Sacramento State has not played North Dakota since 2019, but the Hornets will know all about the Fighting Hawks before the teams tangle in the FCS playoffs Saturday in Grand Forks. Sacramento State happens to have an inside source with an updated scouting report.
And the Hornets need all the help they can get after losing 31-21 to UC Davis in the Causeway Classic on Saturday. Sacramento State was among the last four teams to get into the playoffs when the 24-team bracket was announced Sunday despite being ranked 10th in the latest FCS poll. UC Davis was among the final four teams to be snubbed.
Quarterback Carson Camp may be of assistance for Sacramento State because he faced North Dakota in 2021 when he was starting for South Dakota. And he led the Coyotes to a 20-13 victory by throwing for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Camp lost the starting job in 2022, however, and jumped into the transfer portal.
Sacramento State was the ideal place for a quarterback trying to resurrect his college career. The Hornets were in need of a starter after the tag team of Jake Dunniway and Asher O’Hara guided Sacramento State to consecutive Big Sky Conference championships.
Kaiden Bennett was the heir apparent after paying his dues for two years. Camp won the job, however, and started the season opener at Nicholls State. His 26-yard run was the big play during the Hornets’ first possession as they drove 75 yards to take a 7-0 lead.
Bennett split time with Camp and made his case to become the starter. Bennett completed 11 of 16 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Camp was 5-of-11 for 35 yards and threw an interception in the third quarter that Nicholls State turned into a touchdown.
That score cut Sacramento State’s lead to 17-10. Bennett regained momentum for the Hornets with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Jared Gipson with 58 seconds to go in the quarter. Bennett started the following week against Texas A&M-Commerce, led Sacramento State to a 30-23 win at Stanford on Sept. 16 and held the job for the next six games.
Camp dropped to third on the depth chart when freshman Carson Conklin started over Bennett against Cal Poly on Nov. 11. Conklin earned the start by throwing for 235 yards and three touchdowns after relieving Bennett in the Hornets’ 51-16 win over Idaho State.
Conklin passed for 313 yards and three touchdowns in the 41-30 victory over Cal Poly. The Hornets had more trouble putting the Mustangs away than UC Davis did in beating Cal Poly 31-13 on Sept. 30. The Aggies were in cruise control after leading 24-7 at halftime.
UC Davis also had a 17-point halftime lead against Sacramento State. Conklin’s day ended at the half with a 17-0 deficit. He was 13-of-25 for 129 yards and his last pass was intercepted by UC Davis linebacker Teddye Buchanan with 52 seconds to go in the half.
Bennett gave Sacramento State a bit of hope in the second half by throwing for 232 yards and three touchdowns. His performance leaves the Hornets with having to decide who will start against North Dakota. The safe bet is it will not be Camp.