The Big Sky week seven is now behind us and now that we’ve had some time to reflect on the events of the past weekend it’s been hard to judge the have’s and the have nots. Obviously Cal Poly and Portland State are have nots, however, this conference is still very much up for grabs. There’s a battle brewing at the top between Eastern Washington, Weber State, Montana, and Northern Arizona for that elusive auto-bid. The Eagles are still sitting at the top of the conference, however, they will probably need to go undefeated to win the league this season.
This week’s Big Sky slate started off with Montana hosting North Dakota on homecoming. The Hawks are basically a walking medical unit, everyone is essentially injured with a handful of starters gone for the season. Safety Cole Reyes being one of the bigger losses for the Hawks. That said, you can imagine the result of this game. It was not pretty, folks. Despite Montana turning the ball over three times in the first quarter the Griz still won 41-17. The game wasn’t really that close, however. James Johannesson came in for a 50 yard touchdown run after a plethora of Griz missed tackles that made this look prettier than it was. Montana was led by redshirt freshman quarterback Gresch Jensen, despite his three turnover, still threw for 423 yards and three touchdowns. The Griz will be on a bye, while North Dakota will host Sacramento State.
Montana State took a trip across I-90 over to the red carpet to take on the Big Sky leading Eastern Washington Eagles. Gage Gabrud kept on doing that thing that will probably win him the league’s most valuable player by throwing for 224 yards and a score. A slight disappointment that he did not have a rushing or receiving touchdown. Apparently he saves those days for when he’s down 20 points at halftime. The Cats tried mounting a fourth quarter comeback with Logan Jones and Nick LaSane scoring touchdowns to close within five, however, the Eagles shut the door with a 13 play, 5:43 drive and a touchdown from Antoine Custer to seal the deal in Cheney. Montana State will head to Northern Colorado this week, while Eastern Washington will walk into a potential buzz saw in Southern Utah.
Case Cookus apparently also wants to be considered for Big Sky MVP as he’s been stringing together a few nice wins for the Lumberjacks. He continued that this past weekend as he led the Jacks to a win in Portland over the second worst team in this conference. Cookus tossed for 347 yards and four touchdowns. His favorite target, Elijah Marks, caught 173 of those and a score in this victory. Portland State struggled all day to get anything going, except their running game. While effective, certainly didn’t result in a lot of points, or at least enough to beat the Jacks. The Vikings rushed for 305 yards and did a good job of holding onto the ball, however, that didn’t stop NAU from beating their pass coverage all day. Portland State will travel to Idaho State next, while Northern Arizona will host UC-Davis in what looks like might be a track meet.
Southern Utah got the win of the week over Weber State in Ogden this past weekend. The Wildcats were sitting pretty with Eastern Washington at the top of the Big Sky standings, however, the horribly unpredictable Thunderbirds beat on the Wildcats. The Thunderbird defense knocked Weber State quarterback Stefan Cantwell out of the game and from there on the Wildcats were bad. In fact, the Wildcats were so bad four different people attempted passes for the Wildcats. Cantwell accounted for half the completions before he exited the game. Thunderbird quarterback Patrick Tyler, however, threw for 281 and three scores. The Thunderbirds were clinging to a 20-19 lead at the half then opened it up in the second half with 10 points in the first eight minutes of the quarter. Weber only managed a field goal in the second half. Weber State will be at Cal Poly, while Southern Utah will host Eastern Washington.
In the #BigSkyAfterDark Sacramento State hosted Idaho State in front of probably seven people (it was actually 10008). Sacramento State actually turned in a nice game, racing out to a 17-7 halftime lead on the Bengals and just kept their foot on the gas from there on out. Hornet quarterback Kevin Thomson completed 18/23 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns. The Hornets also had a nice day on the ground, rushing for 318 at 6.2 yards per carry. For those keeping track at home, that’s pretty good YPC. Idaho State was barely above that in yards per pass completion. Idaho State tried to make it interesting in the third quarter with Mitch Gueller catching a pass from his brother for a 30 yard score, to get within ten, however, the Hornets just used the fourth quarter to step on their throat. Idaho State will have a bye, while Sacramento State will be at North Dakota.
North Dakota 17
Montana State 19
Eastern Washington 31
Northern Arizona 42
Portland State 20
Southern Utah 32
Weber State 16
Idaho State 21
Sacramento State 41
Big Sky Player of the Week
Southern Utah quarterback Patrick Tyler is this week’s Big Sky Player of the Week. Tyler was 20/30 for 281 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Thunderbirds over Weber State this past weekend.
Big Sky MVP Candidates
Gage Gabrud, QB, Eastern Washington – 25/31 for 224 yards, 1 TD
Tanner Gueller, QB, Idaho State – 20/35 for 244 yards, 2 TD
Elijah Marks, WR, Northern Arizona – 6 rec, 173 yards, 1 TD
Keelan Doss, WR, UC-Davis – Idle
Gresch Jensen, QB, Montana – 22/35 for 423 yards, 3 TD
Big Sky Power Rankings
1. Eastern Washington
2. Weber State
4. Northern Arizona
5. Southern Utah
6. Montana State
7. Sacramento State
9. Northern Colorado
10. Idaho State
11. North Dakota
12. Portland State
13. Cal Poly
Final Thoughts and Hot Takes
Cal Poly with a goose egg this season is a little bit of a surprise. Not sure since I’ve ever been doing the power rankings that they’ve been in the low man’s spot.. but here they are.
Weber State losing at home to Southern Utah didn’t surprise me all that much. Southern Utah is one of those teams you never want to bet against.. but never want to bet on either. Saturday afternoon I was thinking this was the kind of game that SUU would probably win, and they did, but they had no business winning. Once Stefan Cantwell went down with injury it was all over for the Wildcats.
Northern Arizona is still playing football in October. Too bad they waited until Jerome Souers got fired to try out this new concept. Case Cookus and Elijah Marks are having quite a season as a tandem and currently have the Lumberjacks undefeated in Big Sky play.
To start the season Eastern Washington was 0-2 and only scored 10 points in a Texas Tech team that traditionally gives up all the points to teams they play. My how times of changed, will the Eagles lose a conference game? Looks like Gabrud and his receivers are fully on the same page now.
Two winless Big Sky teams are not the way to promote a strong conference. Luckily Idaho State and Sacramento State are having “up” seasons or else this would be a dumpster fire that the smokejumpers couldn’t contain. The Missouri Valley is likely reveling in the Big Sky’s misery. Whatever, you live in flyover states.
North Dakota’s entire team is hurt. Not really anything to add to that, just thought I’d mention it.
Rob Phenecie was right last week, his Bengals don’t belong on the same field as the Griz. Losing to Sacramento State is pretty much proof positive you should be saddling up with Ricks College and College of Southern Idaho on the field. Perhaps he’ll learn to keep his mouth shut and be a head coach.