Beating up on the big boys is becoming second nature for Sacramento State. Now for the hard part: dealing with it.
After knocking off Oregon State last season, the Hornets “weren’t used to that attention, and the kids started getting ahead of themselves a little bit,” head coach Marshall Sperbeck said Wednesday during the weekly Big Sky Conference coaches’ conference call.
The Hornets followed up with lopsided losses to Southern Utah (35-14) and Weber State (49-17) and finished with a 4-7 record.
But after a thrilling 30-28 win at Colorado last week, the Hornets get another chance. “I hope we can do a better job of handling our success than we did last year,” said Sperbeck, whose club hosts Northern Colorado on Saturday. “We know we have to get ourselves to prepare. You’ve got to get yourself refocused.”
Sac State visits Eastern Washington on Oct. 20.
The Big Sky owns three wins over Football Bowl Subdivision teams this season, the others being Eastern’s 20-3 win at Idaho on Aug. 30, and Northern Arizona’s 17-14 upset at Nevada Las Vegas.
New rule affects EWU
Eastern may have been one of the first teams affected by the NCAA’s new rule on onside kicks, which states that the ball must bounce at least twice before becoming a live ball. Otherwise, the receiving team may opt for a fair catch.
Late in the Eagles’ 24-20 loss at WSU, kicker Jimmy Pavel kicked onside. The ball bounced several times, but the Cougars easily recovered.
The new rule, meant to protect players, forces kickers to use a new technique in which the ball bounces once or twice.
“Then you want it to take that big bounce at 7 or 8 yards,” EWU head coach Beau Baldwin said after practice Tuesday.
“Jimmy hit a couple of good ones” during earlier practices, Baldwin said. “But this one just didn’t hit the hop.”
After two games, wide receiver Brandon Kaufman has 10 catches for 290 yards and two touchdowns.
Record for EWU punter
A school record went unreported here last weekend: Eastern sophomore punter Jake Miller, who transferred last year from Washington State, averaged 46.3 yards on seven punts against the Cougars, including a school-record 74-yard punt on his first effort of the day.
Miller broke the previous record of 71 yards set in 2006 by Ryan Donckers.
Miller is averaging 44.7 yards on 13 punts, six of which had landed inside the opponents’ 20-yard-line. “That’s what matters most,” Miller said last month during practice.
Meanwhile, EWU receiver Brandon Kaufman 10 catches for 290 yards and two touchdowns in two games. That ranks second in both FCS and the conference, three yards behind Greg Hardin of North Dakota.
Eagles fifth in ratings
Five Big Sky teams are ranked among the top 18 FCS teams in this week’s Jeff Sagarin Ratings. Eastern Washington is rated 87th overall and fifth among FCS teams. Cal Poly is 12th, followed by NAU at 13, Montana at 15 and Montana State at 18. Weber State (34), North Dakota (37) and Southern Utah (38) give the Big Sky eight in the top 40. The Big Sky is ranked third amongst FCS conferences, behind the Missouri Valley and Southern.
UND gets offensive
North Dakota obviously understands the Big Sky’s history of high-scoring, pass-happy offenses. Through two weeks, North Dakota is averaging 55.5 points per game. North Dakota, a 45-37 winner over Portland State in a nonconference game last week, ranks third in the nation in scoring offense. UND ranks fifth in the nation in total offense at 527 yards per game.