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Sac State Preview: A Homecoming for Troy Taylor

September 17, 2021

When Sacramento State comes to Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon, the best Cal quarterback in the building will be on the Hornets’ sideline.

Troy Taylor, the Bears’ QB in the late 1980s, was the school’s all-time leader in passing yards and total offense when he graduated. Now he is the Sac State head coach.

This will not be his first visit to Berkeley since his playing career ended in 2009. But it will be his first as an opposing head coach.

“There’s not a place that’s more special to me than Berkeley. I love the place. It’s a big part of my life,” Taylor told Sports Illustrated. “It kind of shaped the person I am in terms of being challenged academically and athletically.”

Taylor has been on his current job since 2019. As a rookie head coach, he led the team to a 9-4 record and the Big Sky Championship. Last year the team did not play because of COVID and it is 1-1 this season.

Sac State Athletics
Asher O’Hara

Cal fans undoubtedly will welcome him back. “I hope they give him a rousing reception,” Cal head coach Justin Wilcox said. “I know Troy well, and have a ton of respect for him. He had an unbelievable career here. Fantastic coach. I’ve known that for a long time,even when he was up at Folsom (High).”

Taylor actually was on the Cal coaching staff from 1996-2000 and even spent seven years in the radio booth alongside Joe Starkey. He has also had a long coaching career and after two successful years as Utah’s offensive coordinator, Taylor took a big pay cut to come to Sacramento. He is using some of the same offensive concepts in Sacramento that he did at Utah, and in their two games, a win over Dixie State and a loss to Northern Iowa, the Hornets are averaging 427 yards per game.

“They played a real good team last week and were up on them at halftime,’ Wilcox said. “They are multiple on offense. You can see what they’re doing schematically. They do a really good job offensively, give you different looks, trying to mess with your eyes, They create issues for the defense, Two good backs, the quarterback can throw it and can run it. They’ve got a talented tight end, talented receiver.”

Defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon agrees. “You see a tremendous amount of offense. You see a lot of different personnel groups,” Sirmon said, “We’ll see multiple quarterbacks. I like their skill.  Number 84 (Pierre Williams) is a really good wide receiver for them. I like how they use Number 16 (Marshel Martin), kind of a tight end ...Sometimes they’ll have two running backs on the field at the same time. Sometimes they’ll be in the backfield, sometimes you’ll see ‘em split out, sometimes they’ll be fly motion. They think they are very versatile and they use them in a lot of different capacities.” 

As an FCS school, Sac State is limited to 63 scholarships (FBS schools like Cal get 85). But Taylor has made good use of his numbers. As one might expect Taylor has a quality quarterback, two of them in fact.

Asher O’Hara, a transfer from Middle Tennessee, has started both games. In the loss to Northern Iowa last week, O'Hara completed 32-of-53 for 338 yards. He is also the  Hornets’ leading rusher with 120 yards. Jake Dunniway, who narrowly lost a training camp battle for the starting job, also has played in both games. Freshman Kaiden Bennett provides depth. 

O’Hara, (6-0, 195) did turn the ball over five times last week, three interceptions and two fumbles. Still. Cal is wary.

Sports Illustrated

“Both the quarterbacks do a good job of throwing the ball around,” Sirmon said. “Any time you are playing multiple quarterbacks, you  are trying to find out what the team does best.” (O’Hara) is a player who is going to get on the perimeter; they are not afraid to run him.”

The running backs are seniors Elijah Dotson and B.J. Perkinson. Both have received All-Big Sky consideration during their careers. Perkinson has 86 yards on 13 carries and Dotson, probably the more dangerous of the two, has 70 on 18. Both are fine receivers. According to reports, Dotson is a patient runner with great vision and cutback ability. Because teams tend to emphasize stopping him, his numbers might suffer. He is also useful as a decoy. 

Martin is a quality tight end who could make a lot of FBS rosters, He has 14 catches in the two games, including both Sac State passing touchdowns. 

The best wide receiver is Williams. The Hornets line him up in the slot and on the outside and don’t hesitate to send him deep. You can bet he is looking at the film of Cal’s Nevada game and all the big plays the Bears allowed. He had nine catches for 122 yards last week.

The Hornets have a strong offensive line with three returning vets in center Thomas Parker, left tackle Troy Stiefel and right guard Brandon Weldon. Also, right tackle Kooper Richardson was a two-year starter at UC Davis before his transfer to play for his position-coach father, Kris.

Sac State Athletics
Marshel Martin

Defensively the Hornets play a base 4-5-2, a concept that is becoming common in college football. They are aggressive and against Dixie State they had ten tackles for loss, including four sacks.
They do some tricks with their defensive line, reasoning that in order to block you the offense first has to find you. “They stem the front,” Cal offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said this week. “The down linemen move laterally during the offense’s cadence. So you may think they’re in an odd front or an even front, and then once you identify that and proceed with your cadence, they’ll stem to a different one.  If they do it at the last minute and we snap the ball, we could be in a state of confusion.

“So we want to make sure and anticipate that and have plays that can hold up against that type of movement.”

The most experienced unit on defense is linebackers which return the two primary starters from 2019 and five players who have seen significant playing time. Marcus Hawkins leads the unit as the team's middle linebacker. Hawkins earned second-team all-Big Sky honors in 2019 after leading the team with 81 total tackles.

Freshman safety Cameron Broussard is emerging as a star in the secondary. He had 10 tackles against UNI, and he said the key for the Hornets responding this week against the Golden Bears will be their ability to tackle.

“We need to continue to play hard, and get dudes to the ground, that will be big for us,” Broussard said. “Obviously we were getting people to the ground (last week), but as the third quarter came around we were kind’ve relaxed.”

The Bears, even though they are facing a team from a lower division cannot relax. And Wilcox does not expect them to.

“I don’t worry about us looking past any opponent ever,” Wilcox said. “It’s not the type of team we have. We know what State’s capable of. We know what kind of coaches they have. Our players watch their players. We have a great deal of respect for all of them. The parity in college football is evident. We see it each and every week. We don’t for one second sit over here like we’ve done something this week because we haven’t.” 


  • This will be the third meeting between Cal and Sac State, with the Bears having won both the previous ones, 21-3 in 2005, and 55-14 in 2014.
  • Cal offensive line coach Angus McClure played and coached at Sac State.
  • Sac State placekicker Kyle Sentowski is 4-for-5 on field-goal tries. He has hit two from 40 yards and his one miss is from 48.
  • Taylor became the first head coach in Sac State history to earn his tenth victory in his 14th game, which he did by beating Dixie State.
  • Sac State Athletic Director Mark Orr played at Cal from 1994-1998.


Wednesday Report: Sirmon, Musgrave, Wilcox Talk TCU, Sac State

Discussion from...

Sac State Preview: A Homecoming for Troy Taylor

1,410 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 2 mo ago by 01Bear
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Still hoping to get Troy Taylor as our next offensive coordinator and in-line to replace Wilcox if he leaves in a few years.

Then again, this is Cal and it will probably never happen.
How long do you want to ignore this user?
grrrah76 said:

Still hoping to get Troy Taylor as our next offensive coordinator and in-line to replace Wilcox if he leaves in a few years.

Then again, this is Cal and it will probably never happen.

Would he come to Cal as an OC instead of as the HC? He's already proven his abilities as as the OC of a P5 school. Would he want to take the same job at Cal, even if it is his alma mater? He's the HC of a school now, even if it's not a FCS program. If he continues to have success, other P5 schools could come knocking on his door in search of a HC.
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