The Idaho State football team lost its second consecutive game Saturday night in Sacramento by way of a lethal Sacramento State rushing attack that tallied over 300 yards on the ground, as the Hornets churned out a 41-21 homecoming win over Idaho State.
Up 13 midway through the fourth quarter, Sacramento State (3-3, 2-1 BSC) grinded out a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that chewed up over six minutes of the clock. The drive was capped off with a one-yard touchdown run by Hornets running back Joseph Ajeigbe, who finished the night with 38 yards off 11 carries.
The final Hornets’ touchdown drive saw two third down pickups, one more than Idaho State (3-4, 1-2 BSC) had all game. Idaho State went one-of-11 on third downs and gave up six sacks, five of which came in the first half, with an offensive line that was without two of its starters.
“I’ll tell you one thing, third-down conversions,” said head coach Rob Phenicie in a postgame radio interview. “Period. End of story. You’re never going to win a game that way.”
Idaho State didn’t turn the ball over against a team that leads the conference with a plus-seven turnover margin. But, the Idaho State offense struggled in the first 30 minutes and trailed the Hornets 17-7 at halftime.
The Bengals missed a short field goal on the team’s first drive and Michael Dean, who finished the night with nine catches for 128 yards and a touchdown, accounted for 50 percent of Idaho State’s first half yards.
Idaho State’s lone first half touchdown drive was its longest of the night, going 75 yards in 12 plays over four-minutes and 11 seconds.
“We needed to get points in the first half,” Phenicie said. “This is on the offense. We have to put up more than 21 points on the board.”
The Hornets opened the second half with a clinical, 8-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. BJ Perkinson, who ran for 155 yards off 17 carries, capped the drive off with a five-yard touchdown run, putting the Bengals in a 17-point hole.
Idaho State punted following the touchdown drive, but caught a break when the Hornets muffed the game’s only turnover over to the Bengals off a punt. Three plays later, Tanner Gueller, who threw for 244 yards off 20 completions, found Dean for a 17-yard score.
Sacramento State responded with a five-play, 60-yard touchdown drive that ended with a Kevin Thomson 12-yard touchdown pass to Isiah Hennie.
Thomson, who rushed for 85 yards and threw another 254, was responsible for 339 of Sacramento State’s 572 yards of total offense. The junior quarterback, who was recruited to UNLV while Phenicie was still coaching in Las Vegas, had a helping hand in three of the Hornets’ five touchdowns, running for one and throwing for two.
“Kid made some great plays with his feet,” Phenicie said. “Nothing he does surprises me, he’s a good quarterback.”
Idaho State scored on its next drive when Tanner Gueller found his brother, Mitch Gueller for a 30-yard touchdown to cut the lead back to ten late in the third quarter.
The Bengals, however, ran seven plays over their next two drives, punting both times, while the Hornets drove 36-yards on eight plays to add a field goal early in the fourth quarter before putting together the back-breaking fourth quarter touchdown drive that put the game out of reach.
The touchdown put Sacramento State up 20 with less than four minutes to play. Sacramento State gathered 83 rushing yards on the drive and ran the ball ten times over the 12-play drive.
The only time the Hornets lost yards on the drive was when they were driven back for a false start and when Christian Holland, who had five tackles, stuffed a first down run midway through the drive.
“We have to play better on the road,” Phenicie said. “We have to win on the road. We have another opportunity in Bozeman in a couple weeks. In this conference, you have to win on the road, that’s one thing that has to get better.”