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Elk Grove Citizen

Sac State early turnovers costly in FCS playoff loss

Dec 02, 2023 07:35PM ● By Hornet

Sacramento State's football season is over after a 34-24 loss to South Dakota on Dec. 2.

VERMILLION, S.D. — Sacramento State fell behind early with two first half turnovers and was not able to recover in a 34-24 loss at No. 3 South Dakota in the second round of the NCAA FCS Playoffs Dec. 2 at the DakotaDome.

The victory ends the Hornet season with an 8-5 overall record. The Coyotes improved to 10-2, and will host the winner of the North Dakota State-Montana State game in the quarterfinals next weekend.

A week after playing a near-perfect first half in the first-round win at North Dakota, Sacramento State was plagued by early miscues which led to South Dakota taking control of the game. The Coyotes scored first with a 37-yard field goal from Will Leyland.

The lead quickly grew early in the second quarter as USD scored twice in the first minute of the period. The team's first touchdown was set up by an interception on a pass which deflected off the hands of a Hornet receiver. South Dakota faced 3rd-and-10 from the Hornet 18 but was able to convert with a strike from Aidan Bauman to Javion Phelps.

The Hornets had a great start to the ensuing drive with a 33-yard rush from Marshel Martin to bring the ball into USD territory. However, on the next play, the ball was jarred from the ball carrier and recovered by Mi'Quise Grace who returned it 56 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-0 and give South Dakota two touchdowns in 38 seconds.

Sacramento State found the end zone for the first time on its next drive. Kaiden Bennett was shaken up on the first play of the series and replaced by Carson Camp who completed 2-of-3 passes for 36 yards and also rushed for 24 yards during the drive. Marcus Fulcher scored from 2 yards for his seventh rushing, and ninth total touchdown, of the season.

USD answered quickly needing just two plays to score a touchdown of its own. Tight end JD Galbreath found himself uncovered in the Hornet secondary and traveled 75 yards for a score.

Following a fumble recovery by Dillon Juniel, the Hornets traveled 59 yards on eight plays to make the score 24-14 at the half. The Hornets scored on another 2-yard rush from Fulcher with 14 seconds left in the second quarter.

South Dakota was able to dim hope of a Hornet comeback with a 10-play, 63-yard touchdown drive late in the third quarter. The Coyotes chewed over five minutes off the clock and scored on 3rd-and-goal with a 3-yard run from Travis Theis.

The Hornets moved the ball to the 10-yard line but were forced to settle for a 28-yard field goal from Zach Schreiner to pull the team within two scores (31-17). The drive was aided by a 48-yard completion from Camp to Anderson Grover. The field goal was the 14th of the season for Schreiner who moved into a five-way tie for third place in school single-season history.

After USD matched the score with a 34-yard field goal from Leyland, Sacramento State added the final points of the game with a 3-yard pass from Camp to Jared Gipson. The Hornets' onside kick attempt was recovered by South Dakota which was able to run out the clock.

The stats were balanced between the two teams with Sacramento State compiling 350 yards on 62 plays while the Coyotes had 368 yards on 58 plays.