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
Another ROOT Sports doubleheader highlights this week’s Big Sky Conference action, which features six conference games…At 1:30 p.m. Mountain, coverage on ROOT SPORTS begins as Montana travels to Greeley to face Northern Colorado. Montana is looking to snap a two-game losing streak. Northern Colorado had last week off….At 4:15 p.m. Pacific, Montana State puts its 5-0 record on the line as it travels to UC Davis. Montana State is 5-0 for the first time since 1976. UC Davis won its first Big Sky game last week, topping Weber State 37-13….The week features a Friday night matchup between Cal Poly and Weber State in Ogden, Utah. Cal Poly brings a 4-0 mark to Weber State, which is still looking for its first victory….North Dakota is at Eastern Washington. It’s the first meeting between the two teams. EWU moved to 2-0 in conference with a 32-26 come-from-behind win over Montana last Week in its home opener. North Dakota is hoping to rebound from a home loss to Cal Poly…Idaho State takes on Portland State in the Rose City. PSU is looking to snap a three-game slide. ISU has lost two straight…Sacramento State travels to Southern Utah. Sacramento State scored 54 points in a win over ISU last week. SUU is looking to even its record to 3-3.
This Week’s Sky Schedule
Friday, Oct. 5
$*Cal Poly (4-0) at Weber State (0-5), 6:05 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 6
*Montana (2-3) at Northern Colorado (1-3), 1:38 p.m. TV: ROOT SPORTS/DIRECTV’s Audience Network 239-1. Talent: Tom Glasgow/Sherdric Bonner/Jenny Cavnar
*Montana State (5-0) at UC Davis (2-3), 4:15 p.m. TV: ROOT SPORTS/DIRECTV’s Audience Network 239-1. Talent: Rich Burk/Jason Stiles/Brad Adam.
$*Idaho State (1-3) at Portland State (1-4), 5:05 p.m. TV: Comcast Sports Net NW (Oregon)
$*North Dakota (3-2) at Eastern Washington (3-1), 5:05 p.m. TV: SWX (Spokane)
$*Sacramento State (3-2) at Southern Utah (2-3), 6:05 p.m.
$Game available on the Internet at www.bigskytv.org.
Times Local to Site/Subject to Change
Around the Big Sky
THRILLER AT THE INFERNO: Eastern Washington opened its home slate on the red turf at Roos Field with a crazy 32-26 come-from-behind win over Montana. EWU trailed the Grizzlies 26-17 with less than three minutes to play. EWU redshirt freshman QB Vernon Adams hooked up with Brandon Kaufman on a 30-yard touchdown with 2:19 to play to cut the lead to 26-24. EWU kicker Jimmy Pavel followed with a perfectly-executed onside kick that Shaquille Hill of the Eagles recovered. With 53 seconds remaining, Adams found a wide-open Ashton Clark for the game-winning touchdown from 20 yards out. Adams, making his second career start, completed 25-of-41 passes for 353 yards with three touchdowns. He also rushed for a team-high 54 yards. Montana amassed 407 rushing yards, but were hindered by two turnovers in the EWU red zone. Eastern Washington junior WR Brandon Kaufman recorded his fourth consecutive 100-yard receiving game this season with 138 yards on eight catches and two touchdowns. Eastern Washington is now 11-2 at home since the red turf was installed in 2010.
ROOT DOUBLEHEADER: For the second straight Saturday, two Big Sky football games will air live on ROOT SPORTS. At 1:30 p.m. Mountain, the Montana Grizzlies travel to Greeley, Colo., to face the Northern Colorado Bears. Tom Glasgow will call the game along with Sherdric Bonner and Jenny Cavnar. Montana is 0-2 on ROOT SPORTS this season. Northern Colorado is making its first appearance. At 4:15 p.m. Pacific, No. 2 Montana State travels to UC Davis. MSU beat Southern Utah 24-17 last week on ROOT SPORTS. Davis, making its ROOT SPORTS Debut, is coming off a 37-13 win over Weber State. Rich Burk, Jason Stiles and Brad Adam will call the game. For DIRECTV customers, this weekend’s games will be available on ROOT SPORTS Channel 687 in the Northwest region and Channel 683 in the Rocky Mountain region. The game will be available in the outer market on Audience Network Channel 239-1. For Dish Network customers, the game will air on Channel 426 in the Northwest region, Channel 414 in the Rocky Mountain Region. ROOT SPORTS is widely available on cable throughout Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Washington Wyoming, and New Mexico, as well as parts of Nevada, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.
STILL UNDEFEATED: Montana State moved to 5-0 with a 24-17 win over Southern Utah last Saturday. Sophomore Brian Flotkoetter caught a short TD pass from DeNarius McGhee with 2:59 to play to break a 17-17 tie. This is the first time since Montana State has started 5-0. This marks the seventh time in the history of the program that MSU has won its first five games. MSU also accomplished the feat in 1930, 1954, 1956, 1957 and 1958.
