Sacramento State crushes UND
GRAND FORKS -- Supposedly, the back half of the University of North Dakota's schedule is easier -- one with winnable games against perceived middle-of-the-road teams in the Big Sky Conference.
After Sacramento State methodically routed UND 31-7 on Saturday at the Alerus Center, the middle of the pack may even be out of North Dakota's reach.
Before a season-low 6,634 fans, UND turned in a dismal performance against a team it routed last season in California --- a win that was North Dakota's first as a Big Sky member.
UND dropped to 1-3 in the Big Sky and 2-5 overall. It was UND's fifth-straight loss at home, something that hasn't happened since the 1975 and 1976 seasons.
A season that was so full of promise at the beginning of the year because of a favorable home schedule against marquee FCS programs now could be one of the program's worst since the mid-1980s.
"We have two choices," said UND coach Chris Mussman. "Much like in life, when adversity hits, what are you going to do? Are you going to stay in bed and feel sorry for yourself. Or are you going back to work?
"There is no magic formula. We talk about it every single day. We talked about it last night at dinner, in the locker room before the game. We talk about playing smart football. And we're not."
Sacramento State wasn't flashy, just efficient as it did pretty much what it had to do throughout.
The Hornets, led by the demonstrative play of linebacker Todd Davis (8 tackles, two sacks, and an interception), led 17-0 at halftime and put the game away on Cole Hikutini's 26-yard touchdown pass from Garrett Safron with 5:18 left in the third quarter.
The touchdown came after UND's Adam Shaugabay scored on a 1-yard run to cut the Hornets' lead to 17-7. It was UND's only momentum of the day.
It can be argued, however, the game was over at the half as UND had managed only five first downs and 111 total yards.
"Offensively, that first half was about as dysfunctional as I can remember during my time here," Mussman said.
Again, turnovers and penalties plagued UND.
Quarterback Joe Mollberg threw three interceptions and UND's Kenny Golladay fumbled a punt return to give North Dakota four turnovers on the day. Sacramento State did not commit a turnover.
UND's turnover ratio now is at a minus-15.
"We keep saying the same thing every week," said UND sophomore Jameer Jackson. "It's the turnover ratio.
"Last season, we put so many points on the board. Now, we can barely get seven points on the board."
UND finished with 216 yards of offense to Sacramento State's 378.
The Hornets, who have been ravaged by injuries at running back, manage to rush for 176 yards -- led by the bullish running of fullback Brandon Kellermann, a 225-pound linebacker-turned-running back. He finished with 119 yards on 27 carries and picked up the necessary yardage on a handful of third-and-short situations.
Quarterback Safron threw for 202 yards, completing 19-of-24. And receiver Morris Norrise caught nine passes for 65 yards. By committee, the Hornets had offensive answers throughout the game.
The Hornets' defense also sacked Joe Mollberg five times.
"That's not all on Joe," Mussman said of his redshirt freshman quarterback who completed 18-of-39 passes. "We have to do a better job of preparing him. And we need to make catches when we need to make catches."
For Sacramento State, the win keeps the Hornets in the Big Sky race. The Hornets improved to 3-1 in the league and 4-4 overall. They could be undefeated had they not blown a 17-point lead against Northern Arizona last week.
Sacramento State coach Marshall Sperbeck delivered a veiled halftime message.
"I didn't mention losing a 17-point lead," he said. "I just said we need to play for the entire 60 minutes. I'm sure they knew what I was talking about."
UND has only one home game remaining, Nov. 9 against Northern Colorado. The way the home season has played out, that might be a good thing. UND is at Portland State next Saturday.
"It'll be nice to get away," said Jackson. "We can just focus on the week."
SAC 7 10 7 7 -- 31
UND 0 0 7 0 -- 7
SAC-Garrett Safron 5 run (Jesse Aguilar kick), 8:06
SAC-Aguilar 41 FG, 13:26
SAC-Brandon Kellermann 2 run (Aguilar kick), :20
UND-Adam Shaugabay 1 run (Zeb Miller kick), 5:16
SAC-Safron 26 pass to Cole Hikutini (Aguilar kick), 1:58
SAC-Safron 1 run (Aguilar kick), 1:17
TEAM STATISTICS SAC UND
First downs 20 17
Rushes-yards 49-176 25-49
Passing yards 202 167
Comp.-Att.-Int. 19-24-0 18-39-3
Total yards 378 216
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-yards 5-40 5-45
Punts-Avg. 4-35.5 5-43.8
RUSHING: SAC, Brandon Kellermann 27-119, Jordan Robinson 10-51, Garrett Safron 9-11, DeAndre Carter 1-0, TEAM 2-(minus 5). UND, Jameer Jackson 4-29, Jake Miller 4-15, Joe Mollberg 13-4, Adam Shaugabay 4-1.
PASSING: SAC, Safron 19-24-0, 202. UND, Mollberg 18-39-3, 167.
RECEIVING: SAC, Carter 5-71, Morris Norrise 9-65, Cole Hikutini 3-51, Robertson 2-15. UND, Jackson 7-60, Greg Hardin 3-41, Kenny Golladay 3-34, Dustin Iverson 2-16, Blair Townsend 2-10, Miller 1-6.