Ferrari’s, Fauxraris, and college staffing decisions

When I was in college, I remember driving down Broadway towards the University for some class that I needed to be that morning. I pulled up to the Broadway and Russel Street light and I saw in front to me what appeared to be a older model Ferrari. Had all the decals. Looked immaculate from the rear. Then as I passed the car, I began to realize not only by visuals, but by sound this wasn’t your regular run of the mill Ferrari. In fact it was a Fauxrari. Those kits were popular back in the day, where you could convert your four cylinder Yugo with a little time, effort and bondo into a sexy looking car that could get you all the chicks.

What has been telling about the firing and hiring process, to some fans, is that some still are under the illusion that University of Montana football program is a Ferrari or minimally a Cadillac. Maybe it is, but there are some elements maybe to the casual fan are obscured behind the nice body that prevent the program from being truly a high end sports car.

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Bobby Ball 2.0

Lets not pretend the potential rehiring of Bobby Hauck is all conference titles, playoff wins and packed stadiums. Bobby brings a lot of baggage. Should Bobby taken to task for things that happened nearly ten years ago? Certainly. This is the world that we live in, just sweeping things under the rug, or burying our head in the sand for the sake of victories is no longer tolerable.

Consider what happened to Greg Schiano at Tennessee in the past 48 hours. He was all set to become the next Vol head coach and was unceremoniously dumped on the side of the street because of lingering allegations of cover up of sexual assault while at Penn State. Should Bobby receive similar treatment? Probably not, but his potential hire should be paired with tough questions about program behavior, his own behavior and the relationship between football and the campus and community.

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A Sad Day in Grizzlyville…

The business of football was and is always a cruel one. Today that business got more cruel. Montana fired a football coach, fans abroad cheered, and I became a bit more hardened in my heart. For today, a man was fired for being good at his job.

His problem? He wasn’t great. Coaching is a hard sport to be in, because all the good advice you get rarely prepares you for those handful of people you can’t please. What Bob Stitt didn’t know when taking the job, he was going to walk into a stadium chalk full of people he couldn’t please. Constant pining for the next great quarterback. The next national championship.

I remember all of those days in as I listened to people joke about the obsessives in the Grizzly fanbase. Just laughed. Sending Tony Moss, Craig Haley and others hate mail for picking against the Griz.  Started to believe it a bit more when I heard it in the crowd during the Dennehy tenure, more so when Drew Miller limped off the field, the numerous throngs of Hauck haters. The cacophony negative nellies only grew larger and more emboldened after Pflugrad was let go.

Coaches don’t sign up for a job that treats them as some piece of replaceable merchandise. They don’t sign up to receive all sorts of hate mail. Verbal abuse from fans, boosters and parents. They sacrifice a great amount, in order to provide a product in the best way they know how. Only to be continuously second guessed by a bunch of drunk know-it-alls who can’t find their way in after half time.

Am I frustrated and angry that it came to this in Missoula? Sure as hell I am. Kent Haslam can say he wants to get the toughness back into Grizzly football. As fans applauded that, do they have the slightest clue what it looks like? I think there are a number of Grizzly football players who might have taken umbrage with that statement. The Gresch Jensen’s,  Justin Strong’s and Josh Sandry’s who played multiple games with injuries. To win games for their teammates, their coaches and the fans that support them.

I have been a supporter through thick and thin of the University of Montana football program. As long as we continue to chase ghosts, to chase the past, no one is ever going to be good enough. Hell Bobby Hauck wasn’t good enough. If we bring Hauck back, there is no guarantee that he’ll be as good as he was before.

So you can offer your platitudes to the coaches and their families. But they knew what they were getting into. Bullshit. I have experienced this twice in my life. Happened nearly the same way. You can’t prepare for this ever. What is worse is that people, even in administration, are never fully honest with you. They can’t.  You can’t fight back. There is no point. So you are generous, while at the same time you are angry and on the verge of tears.

If Skyline’s reporting is correct, and I don’t have a reason to believe that it isn’t, then it makes our program and the athletic department look pretty small and petty. The optics are bad. The luster is gone from the program, and Stitt wasn’t responsible for that.

Stitt obviously put himself into this position by not winning enough. He didn’t put the program into the stratosphere quick enough.  The adage is, if you didn’t do enough to keep your job, then you open yourself up to losing it. This was always a tough job, but it wasn’t unreasonable. Now it is. Montana puts itself in the company of Tennessee, Texas and Florida. Places where the incessant need to win has forced them into one bad decision after the next. I don’t think think this is a great decision, but time will only tell if my opinion of this transaction is vindicated or not.

That incessant need to win has a cost. In some ways that is how we got here. Coaches who weren’t acceptable in 2015 suddenly are?  We had ethics in 2015 and wanted a coach who would lead a program of fine young men. Now? F-it. Lets win. While that is overstatement, I don’t believe that it is far from the truth.

I just hope people can wake up in the morning and look themselves in the mirror. I am not talking about Haslam.  Today Grizzly football was defined by those who were timid and weak. I am sorry that Bob Stitt paid the price for that. Just makes me sick to my stomach. There is nothing to celebrate here. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Best of luck to Coach Stitt, his staff and their families. I can’t help but think they deserved a little better than they got.

