Big Sky football notebook

Following is a look around the Big Sky Conference by assistant commissioner Jon Kasper. Before joining the Big Sky, Kasper covered Montana football for the Missoulian.

This Week’s Sky Highlights

All 13 Big Sky teams are in action this week…The slate features four matchups against FBS teams, five head-to-head matchups against FCS teams, and four games against lower-division opponents…No. 2 Eastern Washington treks to Washington seeking a win over a Pac-12 team for the second straight season…Sacramento State is at Cal, while Idaho State is at Utah State…Northern Colorado opens its season at UNLV of the Mountain West…Weber State welcomes three-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State to Ogden for its home opener…Southern Utah treks to No. 3 Southeastern Louisiana, while North Dakota is at home against Robert Morris. Cal Poly is at No. 13 South Dakota State…No. 4 Montana plays host to Central Washington. Portland State takes on Western Oregon. No. 20 Montana State battles Black Hills State, and UC Davis is at home against Fort Lewis.

This Week’s Sky Schedule

 Saturday, Sept. 6
Sacramento State (1-0) at Cal (1-0)…………………….………….. 12:05
TV: Pac-12 Network

No. 2 Eastern Washington (2-0)  at #25 Washington (1-0).. 12:05
TV: Pac-12 Network
Central Washington (0-0) at #4 Montana (0-1)…………….. 3:35
TV: Cowles Media (Montana)/Altitude 2 Internet:

Cal Poly (0-1) at #13 South Dakota State (0-1)………………. 6:05
Internet: SDSU Web site

Robert Morris (0-1) at North Dakota (0-1)…………………….… 6:05
TV: Midco Sports Net/Fox College Sports. Internet: Watch Big Sky

Idaho State (0-1) at Utah State (0-1)…………………….………… 6:05
Internet: Mountain West Network

No. 25 Northern Arizona (0-1) at Abilene Christian (0-1)….. 6:05

No. 1North Dakota State (1-0) at Weber State (0-1)………….. 6:05
TV: Altitude.

Fort Lewis (0-0) at UC Davis (0-1)…………………….…………… 6:05
Internet: Watch Big Sky

Black Hills State (0-0) at No. 20 Montana State (0-1)……….. 7:05
TV: Cowles Media (Montana)/Altitude 2 Internet: Watch Big Sky

Northern Colorado (0-0) at UNLV (0-1)…………………….….. 7:05

Southern Utah (0-1) at #3 Southeastern Louisiana (1-0).. 7:05

Western Oregon (0-0) at Portland State (0-1)………………. 7:15
Internet: Watch Big Sky

Times Local to Site/Subject to Change

Around the Big Sky

 CLOSE CALLS: The Big Sky Conference went 0-10 in opening-week matchups against FBS teams, but played several competitive games. Montana led Wyoming of the Mountain West Conference 6-3 at halftime before losing 17-12. The game was halted twice for nearly an hour because of lightning. Portland State led Oregon State of the Pac-12 14-13 at halftime, but lost 29-14. The Vikings were hurt by four third-quarter turnovers and five overall in the game. Southern Utah trailed Nevada 7-0 at halftime in a 28-19 loss. Cal Poly trailed New Mexico State 14-10 at the half in a 28-10 loss. Montana State lost to Central Arkansas 37-10 in a game they trailed by three midway through the third quarter. The Big Sky will go head-to-head against the FBS four times this week. Eastern Washington, which upset No. 25 Oregon State 49-46 last season, is at Washington. The Huskies were ranked No. 25 in the preseason poll. Washington struggled in a 17-16 win at Hawai’i. New FBS rankings won’t be released until Tuesday. Sacramento State, which has wins over Oregon State and Colorado of the Pac-12 in the last three years, is at Cal. Northern Colorado is at UNLV, a team that lost to Northern Arizona in 2012. Idaho State is at Utah State.

OUT OF THE RECORD BOOKS: For 12 years, Montana was tied for the longest winning streak in FCS history with Penn. That mark was surpassed last Saturday as North Dakota State won its 25th straight game, downing Iowa State 34-14. Montana won their final 14 games of the 2001 season en route to the national championship. The Grizzlies opened the 2002 season with 10 consecutive wins, before the streak ended with a loss at Eastern Washington. North Dakota State, the three-time defending FCS champs, will bring its historic winning streak to Ogden, Utah, to face Weber State on Saturday. North Dakota State is ranked first in both top 25 polls. It will mark the first time Weber State has played the No. 1 team at home since Oct. 12, 2012 when No. 1 Montana took on the Wildcats.

BEAT GOES ON FOR VA: Preseason Walter Payton Award favorite Vernon Adams Jr., had another stellar outing in Eastern Washington’s 41-9 win over NAIA UM-Western. Adams completed 28-of-31 passes for 370 yards with five touchdowns in just under three quarters of action. Adams finished the game with a QB rating of 243.8. Adams now has 84 career TD passes, tying him for second in school history with Erik Meyer. Adams is already eighth in Big Sky history, and just 14 behind the record of 98 set by Weber State’s Cameron Higgins. Adams is 7,626 passing yards, which ranks third in school history behind Meyer (10,261) and Matt Nichols (12,616). Adams has thrown for at least 300 yards in 14 of his 29 career games. Adams is 22-4 as a starter. Adams will get another chance to shine on the national stage on Saturday when the Eagles take on Washington on the Pac-12 Network. Last year in a 49-46 win over Oregon State on the Pac-12 Network, Adams threw for 411 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Adams threw a Big Sky single-season record 55 touchdown passes in 2013. He has 64 TD passes in his last 17 games.

