BIG SKY CONFERENCE PREVIEW: Portland State Vikings

Read More Portland State tunnel run in Providence Park/by Brooks Nuanez
Portland State tunnel run in Providence Park/by Brooks Nuanez

Jerry Glanville and Nigel Burton each came to the City of Roses accompanied by fanfare. Each failed to build upon the foundation left by Tim Walsh at Portland State.

During 14 seasons at Portland State, Walsh helped the Vikings transition from perennial Division II power into Big Sky contender. Between 1999 and 2006, PSU finished second in the league standings four times and in the top four every season but one. Continue reading “BIG SKY CONFERENCE PREVIEW: Portland State Vikings”

BIG SKY CONFERENCE PREVIEW: Northern Colorado Bears

Read More Northern Colorado All-America punt returner Ellis Onic returns a punt for a touchdown against Eastern Washington in 2015/ Photo by Rob Trubia, UNC Athletics
Northern Colorado All-America punt returner Ellis Onic returns a punt for a touchdown against Eastern Washington in 2015/ Photo by Rob Trubia, UNC Athletics

 A losing mentality permeated the entire Northern Colorado program when Earnest Collins Jr. took over for his alma mater in 2011.

Because of UNC’s proximity to the Denver metropolitan area, the Bears have long had individual talent. Collins’ first season at the helm in 2011, Northern Colorado posted an 0-11 record despite having a quarterback (Seth Lobato), a defensive back (Courtney Hall) and a defensive tackle (Lexington Smith) who got shots with NFL teams. If not for injuries and perceived character issues, Clarence Bumpas, a transfer from Kansas State who was one of the most menacing linebackers in the Big Sky, would’ve likely earned an NFL look as well.

Collins has coached All-Big Sky Conference players like Dominic Gunn, Ellis Onic, Hakeem Deggs, Patrick Walker and Jace Davis. Prior to its Division I transition in 2004 and its inclusion in the Big Sky in 2006, the program built a reputation as a Division II powerhouse. Between Collins’ playing career beginning in 1991 and UNC’s first transition year in 2003, the Bears qualified for the D-II playoffs seven times, advancing to the Final Four three times and winning back-to-back national championships in 1996 and 1997. Continue reading “BIG SKY CONFERENCE PREVIEW: Northern Colorado Bears”

FIRST LOOK: Bobcats open Choate era against Vandals in Moscow

Read More The University of Idaho football team/by UI Athletics
The University of Idaho football team/by UI Athletics

The Vandals are looking to reach their first bowl game this decade as its FBS clock continues to tick. The Bobcats are looking to rectify their first losing season in 14 years as a new era begins.

On Thursday, Idaho hosts Montana State in a matchup of old Big Sky Conference rivals who have not played since 2000. The two schools are charter members of the Big Sky, founded in 1963, but the Vandals jumped to the FBS in 1996 with middling results. Idaho has played in just two Humanitarian Bowls since making the jump, most recently in 2009, the last time UI had a winning record.

September 1 in the Kibbie Dome will mark the beginning of seasons filled with renewed optimism for both programs. Idaho won just one game in each of Paul Petrino’s first two seasons but posted four wins last season. If not for an overtime loss to New Mexico State and a one-score loss to South Alabama the next week, Idaho might’ve gone bowling. Continue reading “FIRST LOOK: Bobcats open Choate era against Vandals in Moscow”

Bobcat cornerbacks will be tested right away at Idaho

Read More Montana State senior cornerback John Walker (22) leads a young group of tested defensive backs into a battle ridden season/by Brooks Nuanez
Montana State senior cornerback John Walker (22) leads a young group of tested defensive backs into a battle ridden season/by Brooks Nuanez

From incumbents to graduate transfers to athletes playing the position for the first time, the praise for Gerald Alexander’s coaching ability was unwavering during Montana State’s recently completed fall camp.

Alexander, a former All-America Boise State safety who spent five seasons in the NFL, has been Montana State’s secondary coach for all of nine months. But his detail-oriented, direct coaching style has resonated with Montana State’s secondary, particularly among a collection of cornerbacks who have spent the last three weeks in a fierce competition for starting spots on the back end of the Bobcat defense. Continue reading “Bobcat cornerbacks will be tested right away at Idaho”

Montana State solidifies first post-fall camp depth chart

Read More Montana State MSU football ball logo

Montana State released its first depth chart following its first fall camp under first-year head coach Jeff Choate as the team begins preparation for Idaho. Montana State opens it season on September 1 in Moscow. Continue reading “Montana State solidifies first post-fall camp depth chart”

BIG SKY PREVIEW: Sacramento State Hornets

Read More Former Sac State linebacker Darnell Sankey (44) and current linebacker Tyler Meteer record a sack against Washington in 2015/by Sac State Athletics
Former Sac State linebacker Darnell Sankey (44) and current linebacker Tyler Meteer record a sack against Washington in 2015/by Sac State Athletics

Jody Sears does not mince words. Especially not when talking about his team’s young, unproven defense.

