STANFORD, Calif. — Kaiden Bennett narrowly avoided a sack to throw a 49-yard touchdown pass with 1:32 to play and Sacramento State beat former coach Troy Taylor's Stanford team 30-23 on Saturday night for the Hornets' third win ever against a Pac-12 school.
“It’s awesome that we got this opportunity,” said first-year Hornets coach Andy Thompson, who was promoted from defensive coordinator after Taylor left to take the job at Stanford. "We got to come over here, I think we collected a little bit of money too and got a win. ... They should be very proud of how they played against a really good opponent.”
It took a big play late to get the win.
Bennett flung a short pass to Marcus Fulcher just before his knee touched the ground and Fulcher did the rest from there to score for the Hornets (3-0) and spoil his former coach's home debut at Stanford.
“He was doing what he was supposed to do on his part and he was where he needed to be on that play,” Bennett said. “I looked up and saw him. Good job by him. ... I knew once he broke that first tackle he was off. He has that juice.”
Taylor took over the Cardinal (1-2) after going 30-8 in four seasons and leading the Hornets to their first berth in the FCS quarterfinals in school history last season.
Many of his former players are still at Sacramento State, including Bennett, who threw for 279 yard, ran for 100 and had a TD pass and run.
“I have a lot of love and respect for Coach T,” Bennett said. “For what he’s been able to do for my career and stuff. Just for me as a person, I give him a lot of love and respect for that.”
Sacramento State won its school-record 22nd straight regular season game at Taylor's expense, sending Stanford to its second loss ever to an FCS-level school. The Cardinal lost to UC Davis in 2005.
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“It’s very familiar faces and good coaches and really good players,” Taylor said of his former team. “Once the game starts, you’re just really competing.”
The Cardinal took a 23-20 lead early in the fourth quarter when Joshua Karty kicked his third field goal of the game on a score set up by Collin Wright's interception.
The Hornets answered with a 44-yarder from Zach Schreiner to tie the game with 4:13 to play. They then forced a punt to set up the winning score.
Stanford scored TDs on its first two possessions to take a 14-3 lead and appeared in position to take control after recovering a surprise onside kick. The Cardinal drove into the red zone before Daniels threw a deflected pass that Caleb Nelson intercepted in the end zone.
The Hornets then put together back-to-back long touchdown drives and took a 17-14 lead following Bennett's 1-yard keeper with 35 seconds left in the half.
Sacramento State: Hornets have played at least one FBS opponent every year since 2002 but winning those games has been rare. They beat Colorado State last season and had wins over Pac-12 foes Oregon State in 2011 and Colorado in 2012.
Stanford: The Cardinal used two QBs with Ashton Daniels starting. He threw a 51-yard TD pass to Eric Ayomanor and had an interception before being replaced by Justin Lansom to start the third quarter. Lanson went 7 for 18 for 138 yards and also threw an interception. The Cardinal will need better QB play the rest of the way with seven of the final nine games against teams currently ranked in the AP poll.
“We obviously have a ton of improvement to make and we have a long year to do it,” Taylor said. “It's back to work and continue to chip away and continue to build.”
Sacramento State: Visits Idaho on Saturday.
Stanford: Hosts Arizona on Saturday.
COACH TAYLOR POSTGAME
Stanford coach Troy Taylor addresses reporters after the loss to Sac State.: