It’s crunch time in the Big Sky Conference as teams are jockeying for position to get in the playoffs, or if you’re Weber State, you’re just trying to avoid tying Northern Colorado for last place in the Big Sky. A couple of Big Sky teams got a scare this weekend and almost saw their playoff hopes float down the river. We’re staring at the real possibility, and probably the first time in BSC history, that four teams could end up in the playoffs. At this moment there are four deserving teams that should be represented in the FCS post season but there’s a lot that can happen in the next few weeks.
To open the Big Sky football week Montana State took a trip to Colorado to face off with Northern Colorado. Don’t lie, you looked at this and thought, “Cats by 25.” I said the same thing. Northern Colorado is down again this season, lost to a D2, and have generally not been competitive. This weekend was a slightly different tale as the Bears hung around with the Cats… then kept hanging around into the fourth quarter and had a shot to tie it late in the game. Again this week the Cats offense came on the back of Cody Kirk who grinded out another 180 yards and a pair of scores. Bobcat quarterback Denarius McGhee didn’t have his greatest game, throwing for 140 and a score against a surprisingly salty Bears defense. Bears quarterback Seth Lobato put together a nice game, throwing for 291 and two scores. The bears made this game pretty interesting in the fourth quarter when Lobato scampered for a 1 yard touchdown to put the Bears up by one. The Cats responded on their next drive on a 9 yard Cody Kirk touchdown to put the Cats up for good. Montana State will face off in a huge matchup with Eastern Washington in Cheney next weekend, the Bears will head to North Dakota to take on the [insert name here].
Montana took a little trip to Central California this week to play the Sacramento State Hornets and as a result we got to watch free football! Is there anything more satisfying than getting to watch free football on a Saturday? Nope, can’t think of a single thing. Well, I can think of a couple things but this is a PG rated blog. The Griz and Hornets decided to have themselves a good ol’ fashioned WAC track meet. Defense, sit on the bench, you’re not needed here. Hornet quarterback Garrett Safron lost his damn mind and threw for 412 yards, rushed for 93 yards, accounted for 6 touchdowns, saved a baby from a burning building, was the victim of attempted murder by two different Grizzly linebackers, and all he got was a loss. Seriously, Safron was #beastmode (as bwahlberg and I like to call it) for a good part of this game. The Hornets also had a pair of 100 yard receivers, Deandre Carter and Morris Norrise (seriously..). On the other side of the ball was Jordan Johnson who started off VERY slow with missed passes and receivers having a case of the dropsies, but after some soul searching he threw for 381 and two scores. Jordan Canada punched the ball in four times for the Grizzly offense. Montana looked to have this game wrapped up, but the Hornets scored with :23 left on the clock to force overtime. Once overtime came it was all Griz, holding the Hornets to a FG on the first possession. On the first play of the Griz possession of OT Jordan Johnson hit Ellis Henderson in the corner of the end zone, wide open, for the game winning touchdown. Montana will travel to South Dakota to take on the Coyotes, the Hornets will make a quick trip to San Luis Obispo to take on Cal Poly.
That was a marathon paragraph. Wow.
In the Big Sky pillow fight of the week Weber State made a trip to Portland to take on the Vikings (no, not the delicious carnival treat). Both of these teams did a very good job of exploiting each other’s weaknesses as Portland State racked up 350 yards rushing on the Wildcat defense, while the Wildcats threw for 331 yards on the Viking defense. You can imagine the ball moving around the field pretty quickly in this one. The Wildcats had a hard time keeping up with the Vikings in this one. By the time halftime rolled around the Vikings were up by a couple of touchdowns and maintained a similar lead throughout the rest of the game. The Vikings rushing attack was lead by DJ Adams who rushed for 152 and a pair of scores. Also chipping in was Hayden Plinke for 79 and Nate Tago with 64 yards and a pair of scores. Austin Chipoletti had a pair of scores and Shaydon Kehano caught 123 of Chipoletti’s 331 yards and a score. Weber State will host in-state rival Southern Utah while the Vikings will be at Idaho State.