Thanks again for reading.

GF24.

The Power of Silence

Here are a few tidbits for you to gnaw on as you try to recover from the Grizzly loss at Montana State yesterday.

  • Yesterday marked the first time since 02-03 that MSU had won two games in a row. That bridged the Glenn-Hauck eras.
  • The loss yesterday marked the first time since 2005 that UM lost to MSU in Bozeman.
  • The loss will most likely end up causing the University of Montana to miss the playoffs in consecutive years since 91-92.
  • Stitt is the first Montana coach to lose to MSU in consecutive years since Larry Donovan. (1984-85)
  • Montana suffered three or more conference losses in consecutive years for the first time since 86-87
  • Montana has not won the Big Sky Conference officially since 2009.

Those are the type of stats that make you want to start drinking at 7am on a Sunday morning. I’m not, but you can. Even with all of the those stats, Bob Stitt should wake up on Monday morning and be the head coach of the University of Montana football program. He should be the coach there until he isn’t anymore.

The words that fill my blog will likely never  include words, phrases, clauses that ask for coaches to be fired.  That doesn’t mean coaches should be fired, or have merited a second look into their performance by the powers that be. Again if Bob Stitt is the coach on Monday morning, he should be until he isn’t anymore.

I have to imagine the weight of the air, the power of the silence, inside the halls, lockers and offices of Washington-Grizzly Stadium is overwhelming this morning. That is NOT a comfortable feeling. You don’t want to be in those places that remind you of your shortcomings, failures, and inadequacies. Whether you are a coach or a player, you have to face them eventually, but the idea of being there right now is likely crushing under the weight of that failure.

For the coaches and the players, those returning, will use it to fuel their off-season. For those who are walking out for the last time, it’ll haunt them for many years to come. The weight of things not done, not achieved, are not easily lifted or erased away. That is baggage you don’t want to leave University of Montana as a football player or a coach with.

Yet while there is silence inside Washington-Grizzly, the cacophony of critics asking, wanting, demanding change is deafening. The barbarians are at the gate and Emperor Haslam has some tough decisions to make. There are omnipresent issues afoot that must be addressed. Declining attendance. Declining performance. Losing to the Bobcats. Department shortfalls. Booster Support. A new main hall administration.

Lets make this clear. Bob Stitt was a great hire in 2015, and still is. That results are less than overwhelming is something that you could not possibly have known. Some claim you can by looking deep into Stitt’s record at the Colorado School of Mines and know. Great coaches with pedigree fail, and fail all the time.  Bill Belichick and  Nick Saban failed. At this point, the only failure Bob Stitt has on his record at the University of Montana, is his inability to live up to the ghosts of Grizzlies past and the standards of an impatient Grizzly booster and fanbase.

Stitt has done A Lot of things right. That won’t matter in the end. Petulant fans and boosters have a way of getting their way. They shouldn’t, but the salvage yard of programs done in by hyper vigilant fan bases and super sensitive administrations is long and distinguished. Texas. Nebraska. Tennessee. Florida. The trail is pretty narrow and administrators have tough jobs. A great hire puts you at the top of the mountain. A bad one and you  fall off into the valley to do.

There are reasons to fire coaches. Stitt hasn’t done much to merit being fired. Yet he hasn’t done much to merit being kept either. Those points listed above matter to Griz fans, boosters and administration. The constant drive to meet an almost unattainable standard can wear upon not only players, but coaches and administration.

The problem is optics. Jeff Choate has 9 total wins in his first two years in Bozeman. He has a total of 7 conference wins. He only carries two significant victories and that is all that matters. He is 2-0 against the Griz, and has taken them to the woodshed like no other team has in Stitts tenure. Their rah-rah Friday night style sure contrasts rather sharply with Stitts cerebral and reserved style. Choate owns Bozeman now, and Stitt with largely a better resume may very well be looking for a job Monday morning. Administrations shouldn’t make decisions based upon narratives of fans but they do.

Rarely does firing coaches for better than industry performance work out well for the institution or the fan bases that represent them. Stitt is 8 games above .500 in his tenure, averages 7 wins a year, and even has a playoff win under his belt. His teams played maybe 7 bad quarters this year, and they resulted in 3 losses. They competed. Won games with three different quarterbacks at the helm. They improved the model from a year before. But. They missed the playoffs and lost to Montana State. That is enough to get Bob Stitt fired, and he probably knows it too.

If the decision is to retain Stitt, it’ll be the right one. I don’t envy the decisions that need to be made. Will there be sacrificial lambs (Semore, Neikamp?). Stitt made a ton of concessions last year. An uniformed eye saw the improvement. Yet, it might not be enough. There were maddening inconsistencies, continued flat play at inopportune times.

Coaches are deeply self-aware. The stuff not accomplished keeps them in their offices until 3am with  only the glare of the TV monitor lighting the room. They’ll replay the same clip a hundred times over, and over again to find the flaw. The mistake. Yet some flaws are not easily found within the film, nor are others correctable. Some only can be removed only by removing themselves. For the detailed oriented nature of Stitt, the meticulous nature of how and why he does everything, there are lingering details that seem obvious from the outside that seem to be ignored. Seem to be ignored. Maybe those details were addressed, but not successfully so.

