Joe Davidson covers Sacramento State for The Sacramento Bee and answered five questions from the Daily Chronicle about the Hornets’ matchup with Montana State this week.
1 Sacramento State is a team that’s surprised many coming off a win over Eastern Washington. What were the Hornets’ expectations going into the season?
Sac State expected to compete, to vastly improve from its two-win season of 2018. Though it was not an easy task for first-year coach Troy Taylor and an entire new staff as they all hit the ground running after getting hired in December.
But so far, the coaches were right: The Hornets compete and are a fun watch with just two losses — each to larger FBS schools and both faring much better than the betting odds. Arizona State was favored by 38 over Sac State and won 19-7, and Fresno State was favored by 25 and won 34-20.
2 With that said, how were they able to take down Eastern Washington, a team many had as a front runner in the FCS and Big Sky?
The win over Eastern Washington was Sac State’s best effort over a ranked team in a lot of years, and its first win over a ranked foe since 2012. There was offensive balance with a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher, a 100-yard receiver and two defensive touchdowns, all of which snapped an 0-12 lifetime streak at home to Eastern Washington.
3Do you think the Hornets can sustain this success, especially this week here in Bozeman?
Sac State is on the rise, is superbly coached and prepared and has core players hungry yet humble for more, including quarterback Kevin Thomson and defensive lineman George Obinna, both three-year starters who were in the middle of the highs of a seven-win season in 2017 and suffered through the two-win mess of last season.
Sac State can win its first road game of the season with more offensive balance, and some defensive touchdowns would be a super bonus.
4Led by Thomson, Sac State has been explosive on offense. What is the potential for him against Montana State this week?
Thomson is having a tremendous season, coming off a three-touchdown, two-rushing touchdown effort against Eastern Washington. When he’s on, the Hornets are a tough cover. He has the potential to do more of the same, and the offensive line has been super, including allowing no sacks against Eastern Washington.
5Defensively, Sac State has also performed well. What has been key to the Hornets’ success on that end?
Pressure. Sac State has a first-year defensive coordinator in Andy Thompson who has worked in the Big Sky before so he knows how prolific the conference is.
Sac State had seven sacks and seven more quarterback hurries against Eastern Washington, so the heat was on the pocket.