Around the Big Sky: Football Notes

By JON KASPER, Assistant Commissioner/Big Sky Conference

This Week’s Sky Highlights

The first weekend of October features five conference games, as well as the Big Sky’s first matchup against an Ivy League opponent…No. 8 Montana State, which welcomed back All-American QB DeNarius McGhee last week, plays host to No. 15 Northern Arizona, fresh off a convincing win over Montana. NAU brings a three-game winning streak to Bozeman…No. 6 Eastern Washington opens conference play at home against Weber State…No. 10 Montana looks to rebound against Portland State in a game that will be televised live on ROOT SPORTS. Both enter 0-1 in conference play. PSU is seeking its first win in Missoula as a Big Sky member…Sacramento State looks to move to 2-0 in conference as it plays host to Northern Colorado…Idaho State returns home gunning for its third win this season at Holt Arena. North Dakota treks to Pocatello looking to snap a three-game losing streak…Southern Utah, which is 4-1 for the first time since 1997, hopes to maintain momentum at home against UC Davis. The Aggies are 1-0 in conference play…No. 18 Cal Poly steps outside of conference, playing host to Yale of the Ivy League. The Bulldogs are 2-0, while Cal Poly is coming off a win over Portland State.


Big Sky Schedule week of 9/30

Around the Big Sky

MCGHEE RETURNS TO BOBCATS: Montana State senior All-American QB made an early return to the Montana State lineup on Saturday. McGhee sustained a shoulder injury on the final play of a 31-30 loss to SMU on Sept. 7, and not initially expected to return until October. McGhee completed 13-of-18 passes for 194 yards and guided the Bobcats to five scoring drives that all ended Cody Kirk rushing touchdowns. McGhee moved to 22-3 as a starter in Big Sky games and won his 32nd game as a starter overall. Montana State plays host to Northern Arizona on Saturday. McGhee is in position to earn his 33rd win as a starter, which would tie him with UM’s Dave Dickenson for second all-time in Big Sky history. Eric Beavers won 40 games as Nevada’s starter from 1983-86.

NAU DEFENSE IS OFFENSIVE: Northern Arizona’s defense scored two more touchdowns in a 34-16 victory over Montana, giving the unit five for the season. Ryan Reardon picked up a fumble and returned it 98 yards for a touchdown late in the first half to take a 21-3 lead. Marcus Alford returned a fumble 22 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter to give the Lumberjacks a 28-3 lead. Northern Arizona’s first three defensive touchdowns were on interception returns for touchdowns. Five different players have scored the touchdowns. Northern Arizona’s offense has six touchdowns through the first four games.

BAUMAN MOVES UP RUSHING LIST: Northern Arizona’s Zack Bauman rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the Lumberjacks’ 34-16 victory. Bauman now has 4,072 career rushing yards, which ranks eighth in league history. On Saturday, Bauman moved past Montana’s Lex Hilliard and Chase Reynolds on the Big Sky’s all-time rushing list. Bauman needs 101 yards to move into a tie for seventh place with Eastern Washington’s Jesse Chatman. Bauman finished his career against Montana with 646 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Bauman ranks third among FCS active players in career rushing, behind only Sam Houston State’s Tim Flanders and Indiana State’s Shakir Bell. Bauman has 20 career 100-yard rushing games.


PSU-UMON ROOT SPORTS: ROOT SPORTS will televise Saturday’s Big Sky Conference game featuring Portland State battling Montana from Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula. Coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. on ROOT SPORTS. The game will be televised on ROOT SPORTS in the Northwest Region, ROOT SPORTS in the Rocky Mountain Region, as well as on DIRECTV’s Audience Network Channel 101. Subscribers of DIRECTV will be able to view the game on tablets and smartphones through the DIRECTV’s “Everywhere,’’ App. Authentication is required. Tom Glasgow, Jason Stiles and Brad Adam will call the game. Both teams played on ROOT SPORTS last week. Portland State fell at home to Cal Poly. Montana lost on the road to Northern Arizona.