GOOD CALL SPORTS NETWORK: Southern Utah’s James Cowser and Montana’s Zack Wagenmann were both named to the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List prior to the season by the Sports Network. Both defensive ends showed why last Saturday. Cowser, a junior, recorded 11 tackles and two sacks in Southern Utah’s 28-19 loss to Nevada. Cowser finished second in the elague with 10.5 sacks in 2013. He was also second with 19 tackles for loss. Brad Daly, who led the league in both categories, won the Buchanan. Wagenmann, a senior, registered seven tackles with two sacks and broke up a pass in Montana’s 17-12 loss to Wyoming. Wagenmann was third in the league with 8.5 sacks in 2013, and fourth in tackles for loss with 16.5.

SUU LB SETS LEAGUE RECORD: Southern Utah sophomore linebacker Chinedu Ahanonu set the Big Sky single-game record for tackles with 28 in the Thunderbirds’ 28-19 loss to Nevada. Ahanonu was credited with seven solo tackles and 21 assisted stops. The 28 tackles ranks second in school history. Since the NCAA began keeping tackles as an official stat, no Big Sky player had previously recorded 24 tackles in a game. J.C. Sherritt of Eastern Washington recorded 24 tackles against Weber State in 2009. Ahanonu was pulled off his redshirt seven games into the 2013 season. He recorded 30 tackles last season.  The 28 tackles were the most recorded by an FCS player last week.

IN THE RANKINGS: Eastern Washington is 2-0, but is no longer the No. 1 team in the Sports Network Top 25. North Dakota State has taken over the No. 1 spot in the Sports Network poll, and retained the No. 1 ranking in the Coaches’ poll. Eastern Washington is No. 1 in both polls. Montana moved up from fifth to fourth in the Sports Network Poll, and remained fifth in the Coaches’ poll. Montana State is 20th in the Sports Network poll and 23rd in the Coaches’ poll. Northern Arizona is 25th in the Sports Network poll, but fell out of the top 25 in the Coaches’ Poll. Northern Arizona, Southern Utah, Cal Poly and Sacramento State received votes in the Coaches’ poll.  Cal Poly, Southern Utah and Sacramento State earned votes in the Sports Network poll.

FIRST-TIME STARTERS: Montana State, UC Davis and Weber State all featured quarterbacks making their first collegiate starts last week. All three opened against FBS teams, including two that were ranked. Montana State sophomore Dakota Prukop took over for the graduated DeNarius McGhee. Prukop completed 14-of-26 passes for 142 yards with two interceptions. He gained 42 yards on the ground, but all but 4 yards were wiped away by sacks…UC Davis started senior London Lacy in a 45-0 loss to No. 11 Stanford. Lacy completed 12-of-22 passes for 54 yards with two interceptions. He was sacked twice. Sophomore BYU transfer Billy Green completed 14-of-29 passes for 156 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in a 45-15 loss to No. 19 Arizona State.

Extra points: Idaho State’s Xavier Finney rushed for 133 yards in the Bengals’  loss to Utah…EWU’s Kendrick Bourne has caught two TD passes in both of the Eagles’ wins…Montana leads the nation with six sacks after the first full week…EWU rested starters Cooper Kupp, Quincy Forte, Ronnie Hamlin and Jase Butorac against UM-Western. All four are expected to play against Washington…Weber State’s Zach Smith rushed for a career-high 128 yards and scored on a 60-yard run against Arizona State…Sacramento State’s 49-13 win over Incarnate Word was its largest margin of victory since a 69-19 win over Saint Mary’s in 2003…The 49 points were the most ever scored by the Hornets in their opener…Sacramento State QB Garrett Safron threw five TD passes in the win. He has now thrown four or more TD passes six times in his career, and three times in the last five games…Southern Utah’s Raysean Pringle, who went by Raysean Martin last season, rushed five times for 95 yards and scored on a 71-yard touchdow in the Thunderbirds’ loss to Nevada…North Dakota freshman kicker Reid Taubenheim booted a 42-yard field goal in the second quarter. He was his first career collegiate attempt…Safety Eddie Horn recorded eight tackles – seven solo – with an interception in his first start for Northern Arizona…Portland State reserve QB Paris Penn rushed for a career-high 112 yards and scored on runs of 58 and 11 yards against Oregon State…Senior LB Nick Dzubnar tallied a team-high 12 tackles for Cal Poly in a loss to New Mexico State…Saturday’s schedule will be the largest in Big Sky history. It marks the first time that all 13 teams are playing non-conference games on the same day. The Big Sky expanded to 13 football teams in 2012.

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