The Big Sky conference has already tasted success against the Pac-12 once this season, when Eastern Washington beat No. 25 Oregon State 49-46 on Saturday.
Now, Sacramento State will get its shot to beat a Pac-12 opponent in ASU, and it’s something the Hornets have made a habit of doing the last couple of years.
In 2011, Sacramento State beat Oregon State 29-28. Then, in 2012, the Hornets knocked off Colorado 30-28 in Boulder, Colo.
Eastern Washington wasn’t the only FCS school to ruin an FBS team’s opening day. Kansas State, a participant in last year’s Fiesta Bowl, lost to North Dakota State. Meanwhile, San Diego State was blown out by Eastern Illinois 40-19 and the University of Connecticut fell to Towson 30-18.
If the Hornets want to add the Sun Devils to their list of Pac-12 victims, it will fall on the shoulders of junior quarterback Garrett Safron.
He’ll have to play better than he did in the Hornets’ last outing, a 24-0 loss to San Jose State Sunday. Against the Spartans, Safron was 23 of 40 on pass attempts for only 192 yards and also tossed a pair of interceptions.
Despite Safron’s shaky performance, ASU coach Todd Graham knows that Sacramento State missed several scoring opportunities
Graham said he isn’t taking Safron or the Hornets’ offense lightly.
“Their quarterback is very efficient. In the first game, their offense wasn’t very indicative of how good they are. They put up over 400 yards a game last year,” Graham said. “They had the ball inside the 5-yard line and didn’t get any points. They missed two field goals. They had four scoring opportunities.”
Safron will also have to improve against a much better secondary than he faced against San Jose State. The Sun Devils ranked third in the country in pass defense and 10th in passing efficiency defense in 2012. San Jose State ranked No. 46 and No. 30 in those respective categories.
However, Safron also represents a running threat, as he rushed 15 times for 19 yards against San Jose State.
The other piece of the Hornets’ running attack is senior running back Ezekiel Graham, who rushed for 49 yards on 18 attempts against the Spartans.
When Safron drops back to pass against the Sun Devils’ “No-fly Zone,” he will have reliable target on the outside in senior wide receiver Morris Norrise, a three-time All-Big Sky selection.
Norrise, racked up a team high 777 yards on 60 receptions and tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions with seven in 2012. However, against the Spartans, the first team all-Big Sky selection was held to only 35 yards on four catches.
With all of the focus on Sacramento State’s offense, Graham said he feels ball security and special teams may decide the game.
“They are well-coached on offense (and) in the kicking game.” he said. “The key for us is not turning the ball over and not beating ourselves in the kicking game.”
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