THUNDERBIRDS MAKING NOISE: Southern Utah beat Northern Colorado 27-21 on Saturday to improve to 4-1. The Thunderbirds are 4-1 for the first time since 1997. Southern Utah has started just 5-1 twice since moving to four-year status in 1963. The Thunderbirds started 5-1 in 1978 and in 1986, both under coach Jack Bishop. SUU’s only loss came to Washington State of the Pac-12. The Thunderbirds opened the season with a win over FBS South Alabama, which lost by seven last week at Tennessee.

CARTER TIED FOR NATIONAL LEAD: Sacramento State junior wide receiver DeAndre Carter caught three TD passes in the Hornets’ 31-3 win over Weber State. Carter now has nine TD catches this season, tied for the national lead. All nine of Carter’s TD catches have come in the last three games, including five in a win over Western Oregon. Carter’s nine TD grabs ties him with Eastern Illinois’ Erik Lora for the national lead.

Big Sky Conference LogoFIRST WIN FOR GOULD: UC Davis head coach Ron Gould picked up his first coaching victory on Saturday as his Aggies beat Idaho State 30-13. Junior Gabe Manzanares rushed for 208 yards on 34 carries with a touchdown to lead the Aggies. The 208 yards tied for the 10th most in school history, and marked the first time an Aggie rushed for 200 yards in a game since 2002.

IN THE RANKINGS: Five Big Sky teams are once again ranked in both major FCS Top 25 Polls. In the Coaches’ Poll, Montana State is seventh, Eastern Washington is eighth, Montana is 12th, Northern Arizona is 17th, and Cal Poly is 19th. In the Sports Network Poll, Eastern Washington is sixth, Montana State is eighth, and Montana is 10th. NAU is 15th, while Cal Poly is 18th. Southern Utah (4-1) was fourth among teams receiving votes, putting the Thunderbirds 29th. North Dakota State is No. 1 in both polls. Towson is No. 2 in the Coaches’ Poll. Sam Houston State is second in the Sports Network Poll. Five Big Sky teams have been ranked each week in both polls so far this year.

SKY IN THE SAGARIN: Six Big Sky teams are ranked in the top 20 FCS teams of this week’s Jeff Sagarin power rankings. Eastern Washington is fifth, followed by Montana (10th), Montana State (12th), Northern Arizona (16th), Cal Poly (19th), and Portland State (20th). Eastern Washington is ranked 84th overall. North Dakota State is the top FCS team. The Bison are ranked 29th overall. The Big Sky is ranked fourth this week among FCS conferences, behind the Missouri Valley, Colonial and Southland.

DALY DOUBLE: Montana State senior defensive end Brad Daly is off to a blazing start for the Bobcat defense. Daly leads the nation in sacks per game and is second in the nation in tackles for loss. Daly has recorded nine solo sacks, and has 12 solo tackles for loss. Daly is expected to be added to the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List later this week. Daly’s former teammate Caleb Schreibeis won the Buchanan last season.

BIG SKY’S TOP 50: The Big Sky Conference began unveiling its list of “50 Greatest” Athletes last week to commemorate the league’s 50th anniversary. Three football players were among the first six athletes released. Former Nevada RB Charvez Foger was 50th. Former EWU QB Matt Nichols was 47th. Former Montana defensive back Tim Hauck was 46th.

EXTRA POINTS: Cal Poly beat Portland State 38-34 last Thursday following a bye week. Tim Walsh is 5-0 following a bye at Cal Poly….Cal Poly has been outscored 92-34 in the first half, but outscored opponents 84-33 in the second half…A sell-out crowd of 12,640 watched NAU’s win over UM at the Skydome. It was the first capacity crowd for NAU since 1994…Montana is 0-1 in league for the third time in four years…SUU’s Tyree Mills, who was playing his first game of the season, had two interceptions in the Thunderbirds’ win over Northern Colorado. He was the first SUU player to have two interceptions in a game since 2003….PSU’s Victor Dean caught three TD passes in a loss to Cal Poly. It marked the first time a Viking had three TD catches in a game since Mario D’Ambrosio did it against EWU in 2008…Boise State transfer Deon’tae Florence had two interceptions for Weber State in the loss to Sacramento State…EWU’s Vernon Adams threw for 335 yards and three touchdowns in the Eagles’ loss to Sam Houston State…MSU’s Cody Kirk needs seven rushing yards to reach 3,000 for his career…Northern Colorado RB Tromaine Dennis had a career-high 94 receiving yards in a loss to Southern Utah.