Cal Football: 5 Questions For Writer Who Covers Sacramento State

Former Cal quarterback Troy Taylor returns to Memorial Stadium as Hornets' coach.
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Sacramento Bee sports writer Joe Davidson's succinct description of Sacramento State head coach Troy Taylor: “Troy Taylor is just one of those uniquely special impact coaches.”

We talked with Davidson and posed to him 5 Questions about Sacramento State, coached by the former Golden Bears star quarterback. The Hornets (1-1) play Saturday at Cal.

Sacramento State did not play a 2020 season (or a 2021 spring schedule) because of COVID-19, but Davidson (in the video above) explains how Taylor turned his debut season of 2019 into one of the greatest seasons in program history. 

Question 1: In Troy Taylor's first season as head coach in 2019, Sacramento State was 9-4 and made it to the FCS playoffs. The year they were 2-8 in 2018, the year before Taylor arrived. What was the key to Taylor turning things around so quickly?

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Sacramento State coach Troy Taylor

Troy Taylor

Question 2: Sac State opted out of playing a 2020 spring schedule. So the Hornets haven't played in two years. What are the expectations for this team in the Big Sky Conference this season?

"I think it's another championship," Davidson said in the video above when asked about those Big Sky expectations. "He won't say it . . . but big picture they expect to compete for a Big Sky championship and get into that playoff mix.

"The expectations are certainly grand because they just did it."

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Question 3: The Hornets are coming off a 34-16 loss to Northern Iowa, a pretty good FCS program. Sac State's quarterbacks had six turnovers in the game -- Asher O'Hara had five of them, Jake Dunniway the other. Are they similar or different style quarterbacks and which one do you believe will start against Cal?

"Troy loves good competition and he had a returning guy in Jake Dunniway, who started a couple games in 2019. Both of the quarterbacks liked the competition so there was a healthy vibe there.

"They just looked out of sorts the other day," he said, referring to the loss to NIU. "O'Hara showed some leadership after the game and said, `These are on me. One turnover is bad but five is laughable."

Davidson said he expects both players to see action at Cal but anticipates that O'Hara, a transfer from Middle Tennessee, will continue to be the starter.

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Question 4: Who is the best player on the Sacramento State team. Tell us about him?

Davidson identified senior running back Elijah Dotson, a two-time first-team All-Big Sky selection, as the Hornets' best player. Dotson, a 6-foot, 193-pounder, has more than 3,500 combined rushing and receiving yards in his Sacramento State career.

"He's a preseason (FCS) All-American and a local product in Sacramento. Was recruited by the previous coaching regime and then when Troy saw him, he said, `We're going to put him out wide at times.'"

Dotson caught 70 passes for 702 yards and four touchdowns in 2019 after rushing for more than 1,000 yards in 2018.

"He's maximizing this guy. He's got good hands. He can run between the tackles," Davidson said. 

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Question 5: The 2019 Hornets gave Arizona State a good game in a 19-7 loss at Tempe. But four years earlier, they lost 49-0 at Washington. Now they take on another Pac-12 team. How do you expect this Sac State team to fare at Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon?

"We know the narrative, that the FCS is not supposed to compete against FBS," Davidson said in the video above. "We do know that's what makes college football fun. We've seen it already this season where the FCS can jump up and bite somebody."

Ask Washington, which lost 13-7 to Montana. Or Florida State, a 20-17 loser on the final play last weekend to Jacksonville State.

"I expect Sac State to be competitive. Wouldn't be surprised if it's a 42-21 final or 42-28 final, Cal winning," Davidson said. "I wouldn't be mortally stunned if Sac State won but I would expect Cal to win."

Cover photo of Sacramento State running back Elijah Dotson by Mark J. Rebilias, USA Today

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo