Following is a look at Big Sky Conference football by Jon Kasper, the conference’s assistant commissioner:
This Week’s Sky Highlights
Eleven Big Sky teams are in action in Week 3. Sacramento State, Northern Arizona, Weber State and Southern Utah all celebrate home openers. Weber State welcomes No. 19 McNeese State of the Southland to Ogden. Southern Utah plays host to New Mexico Highlands, while Sacramento State, fresh off a Pac-12 win over Colorado, takes on Northern Colorado in a non-conference game….Northern Arizona, riding high after a win over FBS UNLV, opens at home against Division II Fort Lewis…No. 3 Montana State also has a home matchup against a Southland Conference squad in No. 23 Stephen F. Austin….No. 14 Montana plays host to Liberty of the Big South Conference…Portland State travels to Seattle to face the Washington Huskies of the Pac-12. The game will be televised nationally on F/X….North Dakota heads to San Diego State to face the Mountain West squad…Cal Poly returns from a week off to face Wyoming of the Mountain West…UC Davis heads to the Midwest to face former Great West rival South Dakota State…Eastern Washington have the week off.
This Week’s Sky Schedule
Saturday, Sept. 8
Portland State (1-1) at Washington (1-1), 1:05 p.m. TV: F/X
$#23 Stephen F. Austin (1-1) at #3 Montana St. (2-0) ,1:35 p.m. TV: Max Media
$Liberty (0-2) at #14 Montana (1-1) , 1:35 p.m. TV: Altitude
UC Davis (1-1) at South Dakota State (1-1), 2:05 p.m. TV: MidCo Sports Network
$Northern Colorado (1-1) at Sac State (1-1) (NC) 2:05 p.m.
$Fort Lewis (0-1) at Northern Arizona (1-1), 4:05 p.m. TV: NAU-TV/Fox Sports Arizona
Cal Poly (1-0) at Wyoming (0-2), 4:05 p.m.
North Dakota (2-0) at San Diego State (1-1), 5:05 p.m.
$#19 McNeese State (2-0) at Weber State (0-2), 6:05 p.m
NM Highlands (2-0) at Southern Utah (0-2), 6:05 p.m.
$Game available on the Internet at bigskytv.org.
Times Local to Site/Subject to Change
(NC) Non-conference game between Conference Teams
Around the Big Sky
SIN CITY SHOCKER: It had been 25 years since Northern Arizona beat an FBS team, and after falling behind 14-0 at the half to UNLV on Saturday night, it appeared that streak would continue. But Northern Arizona scored 17 unanswered points to stun UNLV of the Mountain West Conference on Saturday night, snapping a 21-game losing streak to FBS teams. Northern Arizona hadn’t beaten an FBS opponent since topping Tulsa 24-20 in 1987. Junior Andy Wilder made a 33-yard field goal with 12 seconds to play to put the Lumberjacks ahead 17-14. The field goal was set up by a five-play, 70-yard drive that included a 25-yard Zach Bauman run, a 15-yard UNLV penalty, and a 30-yard completion from Chance Cartwright to Ify Umodu. Cartwright made his first collegiate start in place of an injured Cary Grossart. Cartwright completed 17-of-40 passes for 197 yards with no interceptions. Nick Cole recorded his first 100-yard receiving game with 101 yards on five catches. Jarret Bilbrey and Austin Hasquet each had 10 tackles for NAU, which kept the Rebels off the scoreboard for the final 43 minutes and 47 seconds. Austin Shanks sparked the rally with a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the second half. Bauman finished with 103 rushing yards, including an 8-yard touchdown.
STUNG IN BOULDER: Sacramento State lost its first 10 games as a Division I team against FBS opponents, but can now claim two victories over the big boys in its last three tries. For the second straight season, the Hornets stunned a Pac-12 team, this time beating Colorado 30-28 in Boulder. Walk-on kicker Edgar Castaneda made three field goals, including the game-winner from 30-yards out as time expired. Sacramento State made three field goals during the entire 2011 season. Castaneda was awarded with a scholarship by coach Marshall Sperbeck following his performance. Hornet QB Garrett Safron completed 25-of-37 passes for 312 yards with two touchdowns. He drove the Hornets 85 yards in the final 2:26 to set up the game-winner, completing 4-of-5 passes for 53 yards on the pivotal drive. Sacramento State upset Oregon State in Corvallis 29-28. Sacramento State has four wins over FBS programs in its history. Twice, when Sacramento State was a Division II school, the Hornets beat Pacific of the Big West. Pacific no longer has football, and the Big West no longer sponsors football.
MAKE IT THREE: Through two weeks of the regular season, the Big Sky has three victories over FBS teams. Eastern Washington beat Idaho on the opening night of the season. Sacramento State and Northern Arizona picked up victories last Saturday. This marks the first time since 2006, two Big Sky teams have beaten FBS teams on the same day. Montana State beat Colorado, while Portland State beat New Mexico on Sept. 2, 2006. On Sept. 9, 2000, Portland State beat Hawai’i, and Montana beat Idaho. There have been eight victories by FCS teams over FBS teams so far this year. The Big Sky and Missouri Valley each have won three. North Dakota State, Illinois State and Youngstown State have earned FBS wins from the Missouri Valley. McNeese State from the Southland has one victory, and Tennessee-Martin from the Ohio Valley has the other. The Big Sky has wins over teams from the Pac-12, Mountain West and WAC. The Mountain West won just one game against FBS teams last week. Conference USA has three victories over FBS teams in the first two weeks of the season. The Big Sky is 3-10 against FBS teams this season with four matchups remaining.