Maybe those details are outside or even above the ability of this coaching staff. Doubt it, as at least with my limited interaction, this coaching staff is one of the most intelligent staffs I have encountered. Sometimes that doesn’t translate.

Lou Holtz said many years ago that ability gets you only so far. In the end it is attitude that determines how far and how high you go. There is some legitimacy to that assertion at least from a player perspective. I don’t think attitude replaces ability in coaching. Way too much success and failure in coaching is in the details. That it matters to fans that Choate is a rah-rah guy, personable, over actual results is revealing.  Both programs have similar roster make-ups, 2/3rds of the roster are Redshirts, Freshman or Sophomores. Both start similar amounts of seniors, collected in different areas or get playing time from upper classmen. Choate is 9-13 in two seasons. Bob Stitt is 13-9.

Again 0-2 and missing the playoffs are the only narratives that matter outside the offices of Kent Haslam and Bob Stitt. They matter inside, but there is substantively more. Ex-players can cry foul. Boosters can pull money. Fixing what ails Montana football isn’t as easy as bringing another coach in. You can replace Stitt with a rah-rah guy and end up in the same place in three years. You know what you have in the coaches offices right now. You don’t know what is walking in. You think you might know, but you really don’t. Ask Texas, Florida, and Tennessee.

Montana will be in a better place in three years with Stitt, than Montana State will be with Choate. Fans won’t like that. Wasn’t as if Ash left the cupboard completely bare. Many elements of his recruiting were elemental in winning these last two Cat-Griz games. All of those young guys still led Choate to 9 wins in two years. Choose your narrative and run with it. Gresh Jensen is a better quarterback as Freshman, than Murray is a sophomore.

Whether Stitt is the coach tomorrow or not, just replacing the coach isn’t a guarantee. The roster and that locker room are poised, and in a much better situation to build upon the success and failures of this season. There is a great foundation for the future. Whomever that leads them on the field in 2018, is likely inheriting or has a squad poised on potential alone capable of taking the next step.

The silence in Washington Grizzly is just as deafening as the clamoring outside of it today. That is problem and there isn’t an easy solution. Changes need to be made. Diagnoses are easy, prescriptions and cures aren’t. Who Haslam listens to over the next 24 hours will be interesting.  Here is hoping that he listens to common sense within room, versus the barbarians at the gate.

 

 

Big Sky Round Up Week 11

The Big Sky’s playoff picture didn’t get much clearer on Saturday win week 11 of play, however we now have the setup for a big final weekend of regular season play. No big upsets this weekend, which means there are six teams alive for a playoff berth, but possibly only three or four spots will be given to Big Sky teams. As of now Southern Utah, Northern Arizona, Weber State, Eastern Washington, and Sacramento State are alive for spots. Realistically, Eastern Washington and Sacramento State will probably not be in the field. The other four, however, are still alive.

The final weekend will pit a bubble team, Montana against its in-state rival Montana State. Northern Arizona and Southern Utah will also face off, with NAU quite possibly being on the bubble. Southern Utah and Weber should have spots wrapped up for Sunday’s selection show.

The Big Sky’s week started with Eastern Washington take a trip across a couple of time zones to take on the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. The Hawks are having a bit of a letdown this season due to a number of injuries to key starters. Eastern Washington on the other hand was dealing with the suspension of two players due to some extracurricular activities last weekend. One of those players was starting quarterback Gage Gubrud. The Fighting Hawks got on the board first with a Keaton Studsrud touchdown run. Eastern Washington would answer with a half back pass, Sam McPherson to Talolo Limu-Jones. Eastern Washington hit on two more scoring plays in the second quarter including a touchdown from quarterback in relief Eric Barriere to McPherson. Barriere also had a touchdown run. North Dakota tried to make it interesting in the fourth quarter by closing to gap to within seven but couldn’t close out. Eastern Washington will take on Portland State next weekend while North Dakota’s season is over.

After Montana’s victory against Northern Arizona last weekend without starting quarterback Gresch Jensen the Griz were happy to have Jensen back for Northern Colorado. The Bears know a thing or two about playing with a backup, as Jacob Knipp was knocked for the season and Conor Regan was brought in for the remainder of the season. The Griz got off to a quick start with a touchdown run from Gresch Jensen to open up the scoring. Northern Colorado answered right back with a scoring drive of their own, Alex Wesley catching a 26 yard pass from Conor Regan. From there the Griz scored 37 straight points and blew the doors off of Northern Colorado. The Bears managed a garbage time pick six by Marshaun Cameron to get the score a tiny bit closer. Montana will be at Montana State next weekend, while Northern Colorado will host Cal Poly in the Big Sky pillow fight of the week.

