With Sacramento State coming into Bulldog Stadium following two close losses for Fresno State, the ‘Dogs have an opportunity to build up confidence as they near conference play in a few weeks.
Fresno State is rightfully the big favorite heading into the matchup, given Sacramento State sits in the lower-tier Football Championship Subdivision.
But Sacramento State is no pushover, evidenced by the Hornets taking Arizona State down to the wire.
“It will be a good test,” offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb said. “People that think that we’re just going to walk all over these guys, they’re going to be in for a different football game. This is a tough team.”
The Bulldogs have an opportunity to build confidence against a quality opponent in a game that they should win comfortably.
First things first, quarterback Jorge Reyna will have a chance to play in a low-pressure environment for the first time this season.
He shouldn’t be in a position in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. It’s safe to say there won’t be an interception in the end zone to lose the game this week.
And if the ‘Dogs do somehow end up in that situation, then it’s time to panic.
Ideally, Reyna starts strong and puts his mistakes behind him early. Now’s the time to do that. He improved from Week 1 to 2 and has had a bye week to get extra reps in and study the film.
“We’ve just got to keep seeing his constant improvement, and we just can’t wait until the end of the year for him to be playing his best ball,” Grubb said. “It needs to be pretty quick here.”
There’s only one non-conference game left – next week against New Mexico State. Reyna needs to get on a roll, starting now.
Reyna’s not the only one who needs to get going. Running back Josh Hokit hasn’t featured much so far, but he’s capable of adding another dimension to the rushing attack.
Fellow running back Ronnie Rivers can’t carry the full load all season. Get Hokit going against the Hornets, and the Bulldogs will have a solid one-two punch moving forward.
Sacramento State has an excellent run defense. If Rivers and Hokit can make strides Saturday, they’ll be able to put up solid numbers against any team in the Mountain West.
Grubb talked about how Sacramento State shut down Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin, who had over 1,600 rushing yards last year.
“It was a Pac-12 offensive line and one of the best backs on the west coast,” Grubb said. “They shut him down. They didn’t give him anything. I think that’s actually been helpful for our guys to understand that type of test, because we feel really strongly about Josh and Ronnie that those are two really good backs.”
Besides Hokit, the rest of the two-deep should have a chance to see the field.
This is the game to see the Bulldogs pull away with a large enough lead to put the backups in. They need game experience. They haven’t had that chance yet.
If Reyna gets injured this year, backup Ben Wooldridge has to be ready to fill in. Maybe we’ll get to see what Wooldridge has to offer Saturday.
We hear over and over from coaches that nothing beats game experience. With how young this team is, the ‘Dogs need to take a commanding lead early to see what the backups have to offer.