Eastern Washington probably figured they’ve have a cupcake fight on their hands when they traveled to Pocatello to face off with the Bengals. They were not correct. For about 2 and ¼ quarters the Bengals hung around, much longer than anyone anticipated. In another classic WAC matchup neither of these teams figured bringing a defense would do them much good. They were correct. Eastern Washington put up a mind blowing 743 yards of offense while Idaho State, LOWLY IDAHO STATE, countered with 566, and 34 points to go with it! Eastern quarterback Vernon Adams put up 432 yards and 5 scores through the air and added another 60 on the ground. Eastern running back Quincy Forte put up 119 yards and a pair of scores. For the loveable Bengals Justin Arias completed 44 passes for 441 yards and 3 scores, while Luke Austin caught 177 yards and a score from Arias. Bengals running back Xavier Finney rushed for 102 yards and a score. I would have never predicted the game would turn out like this. Idaho State was within four points in the 3rd quarter, but it was all Eastern from there on out. The Eagles will host Montana State next, Idaho State will host Portland State.
Seriously.. Eastern gave up 566 yards to Idaho State. How does that happen? Mike Kramer musta been feeding the kids Red Bulls and cocaine before the game. Amazing what they did.
If you’re a fan of running the football you were probably a pretty big fan of the UC Davis (no dash) and Cal Poly American football game! Cal Poly attempted five passes. FIVE passes that Chris Brown (of the non-douchebag variety) threw. He completed one pass. One pass for 15 yards. Somewhere Tim Tebow is nodding in approval. However, Chris Brown also rushed for 195 yards and three scores. Obviously they found a hole in the Aggie defense. UC Davis’s Gabe Manzanares didn’t want to be left out of the action either, so he went ahead and rushed for 141 yards.. but no scores. I believe Manzanares hit the 1000 yard mark for the season in this contest as well. Randy Wright had a so-so day, but a couple of turnovers probably did not help the Aggies too much. Poly finally put this game away in the 4th quarter with a pair of Chris Brown scores to give the Mustangs the win. Cal Poly will host Sacramento State next, UC Davis will have a bye.
In the last Big Sky game of the week Northern Arizona hosted North Dakota, who is still without a nickname. The Lumberjacks are doing everything in their power to make sure they don’t suffer their predictable late season meltdown. This year they’re a team looking for a playoff berth. Luckily for them they hosted a team who has no chance at reaching the playoffs, North Dakota. The Lumberjacks were efficient on both sides of the ball throwing for 204 yards between Kyren Poe and and Chase Cartwright. They rushed the ball for 275 yards behind Zach Bauman and Casey Jahn, both had tremendous days for the Lumberjacks. For the [insert nickname here] Ryan Bartels threw for 367 yards and four scores, but that wasn’t nearly enough to get them close to the streaking Lumberjacks. North Dakota will host Northern Colorado in this week’s Big Sky pillow fight of the week, Northern Arizona will get a bye.
I was surprised at the fight that Idaho State and Northern Colorado put up against the top teams in the conference this weekend. Sacramento State also didn’t go quietly into the afternoon. The Big Sky is going to be a dog fight for the top spot in the conference and those teams could have easily stumbled and cost themselves a spot in the playoffs this week. There seems to be a pretty large gap between the top and bottom of the conference this season, with Cal Poly and Sacramento State stuck in the middle, moreso on the losing end of things year. I’m still mind blown that Cal Poly only threw five passes and completed one. Huge hole in the Aggie defense there.
This coming week should provide some interesting games with Montana State heading to Eastern Washington. This will be a terrific matchup and will be a defining win. It’s too early to say if this will have any impact on playoff seeding as there’s still a lot of football left to play, but having a tie breaker certainly doesn’t hurt. Montana’s heading to South Dakota to play against their former coach Joe Glenn. The Coyotes are a lot tougher than they look on paper, a definite trap game for Montana. Southern Utah is still hanging out there trying to sneak into the playoffs, but their schedule sure doesn’t setup for it with games against Montana State and Northern Arizona coming up. However, if they can manage to win out, they have a shot. Of the Big Sky teams with the clearest path to the playoffs it looks like it might be Northern Arizona with a bye, Northern Colorado, and Southern Utah. Montana faces South Dakota, Weber, and Montana State. Montana State has three tough ones coming up, with Eastern, Southern Utah, and Montana. Not an easy road. Big week coming up, enjoy some football!