Portland State, the Big Sky’s kicking post this season, hosted Weber State this weekend. If you read that last sentence correctly you can probably imagine how this game turned out. Weber State got up 49-3 at the half and that’s really all you need to know about this game. The Wildcats rushed for 421 yards in this contest and somehow only kept the ball for two and a half minutes more than the Vikings. Kevin Smith rushed for 143 yards, David Jones rushed for 103 yards, and Treshawn Garrett rushed for 88 yards. Combined the rushers had seven touchdowns for the Wildcats. Portland State scored a couple of touchdowns in the second half, presumably against the Weber State JV. Weber State will host Idaho State next weekend in the Zion border war, while Portland State will look to keep it respectable against Eastern Washington.

Southern Utah kept their winning ways going and their lead in the Big Sky with a victory against UC-Davis this past weekend. The Aggies came into the game looking for an upset of the Big Sky’s leader and instead found a buzzsaw. Jake Maier turned in a respectable game, however it wasn’t enough to overcome the Thunderbird defense. Patrick Tyler earned Big Sky player of the week honors, as he passed for 370 yards and three touchdowns. Southern Utah quickly got up 21-0 on the Aggies, the first score on an interception return, then a Patrick Tyler touchdown pass. Jay Green would punch in a one yard touchdown to follow. At the half the Thunderbirds were up 26-7. Davis would come back and score in the third and fourth quarter, however the game was pretty much in hand before the Davis offense woke up. Southern Utah will host Northern Arizona next week while Davis will play the Causeway Classic against Sacramento State.

Case Cookus made his return to the field this week one week after being ejected against Montana for a helmet to helmet hit. Cookus came back and threw for 314 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for a touchdown as well. On the other side of the ball was the Montana State Bobcats who were looking to play the role of upset team, as their season is basically already over. The Bobcats made the game interesting in the fourth quarter by scoring with 13:18 left in the 4th to even it up at 30. NAUs Joe Logan would put in a touchdown to give the Lumberjacks a seven point lead with 4:49 left in the game. Montana State wasn’t done and went driving. Chris Murray hit Kevin Kassis with :32 seconds left in the game to put the Cats in position to win or tie the game. Coach Jeff Choate opted for the two point conversion and Chris Murray could not finish the play and NAU would escape with the win. Montana State will host Montana next week in the Treasure State Super Bowl, while Northern Arizona will be at Southern Utah.

In the night cap the Sacramento State Hornets went on the road to take on fairly helpless Cal Poly. The Hornets were trying to keep their very remote playoff chances alive and needed a win. Sacramento State put their foot to the gas almost immediately scoring three plays into the game and went on to score 49 straight against the Mustangs. Kevin Thomson had three touchdown passes for the Hornets. Ernest Jenkins returned a blocked field goal attempt for a 74 yard touchdown in the first quarter. The Hornets piled up 465 yards on offense while only holding the ball for 21:15 of the game. The Hornets will host UC-Davis next weekend while Cal Poly will be playing in the Big Sky pillow fight at Northern Colorado.

Scores

Eastern Washington 21
North Dakota 14

Northern Colorado 14
Montana 44

Weber State 63
Portland State 17

Southern Utah 47
UC-Davis 27

Montana State 36
Northern Arizona 37

Sacramento State 49
Cal Poly 14

Big Sky Player of the Week

This week’s Big Sky player of the week is Southern Utah quarterback Patrick Tyler. Tyler was 26/36 for 370 yards and three touchdowns as the Thunderbirds took care of business against UC-Davis on Saturday in Davis, CA.

Big Sky MVP Candidates

Gage Gubrud, QB, Eastern Washington – Did not record any stats
Elijah Marks, WR, Northern Arizona – 9 receptions, 123 yards
Keelan Doss, WR, UC-Davis – 11 receptions for 93 yards
Gresch Jensen, QB, Montana – 17/25 for 228 yards, 3 TD, 30 yards rushing 1 TD
Patrick Tyler, QB, Southern Utah – 26/36 for 370 yards, 3 TD 2 INT, 15 yards rushing

Big Sky Power Rankings

1. Southern Utah
2. Weber State
3. Montana
4. Eastern Washington
5. Northern Arizona
6. Sacramento State
7. UC-Davis
8. Montana State
9. Idaho State
10. Northern Colorado
11. North Dakota
12. Cal Poly
13. Portland State

Final Thoughts and Hot Takes

Fully expected to UC-Davis to pull the upset this week, but that Southern Utah team might be the real deal. I haven’t known what to think of them all season, and every week I think, “there’s no way they can win again this week” and they do. Hope they can win out and get a playoff seed, they’ve earned it.

Montana State going for two and losing was basically how I expected that game to end. As I was sitting in the bar area at Jakers in Missoula watching the game I said to the group with me, and whomever was in earshot at the time, “This is going to end with the Cats failing on a two point conversion.”  Welp.  That said, Jeff Choate made the right decision. The Cats literally had nothing to lose (except the game). They’re not going to the playoffs, they’re on the road, what the hell.. take the shot. You’re the hero if you convert it, no worse off if you lose. Right decision, poor execution.. didn’t like that play call.

I’m guessing none of you had Sacramento State blowing out Cal Poly when this season started.

Gage Gubrud’s replacement, Eric Barriere, had an okay day in his first start for Eastern Washington. 13/23 for 130 yards and a touchdown pass, as well as 55 yards rushing and a touchdown. Game probably looks a bit different if Gubrud is playing, but he didn’t.