In Sears’ second season as a head coach, Sacramento State ranked third in the Big Sky Conference in rushing defense, allowing 167 rushing yards per game thanks to a scheme predicated on freeing up tackling machine Darnell Sankey. The two-time All-Big Sky selection led the league with 153 tackles as Sac State used line games and other schematic formulas up front to provide lanes for Sankey to eat up ball carriers.

But Sankey is now trying to make the active roster for the Denver Broncos.

The Hornets employed an otherwise youthful defense around Sankey, starting linebacker Manoah Pearson, safety Manny Scott-Anderson and nickel back Elijah Wallace as true freshmen. Defensive tackle Wyatt Ming started the first eight games of the season as a redshirt freshman and classmate George Obinna started the final four. Defensive end Ben Sorensen, linebacker Tyler Meteer, cornerback Ernest Jenkins and safety Austin Clark all started at least half of Sac State’s games as sophomores.

While the Hornets stopped the run at a decent rate, the undeveloped secondary gave up nearly 290 passing yards per outing. Opponents threw for 25 touchdowns against Sac, the second-highest total in the league.

The season resulted in a 2-9 record a year after Sacramento State went 7-5 in Sears’ first season. The assumption is that playing so many young players, despite the loss of Sankey, means the future is bright for the Hornets’ defense. Sears is not ready to anoint his team just yet. Continue reading “BIG SKY PREVIEW: Sacramento State Hornets”

Montana State caps fall camp, transitions into Idaho preparation

Read More MSU running backs Chad Newell (17) and converted linebacker BJ Ojo (51) high five duringMSU's last fall camp scrimmage/by Brooks Nuanez
MSU running backs Chad Newell (17) and converted linebacker BJ Ojo (51) high five duringMSU's last fall camp scrimmage/by Brooks Nuanez

All 95 Bobcats who participated in Jeff Choate’s first fall camp at Montana State would tell you the same thing: the bar, at least in terms of toughness and physicality, has been raised.

On Wednesday, the Bobcats officially wrapped up its 22-practice, 18-day fall camp with MSU’s annual media day. Over the last three weeks, Choate and his staff went to work installing new schemes on both sides of the ball, all the while harping on fundamentals and trying to cultivate an edgy attitude. Continue reading “Montana State caps fall camp, transitions into Idaho preparation”

Barth, Montana State TEs eager to embrace new role

Read More Montana State tight end Austin Barth (15) leads a group eager to find a role under new coach Jeff Choate/by Brooks Nuanez
Montana State tight end Austin Barth (15) leads a group eager to find a role under new coach Jeff Choate/by Brooks Nuanez

Austin Barth has spent most of his career with his hands on his knees. This year, the Montana State senior tight end has his hand almost exclusively in the dirt.

The towering Columbia Falls product came to Montana State as a highly touted quarterback who doubled as an all-state linebacker in high school. During his redshirt year in 2012, the 6-foot-6 former all-state basketball player simulated the tallest member of MSU’s weekly opponent on the scout team, first prompting the idea of moving him to tight end. By his redshirt sophomore year, he was in the rotation behind first-team All-Big Sky Conference tight end Tiai Salanoa. Last year, Barth again backed up the best tight end in the Big Sky. Beau Sandland made the most of his only season at MSU, scoring nine touchdowns en route to getting selected by the Carolina Panthers in last spring’s NFL Draft. Continue reading “Barth, Montana State TEs eager to embrace new role”

BIG SKY CONFERENCE PREVIEW: UC Davis Aggies

Read More by Brooks Nuanez
by Brooks Nuanez

The Aggies of UC Davis navigated a murder’s row to open their 2015 football season, playing a pair of FBS schools before facing three of the Big Sky Conference’s best to begin league play.

Despite staying within two scores of Nevada, trailing by just a field goal with six minutes to play against South Dakota, rallying to within a touchdown at North Dakota and trailing by just eight points to perennial Big Sky power Montana, Davis found themselves staring an six-game losing streak square in the face. Continue reading “BIG SKY CONFERENCE PREVIEW: UC Davis Aggies”

ROCKING R BAR PRESENTS – Big Sky Conference Kickoff Coaches: UC Davis head coach Ron Gould & linebacker Russell Reeder

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This video series is sponsored by the Rocking R Bar in Bozeman, MT & features coaches interviews from the Big Sky Conference Kickoff in Park City, Utah.

Part 11 features UC Davis head coach Ron Gould & linebacker Russell Reeder. This video was filmed and produced on July 19, 2016.

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