RARE TIMES: Montana is now 0-2 in Big Sky Conference play for the first time since 1992. The Grizzlies have won or shared 16 of the last 19 Big Sky Championships. This week also marks the first time since the 1998 season that Montana is not ranked in The Sports Network Top 25. The last time Montana was not ranked in The Sports Network Poll occurred on Oct. 12, 1998, two days following a 21-7 loss at Cal State Northridge. That loss dropped Montana to 3-3. UM returned to the top 25 a week later, following a 33-20 win over Northern Arizona, starting a string of 197 consecutive weeks in the top 25.
IN THE SAGARIN: The Big Sky remained third amongst FCS conferences in this week’s Jeff Sagarin Ratings. The Missouri Valley led the way, followed by the CAA. Cal Poly moved to 83rd overall and 3rd in the FCS ranks. Eastern Washington (10), Montana (18), Northern Arizona (19), Montana State (21) and UC Davis (25) gave the Big Sky six teams in the top 25 of the Sagarin. North Dakota was 27th, and Southern Utah was 36th.
JACKS MAKE IT FOUR: Northern Arizona beat Portland State 24-10 in Flagstaff on Saturday, the squad’s fourth straight victory. This marks NAU’s first four-game winning streak since 2008, also the last time Jerome Souers’ team started conference play 2-0. NAU won six straight during the 2008 season, only to lose its final four to finish 6-5. NAU opened its season with a 63-6 loss at Arizona State, and trailed UNLV 14-0 at the half of its second game. Since then, Northern Arizona has outscored opponents 151-41 en route to four wins.
PERFECT IN CONFERENCE: Cal Poly is the only team that can claim it has never lost a Big Sky Conference game. The Mustangs moved to 2-0 in conference and 4-0 overall with an impressive 35-17 road win over North Dakota. Cal Poly, which joined the Big Sky as an affiliate member in July, opened conference with a 28-20 victory over UC Davis on Sept. 22. Cal Poly’s 4-0 start is the program’s best since 2004 when it started 7-0 under former coach Rich Ellerson. Senior running back Deonte Williams rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns in the win over North Dakota. Williams has rushed for at least 125 yards in his last three games. Williams leads the Big Sky with an average of 152.2 rushing yards per game.
BAUMAN ECLIPSES 3,000: Northern Arizona junior running back Zach Bauman rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown in the win over Portland State, hiking his career rushing total to 3,085 rushing yards on 598 carries. Bauman ranks fourth on the NAU all-time rushing list. He needs 112 to pass former Walter Payton Award winner Archie Amerson. Alex Henderson is second on the list with 3,462. Marcus King is the all-time leader with 3,794. Bauman needs 710 yards to become the school’s all-time leader.
FIRST FOR THE AGGIES: UC Davis won its first Big Sky Conference game with a 37-13 win over Weber State. Dalton Turay scored on three short touchdown runs in the second quarter as the Aggies built a 31-0 lead. Brady Stuart connected on field goals of 44, 32 and 40 yards in the win. The four new teams in the league have a combined league record of 5-3 through two weeks.
FIREWORKS AT HOLT: Sacramento State beat Idaho State 54-31 in Pocatello on Saturday in a game that featured more than 1,000 yards of total offense. The Hornets broke the game open, outscoring the Bengals 27-8 in the second half. Sacramento State had 551 yards of total offense, including 349 on the ground. Junior Ezekiel Graham rushed for a career-high 158 yards and amassed 228 all-purpose yards. A.J. Ellis rushed for 118 yards, giving the Hornets two 100-yard rushers in the same game since 2008. Idaho State QB Kevin Yost completed 44-of-73 passes for 534 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. The 73 attempts were one shy of the school record. The 44 completions were also the second-most in school history. Yost completed 47 passes in a game last season. Josh Hill caught 12 passes for 123 yards. Rodrick Rumble had 11 catches for 183 yards and a touchdown.
IN THE SAGARIN: The Big Sky remained third amongst FCS conferences in this week’s Jeff Sagarin Ratings. The Missouri Valley led the way, followed by the CAA. Cal Poly moved to 83rd overall and 3rd in the FCS ranks. Eastern Washington (10), Montana (18), Northern Arizona (19), Montana State (21) and UC Davis (25) gave the Big Sky six teams in the top 25 of the Sagarin. North Dakota was 27th, and Southern Utah was 36th. North Dakota State is ranked first among FCS schools and 50th overall, followed by Youngstown State.
Extra points: Southern Utah drew 8,417 to Eccles Coliseum on Saturday, the largest crowd in stadium history for a day game…Road teams have won seven of the first 12 conference games…Northern Arizona coach Jerome Souers won his 80th career game last week, tying him with Idaho State’s Mike Kramer and former Montana coach Bobby Hauck for third on the Big Sky’s all-time win list. Chris Ault leads with 111 wins, followed by Don Read with 85…Weber State is 0-5 for the first time since 2004…SUU true freshman MLB Zak Browning had a career-high 15 tackles and a sack against Montana State…Portland State has lost four in a row for the first time since the 2010 season.