No. 15 Sacramento State football takes aim at Big Sky title


Sacramento State Hornets wide receiver Chris Miller (3), right, is congratulated by teammate wide receiver Parker Clayton (11) after a long touchdown reception against Northern Arizona University during the second half of the Hornets’ homecoming NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento.

If you play for Troy Taylor, you understand two themes for certain.

Love what you do, and embrace your teammates just the same, and be ready. Always be ready.

Taylor is Sacramento State’s third-year football coach who has gone 12-1 in the Big Sky Conference with one Big Sky Conference championship and another within reach this season, in part because of the arsenal the Hornets staff has groomed. There is always room for willing contributors.

On Saturday against visiting Northern Arizona, Sac State turned to Cameron Skattebo, and the freshman running back from Rio Linda High School delivered. He jokes that he was born ready, so getting the call after a fall camp that was delayed due to illness was music to his ears.

Skattebo rushed for 117 yards on 10 carries and an 11-yard touchdown for a 30-0 lead that turned into a 44-0 rout, a four-game winning streak and a 4-0 showing in the Big Sky standings.

Sac State is 5-2 overall and is ranked 15th in the most recent STATS Perform media poll.

Skattebo is one of a host of runners the Hornets have. He became just the second Hornets freshman running back to go for 100 yards in 11 years.

“They’re all dangerous and they all contribute,” Taylor said after the game. “They just need an opportunity. (Skattebo) got his opportunity and took advantage of it.”

Sac State rolled up a season-high and Division I-era high (since 1993) 657 yards of offense as Jake Dunniway passed for 328 yards and two touchdowns, completing 21 of 25 passes. He earned Big Sky Player of the Week honors. The junior completed his first 18 passes and it was his third 300-yard effort of the season.

Sac State posted just the fourth shutout since the school moved to the FCS level, then known as Division I-AA. It also marked the second Big Sky shutout in program history, the first coming in 2011 at Northern Colorado, 14-0. Saturday’s effort also marked the first time this season that a Big Sky team did not score against an FCS opponent. Sac State blanked Northern Colorado in 2019 in a nonconference game, giving the Hornets shutouts in back-to-back seasons (there was no season in 2020), for the first time in more than 50 years.

Sac State in 1969 blanked San Francisco (26-0) and San Francisco State 27-0 in 1970. Those golden nuggets of history are courtesy of Hornets sports information guru Brian Berger. Not to jinx it here, but the Hornets have not allowed a point since the third quarter of the Montana game on Oct. 16, a streak of 79 minutes and 25 seconds heading into Saturday.

“Anytime you get a shutout, it’s pretty amazing,” Taylor said.

Sac State’s defense under coordinator Andy Thompson plays ready, and players sound the part. Malik Jeter’s interception against NAU marked the fifth consecutive game the Hornets had a pick.

“We’re just doing a good job going out there and executing the call, having great communication across the board, making our checks and playing good football,” Jeter said.

No. 15 Sac State (5-2) at Northern Colorado (3-5)

When: Noon

On air: ESPN 1320 AM; ESPN+

On point: Sac State has allowed one sack in each of the last three games, a unit anchored by Kooper Richardson and Brandon Weldon. … The Hornets face a UNC defender in David Hoage who has 8.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. … UNC has been slowed by injuries and COVID-19 concerns and it fell at UC Davis 32-3 on Oct. 16. … UNC is coached by Ed McCaffrey, who played receiver in the NFL, including with the 49ers. … Asher O’Hara in the last three games has completed 17 of 20 passes as he rotates with Dunniway, and he’s rushed for four touchdowns.

Joe Davidson has covered sports for The Sacramento Bee since 1988. He is a 14-time award winner from the California Prep Sports Writer Association. In 2021, Davidson was honored with the CIF Distinguished Service. He is a member of the California Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Davidson was a high school athlete in Oregon, where he participated in football and track.

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