After three weeks of football the UNC Bears football team could be 2-1 on the season, but life often does not go the way it was planned.
So far, the Bears are 0-3 with injuries adding up already.
Marshaun Cameron was slated as the No. 1 corner on the depth chart, but suffered a season-ending knee injury days before the McNeese State game.
Another team leader will now be added to the injured reserves list after just the first drive of the Sacramento State game. Jacob Knipp went down hard and suffered a broken collarbone, according to Coach Earnest Collins Jr.
Going forward, the Bears need to limit the injuries to key players as Alex Wesley was out part of the game to be evaluated and Sherand Boyd Jr. did not dress as a precaution from practice tenderness.
Football is a fast paced and tough game to play, but only so much can be expected of the backups who have to step up immediately.
Keaton Mott had a career day by quickly leading the Bears to a touchdown pass to tight end Theron Verna. Sacramento State would answer with their own touch down two drives later to Johnnie Rucker.
The two teams punted back and forth the whole second quarter, until Keaton Mott led the team on an exciting drive ending with Milo Hall’s first touchdown as a running back for the Bears.
Third quarter Sacramento State would counter with a touchdown on their second drive, but the Bears responded with a field goal on the next drive to regain the lead. Everything seemed to be on track for the Bears.
The fourth quarter was not kind to the Bears, as Sacramento State would score two touchdowns and UNC only would score one. The defense would come up big by giving the offense one more chance with about 30 seconds left in the game.
We will never know how the offense did since a punt return fumble squandered UNC’s cinderella dreams.
UNC’s first drive was one that would alter the entire season. After completing just one pass, Jacob Knipp would be sacked and suffer a broken collarbone according to Coach Earnest Collins Jr.
Sacramento State quarterback Kevin Thompson showed some cautiousness on his first drive at Nottingham after leaving the San Diego State game early last week.
The Bear’s second drive would start uncertain, but quickly showed backup quarterback Keaton Mott had the poise to bring the offense down the field.
On a fourth down and two to go the Bears gambled by giving Trae Riek the ball on a dive run. Thankfully for the Bears, the bet paid off and kept the drive alive. A few plays later Mott threw a bullet pass to Theron Verna for a finger tip catch and stumble for a touchdown.
The Hornets would get the ball back to them, but only a few plays later they would fumble the ball. UNC tried its best to make something of it getting all the way to the Sacramento State side of the field, but a risky fourth and long did not pay off.
Starting with great field position the Hornets would capitalize with a mismatch play where their receiver was alone for 38 yards. Sacramento State would systematically work their way down to score a touchdown pass to Johnnie Rucker.
The rest of the second quarter would be a majority of punts besides a fumble from Trae Riek, until the Bears found a way to get their second touchdown of the game.
An up and down drive was revived when Willie Fairman caught a big pass from Mott to get within the Sacramento State ten yard line. From there Milo Hall would get his first touchdown as a UNC Bear.
Halftime: UNC 14, Sacramento State 7
The Hornets second drive would start at midfield and end with a touchdown. A 44 yard catch by Jaelin Ratliff set up a short Sacramento State run for the score.
UNC tried desperately to pull ahead of the Hornets, but came away with a field goal from the drive. It was not for a lack of trying, but rather a lack of completions, that kept the drive from ending as a touchdown.
Eager to score again the Hornets stormed all the way down to within the UNC 10-yard line. Bryant Perkinson attempted to rush into the end zone, but Jerone Jackson caused a fumble that would be recovered by the Bears.
The awful field position would lead the Bears to quickly punt and that did not go well either as it went just over 30 yards. From this the Hornets would trick the Bears on an end around run by the receiver for an easy touchdown.
The pressure was building as the Bears were now down by four points. Mott sustained a good drive until the 44-yard line where Mott was strip sacked and the Hornets recovered.
Elijah Dotson would run the ball consistently and productively by scoring another touchdown for Sacramento State in just five rushing attempts.
UNC knew what it had to do. Mott orchestrated a nearly flawless drive resulting in a touchdown pass to Noah Sol to bring the Bears within three points.
The defense came through and stopped the Hornets causing a punt. All the Bears needed was a chance to drive down the field. The Bears will have to always wonder if they could have done it since the punt returner fumbled the ball attempting to catch the punt.
Sacramento State kneeled and the game was over.
Final: Sacramento State 28, UNC 25
The Mirror’s Keys to the Game Checklist
Pass Coverage: The pass coverage was much better this week. Still need to find a way to limit the big pass plays, but overall the players were in position.
Turnovers: Jerone Jackson, the freshmen safety, really grew up this week with 11 tackles and two forced fumbles. We are still waiting on the Bears to create interceptions.
Sack the QB: Again, the freshmen came through in this category when Brooks Talkington recorded his first sack ever as a Bear. He recorded the lone sack, though.
Limit Sacks: NO. Jacob Knipp was sacked once and it resulted in a broken collarbone. While Mott was seemingly unphased by the sacks, one of the sacks against him resulted in a fumble and causing the Bears to have a very limited chance.
Revive the run game: YES. Finally, the Bears have shown that the running game can be something to be taken seriously by other teams. There could be improvements, but the rushing attempts on fourth down were well executed.
Limited penalties? Yes, the penalty problem of a week ago is slowly getting better.