The Big Sky comes down to next week. There’s a three way tie at the top of the conference for the autoqualifier bid. Southern Utah, Weber State and Northern Arizona are all 6-1 in conference. Montana, Eastern Washington, and Sacramento State are all sitting at 5-2 in conference. Eastern Washington and Sacramento State are both 6-4 on the season. In theory, EWU and Sacramento State are probably not getting into the playoffs at 7-4 (if they both win next week). That leaves Montana, Weber, Northern Arizona and Southern Utah probably fighting for three spots. Southern Utah and NAU play next weekend. Weber did not have to play NAU this year. Going to be a screwy tie breaker scenario that plays out.

At the same time… can’t believe we give a playoff spot to the NEC and the Pioneer league. Man alive.. why? I get it, but why? Also, the Patriot league leader, Lehigh, is 4-1 in conference.. and 4-6 overall. The second place team, Colgate, is 6-4, 4-1 in conference. Lehigh owns the tiebreaker over Colgate in this situation.

North Carolina A&T won the MEAC this past weekend. They have indicated that they will play in the Celebration Bowl rather than the FCS playoffs. That’s a shame that one of the FCS’s top teams, and one of two that are left undefeated, won’t be competing in this year’s playoffs. It would be interesting to see how they’d fare in the tournament.

My picks for the week: Montana, Northern Colorado, Weber State, Southern Utah, Sacramento State, Eastern Washington.

Big Sky Round Up Week 10

The top of the Big Sky standings got pretty shaken up this week with two top teams going down. This is the time of season where the conference haves and have-nots start to separate themselves into who is going to be playing in the post season.

The Big Sky week started off in Bozeman with the visiting Kennesaw State Owls making the nearly cross country road trip to take on the Bobcats. Kennesaw State, a third year program from Georgia and ranked in the FCS top 25, presented a few new wrinkles for the Bobcats. The Owls, who run a triple option style offense, started the game with an eight and a half minute drive and ended with a touchdown. The Owls piled up 346 yards rushing and held the ball for nearly 40 minutes in a two point victory. Montana State got a touchdown from Chris Murray on the ground, and a touchdown pass to Mitchell Herbert for their only scores. After Kennesaw’s opening touchdown they’d ride three field goals from Justin Thompson to victory. The Bobcats will face off with Northern Arizona in Flagstaff next week.

Weber State, fresh off of a win over Montana took a trip to the Palouse to take on Eastern Washington. The Eagles, who are clinging to their playoff hopes, needed a win over Weber State to keep them alive. The Wildcats, on the other hand, had other thoughts in mind. Treshawn Garrett had a pair of touchdowns from Stefan Cantwell to get the Wildcats going. In all Cantwell had three touchdown passes and 230 yards to lead the Wildcats. Post-game, it was announced that Eastern Washington quarterback Gage Gabrud will miss next week’s game due to a violation of team rules. Weber State gets a win to remain at the top of the Big Sky standings. Weber State will head to Portland to take on Portland State. Eastern Washington will make the trip to Grand Forks to take on North Dakota.

UC-Davis is looking to turn in one of their best seasons since joining the Big Sky and looked to keep that going with a game at Idaho State. The Bengals, also having a good year by Bengal standards needed to slow down the Aggie offense to have any chance in this one. That chance quickly disappeared when Jake Maier got the ball in his hands and led three scoring drives in the first quarter, the Aggies quickly up 21-0. The Bengals would get on the board early in the second quarter, however, that didn’t really matter because UC-Davis didn’t look back. Maier piled up 358 yards and three scores, while Justin Williams had two rushing scores for the Aggies. UC-Davis will host Southern Utah, while Idaho State will have a bye.

Southern Utah kept making their case for the Big Sky’s autobid later this month by dismantling North Dakota in Cedar City this weekend. Patrick Tyler had a nice game for the Thunderbirds, throwing for 310 yards and two scores. Jay Green had 62 yards and three scores on the ground. North Dakota never made this game interesting. John Santiago turned in a 115 yard effort for the Fighting Hawks, with a score but wasn’t enough to help the Hawks effort. Southern Utah will travel to UC-Davis to take on the potent Aggies offense, while North Dakota will host Eastern Washington.

Sacramento State seems to have found their scoring groove. This week they got to put their offense to the test against Northern Colorado. The Bears have been reeling for a lot of the season, but even moreso since starting quarterback Jacob Knipp got injured. Hornet quarterback Roman Ale had a pair of touchdown passes. However, the Hornets rode a 333 yard rushing effort from their trio of backs to put their foot down on the Bears. Elijah Dotson had 124 yards and two scores to lead all rushers. The Hornets were also aided by three Northern Colorado turnovers. Sacramento State will head to Cal Poly to take on the Mustangs, while Northern Colorado will be at Montana.

