Congrats Big Sky football fans! You made it through week 8! Apologies for my absence last week, I was busy watching the Mile High Express dominate a SEC football team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Not many surprises in the Big Sky this week, but some games were a bit closer than some folks would have appreciated. If you’re a fan of Montana, Montana State, and Northern Arizona you were probably a little puckered about half time of your game. The conference looks like it’s going to be a dog fight with two teams undefeated in conference play and four more with only one loss in conference. Let’s get to the week in review…
Montana and Cal Poly kickstarted the Big Sky football week in Missoula. As a witness to this game live I must say my ol’ ticker was in need of repair by the time this one was finished. Cal Poly used their rushing attack to flat out abuse the Montana defense for 57 minutes of this football game. The Mustangs rushed for 308 yards, 121 from Kristaan Ivory, and controlled the clock for 36 minutes of this one. Montana was down 14-7 at the half and it looked all but over for the Grizzlies, but a blocked field goal attempt by Jordan Tripp cleared the way for a Griz comeback. The field goal would have iced the game for Cal Poly. The Griz promptly marched down the field led by the arm of Jordan Johnson and was capped off with a 4th down goal line pass from Johnson to Clay Pierson to send the game to overtime. In overtime the Griz offense took the field and Johnson found Ellis Henderson for a 23 yard touchdown pass. On the Cal Poly possession of overtime quarterback Dano Graves threw an interception to Brock Coyle and the Griz won 21-14. Montana will face off with Eastern Washington next, Cal Poly will host Northern Arizona.
I don’t think my heart has quite fully recovered from that.. or my liver, for that matter.
Sacramento State hit the road for one of the longer road trips in the Big Sky as they trekked to Grand Forks to take on the North Dakota [insert name here]. This one wasn’t even close from the get-go. Unfortunately for the [insert name here] they haven’t had many close games this year. The Hornets got out of the gate in a hurry with a Garrett Safron rush for a touchdown. The Hornets didn’t let up from thereafter Brandon Kellerman punched one in right before halftime. North Dakota thought they might make the game close with a Adam Shaugabay touchdown run. Then Sacramento State responded on the next drive with a Garrett Safron pass. Safron would punch in another touchdown in the 4th quarter to give the Hornets a 31-7 win in Grand Forks. North Dakota quarterback Joe Mollberg didn’t help his cause any by throwing three interceptions. North Dakota will go to Portland State next, Sacramento State will be on a bye next week.
In the Big Sky pillow fight of the week UC Davis (no dash) headed to Greeley to take on the feeble Northern Colorado Bears. UC Davis didn’t waste any time scoring in this one when Randy Wright got the scoring started with a touchdown pass to Taylor Sloat, he followed that up on their next drive with another TD pass to Sloat. Right before the half Wright tossed another TD pass to Corey Galindo. At this point you pretty much know what’s coming. More scoring on Northern Colorado’s defense. The Aggies took it easy on the Bears in the third quarter and only scored once. UC Davis became a wealth of points on defense in the fourth quarter, giving up a field goal and a touchdown and letting the Bears close the gap to 34-18 and that’s where it would end. UNC running back Tromaine Dennis rushed for 135 and a score for the Bears, while Seth Lobato chipped in for 231 yards of passing offense. Aggies quarterback Randy Wright threw for 310 and four scores. Gabe Manzanares rushed for 105. UC Davis will be at Montana State next, Northern Colorado will mercifully get a bye.
Seriously, that is not a good football team in Greeley.
Montana State got a small scare from another really bad team when they let Weber State get within 5 points after three quarters of football. Yes, the highly ranked Bobcats let one of the worst teams in FBS within five points after three quarters of football. Having watched part of that game I can tell you Weber State has not gotten better. Weber actually had a lead in this game 10-6 after the first quarter. Montana State wasn’t going to stand for that as Cody Kirk got going and punched in a touchdown. The Cats got a nice performance from all world quarterback Denarius McGhee.. he threw for 313 and three scores. Bo Bolen, a good player on a bad team, rushed for 124 for the Wildcats, while Adam Chipoletti threw for 309 but had an interception, a bad one that killed a Weber State drive late in the game. The Cats piled it on in the 4th quarter and won the game 34-16. Montana State will host UC Davis, Weber State will take a week off to think about things.
Idaho State gave their best effort in a game versus Northern Arizona this week in a game of American football. The lovable Bengals owned a 14-12 lead at the half behind an Xavier Finney touchdown run and a Justin Arias touchdown pass but Mr Zach Bauman decided he wasn’t going to lose to a bunch of damn Bengals. Bauman went beast mode and rushed for 266 yards and a pair of scores to pretty much dismantle the Idaho State defense. On the other side Justin Arias had a pretty gutsy performance by throwing for 390 yards on 57 attempts and three touchdown passes. These Bengals came to play, unfortunately their defense couldn’t get a stop. Northern Arizona quarterback Chase Cartwright added three touchdowns and the Lumberjacks avoided another October loss 39-30. Idaho State will head to Cedar City to take on Southern Utah next, Northern Arizona will be at Cal Poly.
In the night cap the Eastern Washington Eagles hosted the Southern Utah Thunderbirds. This game was never close. I thought Southern Utah looked like a contender this year, but Eastern Washington disproved that theory. Aaron Cantu had a forgettable game after throwing three INTs, and the T-Bird rushing attack never got going. On the other side of the ball Vernon Adams put up 298 in the air with three touchdowns and rushed for another 58 yards. Nothing special from Eastern Washington in this game, just a straight up beat down of a decent team. Southern Utah will host Idaho State while Eastern Washington will take on Montana in a pivotal Big Sky matchup.
That it for last week in the Big Sky. This coming week should shape the top of the Big Sky a little bit. One important game is Montana and Eastern Washington. You have to think the winner of this game will be favored to win the Big Sky. Eastern Washington is coming off of a good performance vs Southern Utah while Montana struggled to put Cal Poly way and used some last minute shenanigans to win. Meanwhile Northern Arizona and Cal Poly should help decide who will land in that 4th place spot in the Big Sky after Montana, Eastern, and MSU. I just don’t see UC Davis as a viable candidate near the top of the Big Sky. Montana State should be able to easily hand them their second Big Sky loss. In the pillow fight of the week North Dakota heads to Portland to take on the Vikings.. Portland State looked good early on but have been a steaming pile of garbage since Cal Poly beat them to death. North Dakota hasn’t been good all year.. I hope all 3000 of the Vikings faithful who show up for this one are ready for some punting. Gotta give this one to Portland State though.