Newman Alum Cooke Returning to Northern California for Weekend Matchup in Sacramento
Former Cardinal Newman and State Champion Quarterback Jordan Cooke will be back in Northern California as the starting QB for the Idaho State Bengals in their upcoming Big Sky bout at Hornet Stadium against #7 ranked Sacramento State. Cooke has been good this year for the Bengals, throwing for 1,766 yards and 9 touchdowns in 7 games this year, leading the Bengals to a 3-1 conference record, 3-4 overall. He's coming off a huge game against conference opponent Portland State where he had 259 yards and a TD in ISU's big 38-24 win.
Idaho State are 3-2 against FCS teams this year and are tied for 2nd in the Big Sky with a 3-1 conference record. They are ranked higher in conference than Sac State who is 5th in the Big Sky with losses to #8 Idaho and #2 Montana State. Sac State is 5-2 overall with their signature win coming in mid-September at Stanford Stadium where they knocked off the Cardinal and former Head Coach Troy Taylor, 30-23. The Hornets are 2-2 in conference and have a tough road ahead, facing Idaho State, #5 Montana, Cal Poly and #25 UC Davis. The Big Sky is one of the toughest conferences in FCS, with 4 teams in the Top 10, Montana State, Montana, Sac State and Idaho. Idaho State still has Sac State, Weber State, #25 UC Davis and #8 Idaho ahead. The Big Sky is similar to the Pac 12 this year, but the difference is, 2 or 3 or even 4 losses doesn't put you out of reach of a National Championship as in the FCS, a March Madness style 24 team bracket with 8 top seeds decides the National Champion. The Big Sky sent 5 teams to the tournament last year. Sac State made it to the Quarterfinals last year where they faced a tough Incarnate Word team and lost in a shootout, 66-63. Montana fell in the Round of 16 to North Dakota State. Weber State fell in the Round of 16 to Montana State, who fell in the semifinals to the eventual National Champions South Dakota State. Finally, Idaho fell in the 1st Round to Southeastern Louisiana.
Idaho State was 1-10 last year with their only win coming against Cal Poly, but reloaded this year, hiring UC Davis offensive coordinator Cody Hawkins as their new Head Coach in December 2022. The Bengals brought in a lot of transfers including Jordan Cooke, a sophomore from Diablo Valley College. Cooke had 1,565 yards and 14 TDs last year in 8 games for the Vikings last year and transferred to Idaho State in January. Cooke is out of Cardinal Newman High School and was a backup for the Cardinals when they won their 2019 State Championship, but in 2021's shortened Spring season, Cooke led the Cardinals to a 5-0 record and a perfect 4-0 league slate. Cooke threw for 903 yards and 10 TDs in 2021. He also added 3 rushing TDs and 41 rushing yards. Cooke so far has been great at ISU, leading them to the best record they've had since 2019.
Sacramento State brings a very tough challenge to the Bengals with QB Kaiden Bennett who leads the team in both passing and rushing. Bennett has 1,586 yards and 11 TDs in the air this year along with 349 yards and 4 TDs on the ground. RBs Ezra Moleni and Marcus Fulcher have been huge on the ground for the Hornets, combining for over 500 yards and 4 TDs. Elijah Tau-Tolliver has added 4 TDs for the Hornets along with over 200 yards on the ground for the Hornets. WR Jared Gipson leads the team in receiving with 333 yards and a TD on 18 receptions. The top 2 targets for Bennett, however, have been Devin Gandy and Carlos Hill who both have 24 receptions. Gandy has 332 yards and 2 TDs while Hill has 281 yards and 2 TDs.
On defense for the Hornets, it's been the Armon Bailey show. He has 60 total tackles, 29 solo, and a sack. DB Cameron Broussard has 52 tackles, an interception and 3 pass deflections. The Sac State defensive line is good with DeShawn Lynch, who leads the team with 4.5 sacks, and Jett Stanley who has 4 sacks so far. DB Dilon Juniel has been great in the secondary for the Hornets with 10 pass deflections and an interception.
Idaho State runs a 2 QB system, much like Sac State last year, and backup QB Hunter Hays leads the team in rushing with 198 yards and 5 TDs. Hays also has 576 yards and 6 TDs passing this year. The Bengals' top target is Chedon James, who has 60 catches for 629 yards and 6 TDs. Christian Fredericksen has 41 receptions for 611 yards and 3 TDs this year for Idaho State. Alfred Jordan Jr. has pitched in with 357 yards on 32 receptions and a TD, and Cyrus Wallace has added 27 receptions and 307 yards and 2 TDs. Sacramento State's secondary will be tested Saturday with how much the Bengals pass.
Safeties Mason Young and Calvin Pitcher lead Idaho State with 27 tackles each. Young has added a sack and an interception while Pitcher has a pass deflection. David Rowe leads the team with 3 sacks and has been great this year. Idaho State will have to contain Kaiden Bennett and will have to perform well on offense if they want to win. Jordan Cooke has been good this year and faces a tough challenge this weekend in Northern California. The game starts at 6 PM and will be broadcasted on ESPN+. It is one you won't want to miss.