The Big Sky Conference Round-Up is back for the week five edition and this past weekend saw some high scoring games across the league. The Big Sky Conference has always been known for its prolific offenses and this week was no exception. The Eastern Washington Eagles are doing what they always do, and UC-Davis is starting to find an offensive groove under first year head coach Dan Hawkins.
Montana got a conference road win in who knows how long this weekend as they took on Portland State in a high school stadium. Yes, a literal high school stadium, not that thing in Cheney. Montana used a balanced attack featuring transfer Alijah Lee and Gresch Jensen to run up 45 points on the Vikings. The Vikings, however, were not going to go quietly. Quaterback Josh Kraght piled up 381 total yards of offense to keep Portland State within striking distance most of the game. Montana running back Jeremy Calhoun had 124 yards and two scores to lead the Griz. Griz safety Justin Strong had three interceptions, and one pass intercepted on a two-point conversion to win Big Sky defensive player of the week honors. Montana will be at Idaho State, while Portland State will be at Montana State.
Weber State made the trip up north to Bozeman looking to continue its winning ways this season against the Bobcats. Stefan Cantwell passed for 206 yards and rushed for another 49 yards and a score. Montana State quarterback Chris Murray completed eight passes for 124 yards and a score, plus 123 yards rushing, and a 25 yard receiving pass. For a slow evolving game this game may have featured two of the better teams in the conference. Weber State leaned on a stiff defense to try to contain Chris Murray who had 282 total yards for the Cats. Montana State will host Portland State next week, Weber State will have the week off.
Cal Poly’s woes just aren’t getting any better this season. They’ve lost Joe Protheroe for the season and now they’ve lost every game so far this season. Idaho State continued to show off their much improved team and beat Cal Poly by four. Despite giving up 202 yards rushing to Cal Poly quarterback Khaleel Jenkins the Bengals did just enough to win. Tanner Gueller threw for 341 and three touchdowns in the win. The Bengals got a late score from James Madison (still not the president, nor the school) to put the Bengals up for good in this game. The Bengals overcame a 10 point deficit in the last ten minutes of game time to win. Idaho State will be hosting Montana next week, while Cal Poly will be at Southern Utah.
Sacramento State and Eastern Washington didn’t waste any time lighting up the scoreboard like a ping pong machine. The teams combined for over 1200 yards of offense in a wild Big Sky game. Gage Gabrud continued his MVP performance by doing everything in this one. The Eagles quarterback passed for 447 and five touchdowns, and caught a 43 yard touchdown pass to help himself. On the other side of the ball the Hornets rushed for 307 yards, 121 from quarterback Kevin Thomson. It wasn’t enough to overcome the onslaught of Eagles offense. After Eastern went up 21-0 on a 33 yard Antoine Custer touchdown catch from Gabrud the Eagles never had to worry about a threat from the Hornets. Eastern Washington will be at UC-Davis. Sacramento State will have a bye.
Northern Arizona is in the middle of a little bit of turmoil as a team, however, that didn’t stop them from beating Northern Colorado over the head for four quarters this past weekend. Case Cookus tossed three touchdowns and 271 yards to lead the Lumberjacks over the Bears on Saturday. Lumberjack receiver Elijah Marks continued his impressive season by hauling in 106 yards of passes and a score. On the other side of the ball Jacob Knipp threw for 301 yards with a touchdown, but had two interceptions. The Lumberjacks got out to a 20-0 lead right before halftime but the Bears got on the board right before the half with a Frank Stephens touchdown reception. The Bears would take over at the half and get a score from Trey Reik, but it was foot to the gas for NAU after that. The Bears will be at North Dakota, while NAU will host Illinois State in a Big Sky vs MVFC matchup.
In the Big Sky night cap we got North Dakota traveling to Davis to take on the Aggies. Gunslinger Jake Maier threw for 415 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-24 victory for the Aggies. Star receiver Keelan Doss caught 199 yards and a touchdown in the winning effort. On the other hand North Dakota got a nice rushing day from its two running backs John Santiago and Brady Oliveira for a combined 277 yards and a score, but wasn’t nearly enough to pull the Hawks out of this hole. North Dakota, facing a multitude of injuries including safety Cole Reyes, is seeing the effects on the season. The defending Big Sky champions are now 1-4 on the season. UC-Davis will host Eastern Washington, while North Dakota will host Northern Colorado.
Portland State 33
Weber State 25
Montana State 17
Cal Poly 34
Idaho State 38
Sacramento State 31
Eastern Washington 52
Northern Colorado 20
Northern Arizona 48
North Dakota 24
Big Sky Player of the Week
This week’s Big Sky player of the week is UC-Davis receiver Keelan Doss. Doss had 11 receptions for 199 yards and one touchdown in their win vs North Dakota.
Big Sky MVP Candidates
Gage Gabrud, QB, Eastern Washington – 35/50 for 447 yards, 5 TD, one receiving TD
Cole Reyes, LB, North Dakota – Did not play
Tanner Gueller, QB, Idaho State – 14/24 for 341 yards, 3 TD
Elijah Marks, WR, Northern Arizona – 7 receptions, 106 yards and 1 TD
Keelan Doss, WR, UC-Davis – 11 receptions, 199 yards and 1 TD
Big Sky Power Rankings
1. Eastern Washington
2. Weber State
4. Idaho State
5. Northern Arizona
7. Montana State
8. Northern Colorado
9. North Dakota
10. Southern Utah
11. Sacramento State
12. Portland State
13. Cal Poly
Final Thoughts and Hot Takes
Eastern Washington and UC-Davis has the potential to be a lot of fun next week. I’ll be interesting to see how the Aggies come out firing against the Eagles. UC-Davis is seeing an offensive resurgence under Dan Hawkins, who has hardly held a job over the last few years. We know what Eastern Washington will do, but this could be a potential 1200 yards of offense game.
Bad time for Northern Arizona to host Illinois State. That team is a very good team. Big Sky took it on the chops from the MVFC for the most part this year. Sad!
Didn’t predict Cal Poly to be the worst team in the Big Sky this year, that’s usually reserved for Idaho State and UC-Davis. What a world we live in nowadays.
Montana and Idaho State could feature a hell of a lot of offense. More than would make either coaching staff comfortable. Idaho State escaped a close one against Poly last week, Montana struggled at times with Portland State. Make or break game for both teams, you’d have to think.
So do we just hand the MVP to Gage Gabrud now, or nah?
Glad to see Cooper Kupp playing well on Sundays.. that’s a hell of a lot better than watching him wreck Big Sky secondaries week in and week out.
Wonder how much longer Portland State is going to deal with Barnum’s bluster and do something about the state of its football program. A really undisciplined team.
No Big Sky blog from me next week, I’ll be in Denver at the Great American Brew Fest. Pour one out for my liver.