Montana was smarting after a loss at Weber State last week, and this week didn’t get any easier as they took on the Big Sky’s sole unbeaten team in conference play, Northern Arizona. The Lumberjacks had a rough start to the game as starting quarterback Case Cookus was ejected early in the first quarter for a targeting call on a play he was blocking for a receiver. From there Stone Smartt came in and did his best with what he was given. He was given a defense anxious to hit him early and often, recording seven sacks. On the other hand, Montana starting quarterback Gresch Jensen was ruled out with a concussion. This led to Montana starting fourth string quarterback Makena Simis. Simis rushed for 101 yards, and with the help of a special teams touchdown from Jerry Louis-McGee Montana defeated Northern Arizona. The Griz will host Northern Colorado, while the Lumberjacks will host Montana State.

In the final game of the week, and the Big Sky Pillow Fight of the Week, Portland State took their trip down the coast and took on Cal Poly. In a game that didn’t feature a whole lot of defense both teams got to showcase their offenses. Davis Alexander recorded 409 passing yards with a touchdown and interception. Cal Poly rushed for 400 yards and five touchdowns to return the favor. Running back Jared Mohamed had 194 yards and two scores for the Mustangs. The teams combined for 50 first downs, however! Portland State will host Weber State, Cal Poly will host Sacramento State.

Scores

Northern Arizona 15
Montana 17

Kennesaw State 16
Montana State 14

Weber State 28
Eastern Washington 20

UC Davis 56
Idaho State 17

North Dakota 21
Southern Utah 47

Northern Colorado 21
Sacramento State 50

Portland State 28
Cal Poly 35

Big Sky Player of the Week

This week’s Big Sky Player of the Week is Weber State quarterback Stefan Cantwell. Cantwell was 21/31 for 230 yards and three touchdowns as the Wildcats defeated Eastern Washington in Cheney this weekend. Cantwell also added 66 yards rushing on 12 carries.

Big Sky MVP Candidates

Gage Gabrud, QB, Eastern Washington – 22/42 for 239 yards, 1 TD 1 INT
Elijah Marks, WR, Northern Arizona – 3 receptions, 16 yards
Keelan Doss, WR, UC-Davis – 11 receptions, 112 yards
Gresch Jensen, QB, Montana – No stats recorded
Tanner Gueller, QB, Idaho State – 13/21 for 183 yards

Big Sky Power Rankings

1. Southern Utah
2. Weber State
3. Montana
4. Eastern Washington
5. Northern Arizona
6. UC-Davis
7. Sacramento State
8. Montana State
9. Idaho State
10. Northern Colorado
11. North Dakota
12. Cal Poly
13. Portland State

Final Thoughts and Hot Takes

Interesting to see a quarterback get tossed for targeting.. might never see it again, but it sure was fun to see in person.

Kennesaw State runs a pretty good triple option. Not a bad team for a third year program from Georgia playing in the snow and cold in Bozeman.

We’ll see what Eastern Washington is made of this weekend. They have a gimme game against North Dakota, however, they’ll be without two players who were involved with police in Cheney on Saturday night. Gage Gabrud will not be playing and his backup will be there in relief. We’ll see how that goes.

Looking at the playoffs there are still five teams from the Big Sky looking for a spot. Southern Utah, Weber State, Montana, Northern Arizona, and Eastern Washington should all have a shot, however, only three or maybe four are getting in. Unless there are upsets this weekend, there’s no reason to think that anything will be really decided this weekend.

Congrats to Cal Poly on their win in the pillow fight against Portland State. True incompetence can’t always be measured easily, however in Portland, it may be measured by not winning any games.

My picks this week are Montana, Eastern Washington, Weber State, UC-Davis, Northern Arizona, and Sacramento State.

Big Sky Round Up Week 9

If you look at the playoff scenario for the Big Sky Conference at this point in the season you can see there’s a clear mess at the top. The auto-bid right now appears to belong to Northern Arizona with a perfect conference record. Right behind them with one conference loss is Southern Utah, Weber State, and Eastern Washington. Also in the playoff hunt are Montana, Montana State, with a very outside shot to Sacramento State.

Right now there are four ranked Big Sky team, Eastern Washington, Northern Arizona, Southern Utah, and Weber State. Montana fell out of the rankings with their loss at Weber State this past weekend. With a 24 team playoff field typically at least three Big Sky teams have gotten in, with four a possibility. With the teams above having a possibility of playoffs, which ones make it? The next two weeks should clear up a lot of questions.

Getting things started in the Big Sky this week was Montana taking a 54 minute flight from Missoula to Ogden to take on Weber State. Weber State jumped out to a commanding 34-6 lead at the half thanks to several Montana turnovers and miscues. The Wildcats jumped on those early and capitalized. Montana was without starting defensive back Justin Strong, and lost two defensive starters in the first quarter to targeting penalties. Weber capitalized with four straight touchdowns. Montana temporarily stopped the bleeding with a Gresch Jensen touchdown run before the half. Montana fought back in the second half, getting within 14, however a Jensen interception returned for a touchdown by Jordan Preator sealed the deal for the Wildcats. Montana will host Northern Arizona next week while Weber State will be on the road at Eastern Washington.

