For a fraction of a second, Sun Devil Stadium held its collective breath.
Sacramento State drove down the field on a 16 play, 59-yard drive and its offense was running like clockwork.
“I think we executed well,” Sacramento State coach Marshall Sperbeck said of his team’s opening drive. “We had a good rhythm going and then it just stalled out.”
Junior quarterback Garrett Saffron hit All-Big Sky senior wide receiver Morris Norrise five times for 43 yards on the first drive. However, Norrise would finish with just six catches for 50 yards.
It seemed the Hornets might get an early lead on the Sun Devils when they lined up for a 33-yard field goal early in the first quarter, but ASU redshirt senior cornerback Robert Nelson had other ideas, flying in and blocking junior kicker Jesse Aguilar’s attempt.
It would be the closest Sacramento State would get to scoring.
“We missed a good opportunity to start the game out on a good note,” Sperbeck said. “We did struggle for most of the night and I would say that would be an understatement.”
It was an understatement.
The Hornets’ offense couldn’t find any rhythm against the ASU defense after the blocked field goal, and totaled only 167 offensive yards for the game.
Part of that was because the Hornets were unable to keep the chains moving, going three-and-out nine times and managing only six first downs for the game.
The Hornets’ defense wasn’t much more impressive than their offense, either.
ASU redshirt junior quarterback Taylor Kelly shredded the Hornets for 300 yards and 5 touchdown passes, with all of his touchdowns coming in the first half. As a unit, the Hornets’ defense gave up 523 total yards.
The Hornets did have a second, albeit brief, glimmer of hope in the third quarter when Safron hit sophomore wide receiver Shane Harrison for a 30-yard completion that brought the Hornets into Sun Devil territory.
But that didn’t last either, as Saffron’s next pass was intercepted by ASU senior linebacker Grandeville Taylor and returned 56 yards to the Sacramento State two-yard line, leading to the Sun Devil’s sixth touchdown of the night.
The 55-0 loss marks the second straight game that the 0-2 Hornets have been shut out.
Saffron said it is a frustrating situation, but one that he thinks his team is close to correcting.
“It’s tough not finding the end zone the last couple weeks,” Safron said. “Just a couple execution (adjustments) here and there and I think we’ll be fine.”
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