Following is a look around Big Sky Conference football by Jon Kasper, the conference’s assistant commissioner. Kasper used to write for the Missoulian, where he covered the University of Montana football team for several years.
This Week’s Sky Highlights
Eleven Big Sky teams are in action this week, looking to build on the amazing first-week success by the league. The Big Sky went 9-3 on the opening weekend…Sacramento State plays at Arizona State on Thursday night as the Hornets look to beat a Pac-12 team for the third straight season…Weber State is at Utah of the Pac-12 on Saturday…Portland State also plays a Pac-12 team, traveling to Cal…Cal Poly and UC Davis square off against Mountain West teams. No. 12 Cal Poly, which upset Wyoming last season, is at Fresno State. UC Davis takes on Nevada…No. 3 Montana State also plays an FBS team, traveling to SMU of the AAC…Idaho State opens its season at home against Division II Dixie State…Northern Colorado guns for its fifth straight win as it plays host to DII Colorado State-Pueblo…Southern Utah is also at home against a DII squad, Hosting John L. Smith and Fort Lewis….Eastern Washington, fresh off its upset of Oregon State, plays host to Western Oregon…NAU and UM are off this week.
This Week’s Sky Schedule
Thursday, Sept. 5
Sacramento State (0-1) at Arizona State (0-0), 7:05 p.m. TV: Pac-12 Network
Saturday, Sept. 7
Weber State (1-0) at Utah (1-0), 12:05 p.m. TV: Pac-12 Network
Colorado State-Pueblo (0-0) at Northern Colorado (1-0),1:35 p.m. Internet: WatchBigSky.com
Portland State (1-0) at Cal (0-1), 2:05 p.m. TV: Pac-12 Networt
Dixie State (0-0) at Idaho State (0-0), 3:05 p.m. Internet: WatchBigSky.com
Western Oregon (0-1) at No. 2 Eastern Washington (1-0), 4:05 p.m. Internet: WatchBigSky.com
No. 6 South Dakota State (1-0) at North Dakota (1-0), 6:05 p.m. TV: MidCo Sports Network. Internet: WatchBigSky.com
Fort Lewis (0-0) at Southern Utah (1-0), 6:05 p.m. Internet: WatchBigSky.com
UC Davis (0-1) at Nevada (0-1), 6:05 p.m.
No. 12 Cal Poly (1-0) at Fresno State (1-0), 7:05 p.m. Internet: ESPN3
No. 4 Montana State (1-0) at SMU (0-1),7:05 p.m. Internet: ESPN3
Times Local to Site/Subject to Change
Around the Big Sky
EAGLES TAKE DOWN RANKED FBS TEAM: Eastern Washington became just the fourth FCS team to beat a ranked FBS team last Saturday, shocking Oregon State 49-46 in Corvallis. Oregon State, which returned 16 starters from a 9-4 2012 team, entered the season ranked 25th in both major polls. Eastern Washington sophomore QB Vernon Adams completed 23-of-30 passes for 411 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 18 seconds to play. It was the first win over a Pac-12 team for the Eagles, but marked the third straight season a Big Sky team has upset a Pac-12 squad. Sacramento State beat Oregon State in 2011, and Sacramento State upset Colorado in 2012. EWU scored on nine of its 10 possessions against the Beavers, and finished with 625 yards of total offense. Adams’ 518 yards of total offense set a Reser Stadium record. EWU had been 0-9 against current members of the Pac-12, including a 30-27 loss at Washington in 2011, and a 24-20 loss to Washington State in 2012. This marked the second straight season EWU has beaten an FBS team. The Eagles beat Idaho 20-3 to start the 2012 season.
Wins by FCS (I-AA) teams over ranked FBS (I-A) teams
1983 *Cincinnati 14, No. 20 (AP) Penn State 3
2007 Appalchian State 34, No 5 (AP) Michigan 32
2010 James Madison 21, No. 13 (AP) Virginia Tech 16
2013 Eastern Washington 49, No. 25 (AP) Oregon State 46
*In 1983, Cincinnati was classified by the NCAA as a I-AA team. It was a temprorary classification.
ANOTHER FBS WIN: Last year Big Sky Conference teams earned four wins over FBS opponents. It didn’t take long for the first to come this season, as Southern Utah edged South Alabama of the Sun Belt Conference 22-21 in the first game of the season for a Big Sky team. Southern Utah led 10-0, but had to rally from a 21-13 fourth-quarter deficit. All-American kicker Colton Cook made a 28-yard field goal as time expired. Cook was 3-for-3 on field-goal attempts. It was the second FBS win for Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds beat UNLV 41-16 during the 2011 season. Aaron Cantu, making his first career start, completed 13-of-24 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown. Freshman Raysean Martin rushed 23 times for 107 yards and a touchdown in his first career start.
FCS SHINES: Eastern Washington and Southern Utah were two of eight FCS teams to notch victories over FBS teams, making it one of the most successful weekends by FCS squads. Two-time defending national champion North Dakota State upset Kansas State of the Big 12 24-21, Northern Iowa beat Iowa State 28-20, Towson upset UConn 33-18, McNeese State drilled South Florida 53-21, Eastern Illinois beat San Diego State 40-19, and Samford beat Georgia State 31-23. Last season, there were 10 victories by FCS teams over FBS teams.
