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.
Northern Arizona 15
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
4. Eastern Washington
5. Northern Arizona
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.