Southern Utah looked to continue their assault on the Big Sky Conference with a game in Greeley this weekend. The Thunderbirds have already taken down Weber State and Eastern Washington, and Northern Colorado was going to be their next victim. Southern Utah used a strong rushing attack from James Felila (126 yards) and a fine passing attack from Patrick Tyler to take down the Battlin’ Bears 27-14. UNCs Conor Regen, in relief of injured quarterback Jacob Knipp, threw for 392 yards and a score but couldn’t get the Bears into the game. Tyler started off the scoring on a quarterback keeper of 31 yards and the T-Birds never had to look back. Cameron Chambers iced the game with a 13 yard pass from Tyler to end it. Southern Utah will host North Dakota, while Northern Colorado will be at Sacramento State.

Idaho State was looking to keep their name near the top of the Big Sky standings in their trip to Bozeman this weekend. However, the Bobcats had other plans for the visiting Bengals. Bobcat quarterback Chris Murray turned in one of his finer passing efforts of his young career by throwing for 231 yards and two scores. He added 67 yards rushing and a score to aid his effort. The Bobcats owned the first quarter with a pair of touchdowns from Mitchell Herbert and Troy Anderson, but the Bengals weren’t done. Michael Dean and James Madison had touchdowns of their own to knot it at the half. Mac Bignell sealed the game for Montana State by intercepting Tanner Gueller and retuning it for an 18 yard touchdown. Montana Stae will host Kennesaw State while Idaho State will host UC-Davis.

In the Big Sky pillow fight of the week North Dakota made the trip across the Big Sky to take on Portland State. Portland State jumped out to a quick 14 point lead in the first quarter. After that North Dakota ripped off 34 straight points thanks to a combination of John Santiago and Reid Taubenheim. While up 34-14 Portland State attempted to come back, Davis Alexander punched in an 8 yard touchdown. However, North Dakota’s Brady Oliveira answered with his own touchdown to make sure that comeback was short lived. Carter Wilson iced the cake with a 53 yard fumble return touchdown. Portland State will be at Cal Poly in next week’s Big Sky Pillow Fight of the Week, while North Dakota will be at Southern Utah.

Sacramento State was looking to unseat the only team with an undefeated record in Big Sky Conference play, however they were going to have to play lights out for that to happen. Northern Arizona’s defense held the Hornets to 233 yards to stop Sacramento State in their flight pattern. The Jacks jumped out to a quick 17-0 lead thanks to a Case Cookus touchdown and a Wes Sutton interception return. The Hornets came right back with a Joseph Ajeigbe 71 yard touchdown run. Sacramento State made it interesting in the third quarter with Elijah Dotson touchdown catch from Roman Ale to get the score to 20-17. However, the Jacks had other plans getting a score from Joe Logan, then icing the game with a pick six from Kam’Ron Johnson to put it away. Sacramento State will look back on this one and be kicking themselves. Northern Arizona will be at Montana next week, Sacramento State will host Northern Colorado.

In the Big Sky night cap Cal Poly was trying to get into the win column for the first time this season, but to do so they had to beat their in-state rival UC-Davis. The Aggies jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead on three Jake Maier touchdown passes. Two of them to Wesley Preece, one to Aaron Moore. Cal Poly got one on the board with a score from Jared Mohamed. On their opening drive of the second quarter Cal Poly got another sore from Kyle Lewis, hauling in a 42 yard touchdown pass. Davis would answer right back with another Aaron Moore touchdown reception. Poly wasn’t done as they kept chipping away, getting touchdowns from Broc Mortensen and Jared Mohamed, however, that wasn’t enough to get by Davis. Davis was held scoreless in the second half. Cal Poly will host Portland State in the Big Sky Conference Pillow Fight of the Week, while Davis will travel to Idaho State.

Scores

Montana 27
Weber State 41

Southern Utah 27
Northern Colorado 14

Idaho State 14
Montana State 28

North Dakota 48
Portland State 21

Sacramento State 17
Northern Arizona 37

Cal Poly 28
UC Davis 31

Big Sky Player of the Week

This week’s Big Sky player of the week is Northern Arizona’s Case Cookus. Cookus was 35/57 for 407 yards and a touchdown in the Lumberjacks’ win over Sacramento State this past weekend.

Big Sky MVP Candidates

Gage Gabrud, QB, Eastern Washington – Idle
Elijah Marks, WR, Northern Arizona – No stats recorded
Tanner Gueller, QB, Idaho State – 17/28 for 193 yards, 1 TD 2 INT
Keelan Doss, WR, UC-Davis – 14 receptions, 145 yards
Gresch Jensen, QB, Montana – 21/42 for 347 yards, 3 TD 3 INT

Big Sky Power Rankings

1. Southern Utah
2. Eastern Washington
3. Weber State
4. Northern Arizona
5. Montana
6. Montana State
7. UC-Davis
8. Sacramento State
9. Idaho State
10. Northern Colorado
11. North Dakota
12. Portland State
13. Cal Poly

Final Thoughts and Hot Takes

The Pillow Fight of the Week is hilarious for the second week in a row. These teams at the bottom of the conference are so bad.

Speaking of bad, it’d be awesome if Big Sky commish Andrea Williams watched her referees and made some changes. All I’m saying on the topic.

The mess at the top of the Big Sky won’t be cleared up for at least a couple of weeks. By then we should see how many Big Sky teams are going to the playoffs. Naturally there will be some bubble teams but I see four BSC teams getting in. I see five teams playing for those four spots.