JOHNSON BUSTS A LONG ONE: Montana State junior running back Shawn Johnson scored on a 90-yard run in the first quarter of the No. 2 Bobcats’ 42-24 win over Monmouth. It marked the first 90-yard scoring run in the Big Sky since the 2009 season when Eastern Washington’s Taiwan Jones scored on a 96-yard run against Idaho State. The longest scoring run in 2012 was 78 yards by Northern Arizona’s Austin Shanks. The longest run during the 2011 season was 82 yards by Northern Arizona’s Giovannie Dixon, and the longest scoring run in 2010 was by Northern Arizona’s Zach Bauman. Johnson finished the game with a career-high 109 yards on five carries. It was his first career 100-yard rushing game.
FIREWORKS IN GRAND FORKS: North Dakota opened its second season in the Big Sky by topping Valparaiso of the FCS Pioneer League 69-10. The 69 points scored were the most ever in a season opener by UND, and the most since a 69-0 win over Morningside in 1972. North Dakota scored six rushing touchdowns – three by Jake Miller and three by Adam Shaugabay. All-American Greg Hardin scored on a 75-yard catch on the first offensive play, and also had a 90-yard kick return for a touchdown. Sophomore Kenny Golladay took his first career punt return 64 yards for a touchdown. Freshman Ryan Bartels completed 10-of-12 passes for 212 yards in his first career start.
QUICK OUT OF THE GATE: Weber State scored its first offensive touchdown on its sixth offensive play in a 50-40 win over Stephen F. Austin on Saturday. The Wildcats wound up with 23 first-quarter points. In 2012, Weber State scored a grand total of 29 first-quarter points. Weber State failed to score a first-quarter point in its first five games, and didn’t score a first-quarter touchdown until the 10th game. Weber State scored three first-quarter touchdowns in all of 2012. The Wildcats had three against Stephen F. Austin – one on offense, one by the defense, and one on special teams.
BAUMAN ON VERGE OF TOP 10: Northern Arizona senior RB Zack Bauman rushed for 71 yards in a 35-0 loss to Arizona. Bauman upped his career total to 3,747 yards, 11th on the Big Sky’s all-time list. He is just one yard behind Idaho’s Sherriden May, who rushed for 3,748 yards from 1991-94. Bauman needs 48 yards to become Northern Arizona’s all-time leading rusher. Marcus King rushed for 3,794 yards from 1998-2001 for the Lumberjacks. Charles Roberts of Sacramento State (1997-2000) is the all-time leader with 6,553
ADAMS EARNS NATIONAL HONORS: Eastern Washington sophomore quarterback earned a plethora of national honors after leading the Eagles to the upset of Oregon State. Adams became the first Big Sky player to be named the CBS Sports National Offensive Player of the Week, an honor normally reserved for FBS players. Adams was also named the National Player of the Week by The Sports Network, College Sporting News, College Sports Madness and the College Football Performance Awards.
HAPPY RETURNS: Montana, Weber State and Southern Utah all welcomed back explosive players to the lineup last week. Montana junior QB Jordan Johnson returned after sitting out last season to lead the Grizzlies to a 30-6 victory over No. 12 Appalachian State. Johnson completed his first 12 passes and finished the night 19-of-23 for 251 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Weber State welcomed back junior Bo Bolen, who sat out the last two seasons while serving and LDS Mission. Bolen amassed 215 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in a 50-40 win over Stephen F. Austin. Bolen returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. Bolen became the sixth Weber State player to return a kick 100 yards for a touchdown. He scored on runs of 19 and 1 yards. SUU linebacker Matt Holley, who returned from an LDS mission, had a career-high 13 tackles – three for loss in the win over South Alabama. On USA’s final drive he had a tackle for a 4-yard loss on second down and a QB hurry on third, forcing the Jaguars to punt and setting up SUU’s winning drive.
FIVE RANKED: Five Big Sky teams are once again ranked in both major FCS top 25 polls. Eastern Washington moved to No. 2 in both polls, behind two-time defending national champion North Dakota State. Montana State is third in both polls. Cal Poly is ranked 10th by the coaches and 12th by the Sports Network. Montana moved ot 13th in the Sports Network Poll and to 18th in the Coaches’ Poll. Northern Arizona fell to 22nd in the Sports Network and 24th in the Coaches’ Poll. Only the CAA with six ranked teams has more ranked than the Big Sky.
EXTRA POINTS: Portland State had 672 yards of total offense in its win over Eastern Oregon, the 10th-most in school history. PSU had 405 rushing yards, which ranked fourth all-time in school history…A Bobcat Stadium crowd of 21,007 watched Montana State’s win over Monmouth…Montana beat Appalachian State in front of a Washington-Grizzly Stadium record crowd of 26,293…Northern Colorado won its fourth straight game dating back to last season with a 31-10 win over NAIA Langston. Junior WR Dimitri Stimphill caught five passes for a career-high 219 yards. He caught TD passes of 60 and 80 yards in the third quarter…Cal Poly junior slotback Kristaan Ivory rushed for 185 yards and three touchdowns in the Mustangs’ win over San Diego. He scored on an 81-yard run on Cal Poly’s first offensive play of the season, and later added scoring runs of 2 and 61 yards…The Big Sky went 5-1 on the opening weekend against other FCS teams. The only loss was a 10-7 setback by UC Davis to South Dakota of the Missouri Valley Conference…ISU coach Mike Kramer can move into sole possession of fourth place on the Big Sky’s all-time victories list with a win on Saturday. He is currently tied for third with 80 wins. Northern Arizona’s Jerome Souers is third on the list with 84.