be a win or two short of really getting the national attention or consideration for the post-season play.
That potential for at least through one game this season has seemed to culminate after a game this year.
The Hornets defeated BCS and Pac-12 member Oregon State this past Saturday, 29-28 in overtime.
It was the Hornets' first win over a FBS school in 11 tries and the first win for a Big Sky team over a FBS team since Montana State and Portland State achieved the same feat on the same opening date in September, 2006.
The Bobcats defeated Colorado and the Vikings defeated New Mexico.
That win just might show that the rest of the Big Sky Conference and the rest of the nation that potentioal has now turned into actual results in Sacramento.
How did the Hornets win this game against Oregon State?
Hornet wide receiver Brandyn Reed followed his six-yard touchdown catch on a pass from Jeff Fleming with a leaping two-point conversion grab to give Sacramento State the victory in overtime.
After Oregon State took the lead with a 17-yard run from Malcolm Agnew, the Hornets responded with a six-play drive which ended when Fleming hit Reed in the center of the end zone to pull the Hornets within one at 28-27.
The Hornets initially lined up to kick the extra point but then motioned into a two-point formation forcing Oregon State to call a timeout.
After the time out, the Hornets sent out the offense and Fleming lobbed the ball to the right side of the end zone where Reed went over the top of his defender to make the winning catch.
The Hornet defense limited Oregon State to just six points through the first three quarters, and led the Beavers by 15 entering the fourth quarter.
OSU opened the game's scoring with a field goal to take a 3-0 lead in the second quarter and again scored a field goal to begin the third quarter.
After the intital field goal, the Hornets scored the next 14 points on consecutive touchdown passes to Chase Deadder.
The first came on a 19-yard score and the second capped off Sacramento State's first half when Fleming found him on a 4-yard pass.
After the second field goal by OSU, the score was 14-6 in favor of the Hornets in the early part of the third quarter.
Reed caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from receiver Morris Norrise less than five minutes later to push the Hornets' lead to 21-6.
Norrise took a lateral from Fleming and threw over the top of the defense to a wide open Reed for what would be the final regulation time score for the Hornets in the third quarter.
The Beavers bounced back in the fourth quarter with a heavy emphasis on the running game by Agnew, who rushed for 166 yards in the third and fourth quarters.
That included touchdowns of 1 and 4 yards to propel OSU to the tie in regulation.
Beaver quarterback Sean Mannion found receiver Markus Wheaton in the end zone on a two-point conversion to tie the game at 21-all.
Both teams had a chance to take leads in the final minutes but both had missed field goal attempts.
Hornet kicker Jason Diniz's 28-yard field goal was blocked with 2:35 left in regulation.
The Beavers then drove inside the Hornet five, but Romaine's 27-yarder hit the right upright as time experied forcing overtime.
Individually, Fleming completed 22-of-35 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a team-high 39 yards as he earned national player of the week honors.
How have the Hornets finished the last few seasons?
Last year, Sacramento State finished 6-5 last year and two years ago they finished 5-6.
The Hornets, however, have played very close games.
Sac State lost to Montana State by a field goal to Montana State and Montana.
The Hornets lost by four to Eastern Washington and by a single point to rival UC Davis.
The Hornets did lose in blowout fashion to the Pac-10's Stanford but that was at the beginning of last season.
Who does Sacramento State play next?
The Hornets have two more road games — both in the state of Utah.
They have future Big Sky member and reigning Great West champion Southern Utah this week and then make a return trip to the Beehive State to play Weber State to open their Big Sky Conference opener.
Sac State will have their home opener against Montana on Sept. 24.
The Hornets finish their season hosting cross-town rival UC Davis after playing the remaining Big Sky teams.
The biggest other conference games will be on the road against Montana State and at home against Eastern Washington.
In total, the Hornets will have played six games on the road and five at home.
And for the remaining members of the conference, the Hornets will be a team that they can not overlook like was the case a few years ago.
I feel that with this win over Oregon State, they will propel themselves into the postseason talk.
I think that all that potential has finally caught up with them. They are a team to now be reckoned with.
CSN West Games of the Week
Northern Iowa (0-1) at Stephen F. Austin (1-0), 7 p.m., (All Times Eastern)
The Panthers travel to Texas in this Missouri Valley-Southland matchup.
Last year, SFA came to Cedar Falls and while UNI won most of the statistical categories except the most important one as the Lumberjacks captured the game 22-20.
Last week, UNI narrowly lost to instate FBS rival Iowa State 20-19 after leading the game with three minutes to go before allowed a late touchdown to the Cyclones to go home with the loss.
SFA, on the other hand, blew out DII McMurry 82-6.
Both UNI and SFA lost opening playoff games last year after winning its respective leagues.
UNI has actually lost three games in a row going back to last year (regular season finale to Western Illinois, playoff loss to Lehigh, and last week's loss to Iowa State.
The Panthers have not lost four in a row since 1981.
I donít think Mark Farleyís team will duplicate that effort and will come home with a victory from their trip to Texas. I will take the Panthers by a touchdown. Northern Iowa 27, Stephen F. Austin 20.
Cal Poly (0-1) at Montana (0-1), 3:05 p.m.
These two teams always seem to play a good contest. A season ago, the Mustangs defeated the Grizzlies 35-33 in San Luis Obispo after trailing at the end of three quarters.
In Missoula, however, the Mustangs have won just once and that was in the 2005 playoffs.
Last Saturday, the Mustangs surrendered the first two touchdowns of the game against FBS San Diego State.
Cal Poly rallied to within 14-7 and 21-14, then allowed three unanswered scores as the Aztecs pulled away for the win.
Cal Poly scored its three touchdowns on the ground — a three-yard run by slotback Mark Rodgers, a 17-yard run by fullback Jake Romanelli and a two-yard run by quarterback Andre Broadous.
San Diego State compiled a 492-284 advantage in total offense and 22-12 in first downs.
Montana fell 42-16 at another FBS team in Tennessee.
The Griz held Tennessee to 128 yards rushing, but gave up 311 through the air.
Montana's touchdowns came on an 81-yard pass from Jordan Johnson to Jabin Sambrano and a seven-yard run by Jordan Canada. The Griz also scored a safety and made a goal-line stand.
The score was somewhat misleading as Tennessee remarkably fumbled six times and recovered all of them and also had two interceptions called back on pass interference penalties.
Like past years, I think this game will be close but the home field opener for the Griz I feel will propel them to the win. I will take the Grizzlies by a field goal. Montana 31, Cal Poly 28.
Eastern Washington (0-1) at South Dakota (0-1), 5 p.m.
This is a game I will attend this Saturday. On paper, the defending national champion Eagles should handle this game, but they are coming off a game that they statistically dominated over FBS Washington but lost due to turnovers, 30-27.
South Dakota is also coming off a tough FBS loss to Air Force 37-20.
The DakotaDome is not an easy place for road teams to come into and having to travel half way across the country is not an easy trip for the Eagles.
Because of that, I think this game will be closer than people think it might be.
It will be especially true if the Eagles continue to allow the turnover bug to bite them. Stopping dual threat quarterback Dante Warren from USD will also be difficult.
The Coyote defense will need to stop Eagle signal caller Bo Levi Mitchellís passing attack.
I think Eastern Washington will go home with the victory but the game will likely be just a touchdown difference. Eastern Washington 38, South Dakota 31.