KRAMER AT 80: Idaho State coach Mike Kramer earned his 80th head coaching victory as the Bengals beat Black Hills State 38-5 last Saturday, snapping a nine-game losing streak. Kramer’s 80 victories ties him for third all-time in Big Sky history with former Montana coach Bobby Hauck. Kramer is in his 15th season coaching in the Big Sky, and his second at ISU. Chris Ault of Nevada is the Big Sky’s all-time leader with 111 victories. Former Montana coach Don Read is second with 85.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Five Big Sky teams are ranked among the top 18 FCS teams in this week’s Jeff Sagarin Ratings. Eastern Washington is rated 87th overall and fifth among FCS teams. Cal Poly is 12th, followed by NAU at 13, Montana at 15 and Montana State at 18. Weber State (34), North Dakota (37) and Southern Utah (38) give the Big Sky eight in the top 40. The Big Sky is ranked third amongst FCS conferences, behind the Missouri Valley and Southern.
FIRST FOR COLLINS: Northern Colorado’s Earnest Collins Jr. earned his first victory as the head coach at his alma mater as the Bears beat Division II Colorado Mesa 40-3 last Saturday. Collins, in his second season, had lost his first 12 games at Northern Colorado. Junior Tromaine Dennis came off the bench and scored three rushing touchdowns, gaining 88 yards on 20 carries. Clarence Bumpas finished with eight tackles, a sack, and his first career interception. Dominic Gunn had 193 all-purpose yards, including 133 on five punt returns. Colorado Mesa managed just 192 total yards of offense.
UND GETS OFFENSIVE: North Dakota obviously understands the Big Sky’s history of high-scoring, pass-happy offenses. Through two weeks, North Dakota is averaging 55.5 points per game. North Dakota, a 45-37 winner over Portland State in a non-conference game last week, ranks third in the nation in scoring offense. UND ranks fifth in the nation in total offense at 527 yards per game. Senior quarterback Marcus Hendrickson tied a school record with six passing touchdowns against Portland State. Three of his TD passes went to Greg Hardin, who caught six passes for 190 yards. Hardin leads the nation in receiving yards per game at 146.5. Hendrickson leads the nation in passing efficiency at 258.31. He’s completing 67.7 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. Through two games, UND has 10 passing touchdowns, matching their total from the 2011 season. Hendrickson was honored as the National Performer of the Week by College Football Performance Awards, and was the Sports Network Co-Offensive Player of the Week. Hardin was named the WR of the Week by the CFPA.
SWEET FIFTEEN: Idaho State wide receiver Derek Graves caught 15 passes for 140 yards and a touchdowns in a 38-5 win over Black Hills State. Graves also caught 15 in the opener against Air Force. Graves it the first player in Big Sky history to catch at least 15 passes in back-to-back games. Graves also had a 15-catch game against Northern Colorado in 2011. In the history of the Big Sky, there have only been 19 occasions of a receiver catching 15 passes in a game. Graves is the first player to appear on the list three times. Idaho’s Jerry Hendren caught 17 passes in a 1969 game, and had a 15-catch game in 1968. Hendren is the only other player to appear on the list twice. Graves lead the FCS in catches per game. Teammate Cameron Richmond is second with an average of 10 per game. ISU rolled up 41 first downs in the win over Black Hills State. QB Kevin Yost completed 41-of-58 passes for 424 yards and two touchdowns.
IN THE POLLS: Montana State moved up to No. 3 in the Sports Network and Coaches’ Polls this week. The Bobcats received one first-place vote and 3,485 total points. North Dakota State is first in both polls, followed by Sam Houston State. Eastern Washington is now 10th in the Sports Network Poll, a drop of one spot. The Eagles remained 11th in the Coaches’ Poll. Montana dropped from ninth to 12th in the Coaches’ Poll, and from 12th to 14th in the Sports Network Poll. Several Big Sky teams are on the cusp of the top 25. Northern Arizona received 158 points, putting them 30th in the Sports Network Poll. Sacramento State was next with 149 points, followed by North Dakota at 123. Cal Poly received 52 points. Southern Utah received 17 points. In the Coaches’ Poll, North Dakota and Sacramento State both received 18 points. NAU earned 10, and Cal Poly received one.
Extra Points: A total of 276,207 fans watched Big Sky teams last week…EWU WR Brandon Kaufman caught five passes for 142 yards with a 93-yard touchdown in a loss to Washington State. Kaufman has 10 career 100-yard games, including two this season…EWU QB Kyle Padron threw for 379 yards in the loss…EWU punter Jake Miller had a school-record 74-yard punt in the loss to Washington State…Idaho State’s game against Nebraska has been set for 2:30 p.m. Central and will air on the Big Ten Network. Weber State punter/safety Tony Epperson had punts of 74 and 70 yards, and averaged 50.7 yards per punt on 10 punts in a loss to Weber State. He also had a team-high 10 tackles with an interception and a fumble recovery…UM senior RB Dan Moore had 238 all-purpose yards in a loss to Appalachian State. Moore caught three passes for 145 yards, including an 87-yard touchdown. He was named the National All-Purpose performer by College Football Performance Awards…UM freshman QB Trent McKinney threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns in the loss…All-American Jody Owens had 12 tackles in Montana State’s win over Drake…SUU All-American QB Brad Sorensen threw for 292 yards and four touchdowns in a loss to Cal. Sorensen completed a 37-yard Hail Mary to Cameron Morgan at the end of the first half. It was the top college play of the day on ESPNSportsCenter.