Sacramento State had no business being in Friday night’s FCS quarterfinal game against Incarnate Word until the final play. Four turnovers, one being a fumble the Cardinals returned for a touchdown, should have spoiled the Hornets’ 12-0 season long before a Hail Mary pass by Jake Dunniway fell incomplete in the end zone as time expired.
The odds of the Hornets overcoming four turnovers to win were about as slim as any chance of Sacramento State persuading Troy Taylor into turning down an offer to become the coach at Stanford. The gossip Friday at Hornet Stadium was that Stanford was simply waiting for the end of Sacramento State’s season to seal the deal with Taylor.
Not only is Taylor more than qualified for the job, but Stanford landed the former Cal quarterback just a year after the Golden Bears gave Justin Wilcox a six-year contract extension. Most folks figured Taylor would only leave Sacramento State for Cal, but the Golden Bears are stuck with Wilcox for the next five years unless they buy him out.
Like most coaches on the hot seat, Wilcox let two of his assistants take the fall when this season took a turn for the worse. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and offensive line coach Angus McClure were fired after a 38-10 loss at Oregon State on Nov. 12 left Cal at 3-7 with a six-game losing streak. The Golden Bears salvaged a modicum of pride by beating Stanford 27-20 and Cal fans need to savor that.
Taylor will see to that not happening again any time soon in the Big Game. His three-year stay at Sacramento State ended with a 66-63 loss to Incarnate Word, but Taylor kept the Hornets in the game by realizing his offense would have to keep pace with the high-powered Cardinals when his defense was incapable of stopping them.
Sacramento State lost despite a record-setting offensive show orchestrated by Taylor. The Hornets rewrote their record book with 738 yards of total offense, 109 offensive plays and 49 first downs. The four turnovers were costly as Incarnate Word turned three of them into points, including Kelechi Anyakebechi’s 55-yard return of an O’Hara fumble that stretched the Cardinals’ lead to 59-48 with 8:30 to go in the game.
The touchdown was the fourth in less than four minutes. Sacramento State trailed 45-41 with 12:30 left after running back Cameron Skattebo caught a lateral from Dunniway and lofted a 19-yard scoring pass to tight end Marshel Martin. After the Hornets gambled with an onside kick and recovered it, Martin found the end zone again by catching a 14-yard pass from Dunniway. Sacramento State led 48-45 – for all of 49 seconds.
Marcus Cooper put Incarnate Word back on top with a 67-yard touchdown dash. After Anyalebechi’s fumble return, Sacramento State answered with Dunniway’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Williams and Martin’s 4-yard scoring run with 1:43 left. The Cardinals needed just 76 seconds to go 75 yards for the final score – a 21-yard pass from Lindsey Scott Jr. to Taylor Grimes. Scott has almost as many rushing yards (176) as he did passing (219).
Scott threw four touchdown passes, boosting his season total to 59, and ran for two scores. Incarnate Word will travel to North Dakota State for a semifinal showdown at 4 p.