If Cal Poly doesn’t beat Portland State this weekend I don’t think they’re going to win a game this year. Far fall for the Mustangs.

Saw a game in Ogden last weekend. That was a difference experience. Utah has weird laws in bars, man.

Northern Arizona has played a pretty easy Big Sky schedule so far, their next three games aren’t going to be as nice to them. They’re rolling with a lot of momentum right now and anything can happen, but these next three weeks could make or break them.

Southern Utah, on the other hand, have only one test left. They will be hosting Northern Arizona to end the season. I’d say SUU is lock for the playoffs even if they trip up once in the last three weeks. Or even twice, for that matter.

My picks this week: Montana, Kennesaw State, Eastern Washington, UC-Davis, Southern Utah, Sacramento State, Cal Poly.

24 Hour Rule: Weber State

I went to Sea World with my family. Yesterday was maybe the 10th or so time I had been to Sea World in the last year. One of the advantages of living in San Diego is that you can frequent places like Sea World, and do so cheaply. So we went, while the Griz were playing Weber State.

I’ll clue you in on something. Sea World doesn’t change much from the first to the 100th time you visit. Same exhibits, same animals, rides and shows. I have watch Clyde and Semour the Sea Lion show at least a half dozen times this year, and it is the same stuff.

So why the discussion about Sea World? I had been clued into something about the Griz for a while now, nothing nefarious or anything, but what the Griz are.

What makes a person go back to the same place weekend after weekend, year after year? 

The players will change, so will the coaches, but the uniforms, the crowd, the experience rarely do. I had been going to Griz games pretty regularly since the late 80’s. I grew up with the Griz, went to college with the Griz and got into middle ages with the Griz.

On the literal eve of my 42nd birthday and watching twitter, egriz and maroonblood once again descend into utter chaos over the loss. Yes the Griz looked horrible in the first half, absolutely horrible. Wasn’t the first time it happened in recent years, or ever. I remember watching the Vandals run Dave Dickenson and the Griz out of the Kibbie dome in 1995. They gave up 49 points in the first half on that day.

I was on the escalator in the shark exhibit and watching the lemon shark lurk over the top of us. The shark only likely knew that exhibit. It just swam around and around. Was it happy? Did it swim to amuse the tourists? Did it somehow feel like it was letting us down by not zig-zagging or jetting in a menacing way towards an unknown object?

I don’t think my love for the shark exhibit would diminish if I knew the Lemon shark was going through the motions. That the Sea World attendant didn’t throw fish in the right way to get the most out of their charges for the day. We just don’t judge Sea World that way. We know it is entertainment, maybe we expect a little in return, that we enjoy ourselves. Yet there is no perfect scenario at enjoyment inside Sea World, it is up to you to determine how you want to experience it.

I don’t know if people enjoy Grizzly football anymore. Has the novelty worn off for some that all we see is those poor lemon sharks going through the motions? 

I’ll admit the product hasn’t been great inside Washington Grizzly for almost ten years now. Montana is no longer the banner program of FCS or even of its own conference. There are at least a dozen programs in FCS that claim to have a better pedigree over the past decade.

Is winning that all that matters? Is the enjoyment only rooted in how or who we defeat? Impatience is a human condition rooted in selfishness. That you demand a better product, even after you have been provided it, only to complain because it doesn’t fit your standards.

I won’t sit here and insult your intelligence, Stitt’s product over his three years in Missoula has been far from ideal. Yet, in comparison I just don’t know that his product was or is any worse than some of the stuff Read ran out pre-1995 or Dennehy ran out in 98-99. I just don’t know that it is.

If you walk into place expected to be disappointed, my guess is that you probably will. Oh they still have that damn Clyde in the sea otter show. How lame! Why can’t the dolphins do double twisting double somersaults? WTF?

For me, you can’t argue and you can’t debate unreasonable expectations. I have tried for almost ten years now and nothing seems to work. There are reasonable expectations and there are those who can’t unwind their own absurd expectations. I guess why spend money on something that is going to make you angry all the time.

I like Sea World in the same way that I enjoy Griz games. They are relaxing escapes from the drudgery of daily demands. If anyone tells me they’d rather grade 100 vocabulary assignments than watching a bunch of guys run around on a field for three hours or watch domesticated sharks swim around for the same, you are insane.

I get that people want the Griz to win, so do I. I just don’t see the merit in being a negative nancy either. I hope everyone has a great week. If I am not at work, I’ll be at Sea World watching the sharks swim in a circle.

 

 

 

Big Sky Round-Up Week 8

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.

Scores

Sacramento State 34
North Dakota 27

Montana State 27
Northern Colorado 24

Portland State 30
Idaho State 59

UC-Davis 31
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
4. Montana
5. Northern Arizona
6. Montana State
7. Sacramento State
8. Idaho State
9. UC-Davis
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.

Big Sky Round-Up Week 7

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.

Scores

North Dakota 17
Montana 41

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
3. Montana
4. Northern Arizona
5. Southern Utah
6. Montana State
7. Sacramento State
8. UC-Davis
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.