The top of the Big Sky race didn’t change a considerable amount after this weekend’s action, but Montana might have found themselves in a hole they may not be able to dig out of. The Griz went on the road to face a surging Northern Arizona squad and came away with an eleven point loss to the Lumberjacks. Northern Arizona relied on throwing the ball downfield much of the game to beat the Griz secondary to setup their scores. Northern Arizona was surprisingly dominant on both sides of the line of scrimmage and kept the Griz offense off balance most of the game. The Lumberjacks are now the winners of three in a row and heading into a bye week. It’s not improbable they could win out and force the playoff committee into some decisions.
Big Sky co-leader North Dakota got more than they bargained for on Saturday when they took on the mostly hapless Idaho State. The Bengals have been mostly non-competitive in their losses this year but somehow managed to stay close with the Fighting Hawks. The game was tied at halftime with North Dakota finally pulling ahead for good in the third quarter. North Dakota got a conference win on the road, and it was ugly, but it happened.
Southern Utah appeared to have their contest with Weber State wrapped up and was going to hand Weber their first conference loss. Someone forgot to mention to the Wildcats that the game was over. Up 22 points in the 4th quarter Southern Utah inexplicably gave up 23 unanswered points and allowed Weber to come back and win 37-36. Jadrian Clark threw a touchdown pass to Darryl Denby with :31 left on the clock to seal the victory for the Wildcats. Next weekend sets up a big matchup between Weber State and North Dakota in Grand Forks.
There is now a log jam at the top of the Big Sky standings with North Dakota, Eastern Washington, and Weber State all tied at the top. One of those teams will drop from the rank of unbeaten next weekend. One game behind is Cal Poly, two games behind is Montana, Northern Arizona, and Northern Colorado. Could chaos happen and there be six teams eligible for the top of the Big Sky heading into the final two weeks? Unlikely, but it’s the Big Sky, everything is possible.
Eastern Washington 41
Montana State 17
Sacramento State 19
Northern Colorado 27
North Dakota 28
Idaho State 21
Northern Arizona 45
Weber State 37
Southern Utah 36
Cal Poly 21
Big Sky Player of the Week
Jadrian Clark, QB, Weber State. Clark was 31/52 for 436 yards, four touchdowns and one interception, plus 30 rushing yards in a comeback victory over Southern Utah.
Big Sky MVP Candidates
Gage Gabrud, QB, Eastern Washington. 37/51, 520 yards, 4 touchdowns.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington. 13 receptions, 154 yards, 1 touchdown.
Emmanuel Butler, WR, Northern Arizona. 4 receptions, 75 yards.
Joe Protheroe, RB, Cal Poly. 27 carries, 141 yards, 1 touchdown.
Caleb Kidder, LB, Montana. 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss.
Big Sky Power Rankings
1. Eastern Washington
2. North Dakota
3. Cal Poly
5. Weber State
6. Northern Arizona
7. Northern Colorado
8. Southern Utah
9. Portland State
10. Idaho State
12. Sacramento State
13. Montana State
Looking Ahead to Week 9
Weber State will head to North Dakota in a battle of Big Sky unbeatens. That should figure to be an important game in the Big Sky race. Another important game in the Big Sky race is Montana going to Eastern Washington. Northern Colorado will go north to take on Portland State. Southern Utah will also head north to take on Idaho State in Pocatello. To cap the week Cal Poly will go north to take on Sacramento State.
Final Thoughts and Hot Takes
– I can most definitely say that Montana State, Sacramento State, UC-Davis, and Idaho State will not be invited to participate in the playoffs. #analysis
– The bloodbath in Bozeman wasn’t quite what I thought was going to happen. It was bad, but the scoreboard operators weren’t as busy as I thought they would be after watching the first quarter.
– Bruce Barnum did not get beat in the state of Utah this weekend.
– Montana caught NAU at the absolute worst possible team. Their offense is finding their groove behind Blake Kemp and are playing like the team that was picked to win the Big Sky. If only Jerome Sauers hadn’t started his October swoon in September this year.
– I saw a lot of people on the internet message boards this weekend bemoaning the Griz losing to a backup quarterback and the whole Griz coaching staff should be fired. Let’s get one thing straight.. Blake Kemp would start for all but about four or five Big Sky teams, and one of those teams is only because Kemp probably isn’t built to run Cal Poly’s triple option. Kemp was a good starter at East Carolina, and has played very well for the Jacks this year. He’s not your average schlumpy backup that’s drug in off the street.
– Being a schlumpy backup sounds like a pretty good gig if you can get it though.
– Southern Utah.. bros. You can’t be giving up 23 unanswered in the final quarter. That game was yours. I have no idea what happened down there, but man…
– This might be obvious to most, but Cooper Kupp does silly things when the football gets near him. Probably made a good decision to return to EWU for his senior year. His stock is still rising.
– The poor Griz secondary better figure itself out or they could be in for a long day against Eastern Washington and Cooper Kupp/Shaq Hill.