Southern Utah just keeps on rolling, and Cal Poly just keeps getting rolled. Welcome to week 8 of the Big Sky Round-Up!
Two weeks in a row Southern Utah has taken down one of the top teams in the conference, winning games they shouldn’t be winning, and doing it convincingly both times. Last week the Thunderbirds got the best of Weber State and this week they took down an FCS top ten team, Eastern Washington. The T-Birds started off a little slow, but completely dominated the second half against the potent Eagles offense. The Thunderbird defense talked Gage Gabrud into throwing three interceptions in a solid defensive effort. In all the Southern Utah defense got Eastern Washington to turn the ball over four times, including a back breaker late in the fourth quarter. Eastern Washington score once in the second half, an Antoine Custer touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. At that point the Eagles had a three point lead, from there on out it was the Patrick Tyler show. Tyler finished 22/33 for 183 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for 49 yards. Gabrud finished with 246 yards and a touchdown, and three turnovers. Eastern Washington will have a bye, while Southern Utah will head to Northern Colorado.
North Dakota’s year just isn’t getting any better and at this point they’re just hoping to get through the season without any more injuries. On Saturday they had the visiting Sacramento State Hornets in town to check out the Fabulous Alerus Center. Sacramento State rolled off 24 points in the third quarter to get a handle on this game and never looked back, despite a flurry of activity from the Hawks in the fourth quarter. The Hornets were aided by a North Dakota fumble and returned for a touchdown by Marcus Bruce. Hawks quarterback Andrew Zimmerman attempted to lead a comeback, throwing a touchdown in the fourth quarter to Noah Wanzek but couldn’t get much traction to close the game. Roman Ale had an efficient day going 13/19 for 263 yards and two scores. Sacramento State will head to Flagstaff to take on Northern Arizona, while North Dakota will make a long trip to take on slightly worse Portland State.
Montana State looked like it was pretty much left for dead on Saturday at Northern Colorado, then went to the well and discovered a bunch of fourth quarter points hiding in there. The Bears had a comfortable 21-7 lead at the half and 24-10 to start the fourth quarter. However, the Bears defense wasn’t up to the task of keeping Montana State from scoring. The Bears gave up 17 points to drop a home contest by three points on Saturday. Chris Murray threw for 222 yards and rushed for 150 yards with a combined two touchdowns to lead the Bobcat comeback. The Bears were without starting quarterback Jacob Knipp who is out for the season. Backup Conor Regan had a nice game, but the Bears ground game had a hard time getting anywhere against the Bobcats. Bobcat freshman kicker Gabe Peppenger broke the tie with no time left to win it for the Bobcats. Montana State will host Idaho State, while Northern Colorado will have a bye.
Okay, so Portland State is bad. They are so bad that also usually bad, Idaho State, scored 59 points on them. Forty-two of those points came in the second and third quarters. Twenty-four of those points came consecutively. Tanner Gueller was responsible for 21 of them. But hey, Portland State got on the board first, they recorded a safety on Idaho State’s first possession. Idaho State had two rushers over 100 yards, James Madison (not the school, nor the president) rushed for 160 yards, Ty Flanagan had 108 and four touchdowns. Tanner Gueller had 327 yards passing and three touchdowns. Idaho State will be heading to Montana State this weekend, while Portland State hosts North Dakota in the Big Sky Pillow Fight of the Week.
In a game I fully expected to become a track meet somewhat lived up to that reputation but did not quite have the fireworks that we all expected. Northern Arizona and UC-Davis scored a lot of points, but 76 seemed like not as much as you’d think you’d get here. Case Cookus had 293 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Lumberjacks over the Aggies. Elijah Marks continued his one man assault as a receiver hauling in 174 yards and a touchdown. His counterpart, UC-Davis receiver Keelan Doss had 106 yards and two scores. Outside of Doss, a pedestrian day of offense for the Aggies. Northern Arizona cooked up a 28 point second quarter to take control of this game and never look back. At one point in this game I thought to myself, “This looks like the kind of game NAU is going to just get their hearts broke.” But as we’re seeing they’re playing it out for Jerome Souers. Northern Arizona will host Sacramento State, while UC-Davis will host Cal Poly.
Weber State made the trip to wine country to give us a snoozer against the worst team in the Big Sky, Cal Poly. Weber State got their starting quarterback, Stefan Cantwell, back after an injury and did just enough to get the Wildcats to a win. Cantwell had 182 yards and two scores, while rushing for another 54 yards for the Wildcats. Weber State running back Treshawn Garrett had 69 yards on the ground. Cal Poly bigly struggled on offense much of the day, as their three points on the scoreboard show. Weber State got a touchdown from David Jones hauling in a Cantwell pass. They capped the game with a Drew Batchelor touchdown catch. The teams combined for seven turnovers, which is the same number of passes that Cal Poly completed. Cal Poly will head to Davis, while Weber State will host Montana.
Sacramento State 34
North Dakota 27
Montana State 27
Northern Colorado 24
Portland State 30
Idaho State 59
Northern Arizona 45
Eastern Washington 28
Southern Utah 46
Weber State 17
Cal Poly 3
Big Sky Player of the Week
This week’s Big Sky Player of the Week is Southern Utah quarterback Patrick Tyler. Tyler was 22/33 for 183 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for 49 yards, as the Thunderbirds knocked off Eastern Washington in Cedar City this past weekend.
Big Sky MVP Rankings
Gage Gabrud, QB, Eastern Washington – 24/44 for 246 yards 1 TD, 3 INT
Elijah Marks, WR, Northern Arizona – 9 receptions, 174 yards, 1 TD
Tanner Gueller, QB, Idaho State – 14/23 for 327 yards, 3 TD
Keelan Doss, WR, UC-Davis – 10 receptions, 106 yards, 2 TD
Gresch Jensen, QB, Montana – Idle
Big Sky Power Rankings
1. Southern Utah
2. Eastern Washington
3. Weber State
5. Northern Arizona
6. Montana State
7. Sacramento State
8. Idaho State
10. Northern Colorado
11. North Dakota
12. Portland State
13. Cal Poly
Final Thoughts and Hot Takes
Southern Utah, wow what are you guys doing? That defense is a salty bunch, and they’ve completely shut down two pretty good offenses in consecutive weeks.
On the other hand, the bottom of the Big Sky is very very bad.
Sacramento State got votes this week for the FCS top 25. I don’t even know how this happened, or what planet we’re on now, but here we are. When’s the last time the Hornets got top 25 votes?
Montana and Weber State should be a fun one this weekend.. a group of dudes, including myself, are headed south to take this game in. This might be the most sober road trip I’ve ever gone on. Send help.
Keelan Doss is an underrated receiver in this league. So good, big numbers every week, should be first team All-Big Sky when it’s said and done this season.
Chris Murray at Montana State is a one-man show.. he does a lot for that Montana State offense, but man. Watching him throw a football is not a thing of beauty. He gets it done, I’ll just never know how.
I think it’s fair to say right now that there is no great teams in the Big Sky, a lot of good teams, but no one that’s going to be playing in the semifinals of the playoffs this season.