Second-year Sacramento State coach Jody Sears looks to build on the Big Sky's early success when he leads the Hornets into Washington's home opener at 11 a.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium.
Break up the Big Sky.
It was a good first week to the college football season for the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) conference, which posted two headline-grabbing wins against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams.
First, Portland State stunned Washington State with a 24-17 upset before North Dakota knocked off Wyoming 24-13 for the school’s first-ever FBS win.
In the Big Sky’s four other FBS matchups, defending conference champion Eastern Washington went toe to toe with No. 7 Oregon before losing 61-42. Weber State trailed Oregon State 13-7 late in the third quarter before falling 26-7. Southern Utah lost 12-9 to Utah State and UC Davis dropped its opener 31-17 at Nevada.
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A 2-4 record against FBS teams may not look like much, but it’s a significant achievement for a conference that struggles for respect when it plays teams in college football’s top division.
Second-year Sacramento State coach Jody Sears looks to build on the Big Sky’s early success when he leads the Hornets into Washington’s home opener at 11 a.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium.
“That’s what makes college football so awesome,” Sears said. “You get a bunch of 18 and 22-year-old males in one spot, you throw the ball out there, you get after it and let the fur fly and see what happens. And on any given Saturday, just like we saw last weekend with coach Bubba (Schweigert) and North Dakota and coach (Bruce) Barnum over there at Portland State, heck anything can happen. So we’re excited.”
Said Washington coach Chris Petersen of the Hornets: “I know what Sacramento State is going to bring. They’re going to bring tremendous focus, energy, and effort. They’re going to play well; they’re going to play inspired.”
Sears, a Pullman native, is familiar with the Huskies. He played receiver at Washington State for Mike Price in 1989-90. He was also the Cougars defensive coordinator for three years (2008-10) and coached the secondary in 2011. However, he was released in 2012 when Mike Leach took over.
The past four years, Sears has been a head coach at Weber State (2012-13) where he was 4-19 and Sacramento State (2014-15) where he’s compiled an 8-5 mark.
“He’s what I call an old-school football coach,” said Washington secondary coach Jimmy Lake, who served on the same staff with Sears during the 2003 season at Eastern Washington. “He’s really hard on the guys in a good way. The guys know he’s demanding. He’s very, very detailed. He’s going to make sure those guys are playing really hard. He really knows a lot about defensive football.”
A Sears-led team is typically defensive-oriented, Lake said.
“Very aggressive,” he said. “Stop the run. Eight and nine-man front stuff. He was definitely dialed in on stopping the run and really made it hard on the passer as well because we played some tough passing coverages.”
— Here’s the Sacramento State game notes.
— And here’s the transcript of Sears’ interview during Wednesday’s Big Sky teleconference.
(Opening statement) “It was nice to get off to a good start. We played pretty darn good for three quarters and then that last quarter was a little bit disappointing when we had some young guys and had some backups in there. First time playing college football, you never know what you may get. We had some wide eyes, but it was good to throw them under the bus and for them to come out with a little bit of experience and to get them started off. My thoughts of our first unit, I thought they performed extremely well. However, that was last week and looking forward to this week it’s going to be just the opposite. We’re going to Washington on a big stage and playing the Huskies, they’re extremely talented. They’ve got one of the finest young quarterbacks in the country in Jake Browning, there’s no question about it. But again, it comes down back to the level of our execution and our ability to take care of the football and not have any foolish penalties. We got to play good field-of-position football and do a good job on defense and getting them in some obvious situations. We know it’s an exciting opportunity. It’s going to be an 11 o’clock kickoff. The guys are excited, but again we got a lot of things to clean up before we kick it off on Saturday.”
(On the increase interest in the Sacramento area because of the matchup against Browning, a Sac-area product) “Yeah, especially locally. Jake is from here. He’s from Folsom (High) just down the street. The other things is he and Kniff (Daniel Kniffin) have some history together going to Troy Taylor’s quarterback academy and being a part of that big deal. But yeah, it’s exciting. You got two local products on a big stage. It’s a great opportunity for Sacramento State and I think it bodes well too for the local talent and the high school coaching that’s here. There’s really good high school football here. It’s exciting to have some local kids on a big stage.”
(On Browning) “When you look at the film you notice that he’s a very, very good decision maker. I’m sure that wasn’t for every snap, but just in general – overall. I thought he managed that game really, really well. He had them in the game. He had them in a position to score a touchdown and win that game late. I think it bodes well for his expertise at playing that position. His personality and his savvy, he’s an extremely gifted and well coached and very talented quarterback. It was very evident in that game.”
(On why Sacramento State has a chance to upset Washington) “Because we’re playing the game. That’s why they put them on the schedule. They put them on the schedule and you got a chance. That’s what makes college football so awesome. You get a bunch of 18 and 22-year-old males in one spot, you throw the ball out there, you get after it and let the fur fly and see what happens. And on any given Saturday, just like we saw last weekend with coach Bubba (Schweigert) and North Dakota and coach (Bruce) Barnum over there at Portland State, heck anything can happen. So we’re excited.”
(On the matchup between the Hornets’ young defense versus the Huskies’ young offense) “You can look into that a little bit, but at the same time too it’s going to come down to our execution, our pad level and our ability to get 11 hats to the football no question about it.”
(On any lingering rivalry feelings considering his WSU roots) “[Laughs] What a lovely question. You know what, that rivalry thing – I grew up in Pullman, Wash. and that Apple Cup is always going to be a special date in my life. But you know what, when it comes to these kinds of things your personal what ever you want to call it has no bearing into being a leader and into being a coach. Especially in a team game, you can’t let your personal feelings get in the way of the bigger picture and leading young men and creating a good championship environment.”