Big Sky Conference

BIG SKY ROUNDUP: EWU falls again, North Dakota posts first win

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By COLTER NUANEZ & SKYLINE SPORTS NEWS SERVICES

Eastern Washington continued to find itself offensively with Beau Baldwin long gone while Weber State gave Baldwin’s new team, the Cal Golden Bears, a run for their money in Berkeley. Northern Arizona and Cal Poly remained winless early in the season while North Dakota, UC Davis, Sacramento State and Southern Utah got back on track.

Idaho State felt the other side of the coin after winning Rob Phenicie’s opener, Montana faced a force of nature in Seattle, Montana State fought hard before missing a golden opportunity and Northern Colorado felt the impact of Hurricane Irma despite residing in the Rocky Mountains.

The second week of Big Sky Conference football action brought 11 contests but just four wins for league members. No. 7 Washington whipped Montana 63-7 while Montana State nearly upset South Dakota State before mistakes cost the Bobcats in a 31-27 defeat.

Northern Colorado’s SEC showdown in the Swamp against Florida was cancelled due to one of the biggest, most dangerous hurricanes in modern history.

No. 2 North Dakota State 40, No. 7 Eastern Washington 13 — After a close first half, second-ranked North Dakota State rolled through the reigning Big Sky champions.

Eastern Washington suffered its second straight defeat a week after falling at Texas Tech 56-10 last week. In a rematch of last season’s overtime affair between two 2016 semifinalists in the FCS playoffs, NDSU used a 35-3 scoring run and 375 rushing yards to roll past the Eagles at sold out Roos Field in Cheney.

Eastern Washington head coach Aaron Best/by Brooks Nuanez

Eastern Washington head coach Aaron Best/by Brooks Nuanez

“North Dakota State is fabulous football team,” Eastern first-year head coach Aaron Best said. “They are very well-coached on both sides of the ball, and their special teams played outstanding. Our fans deserve better and that’s our mission. We’ll get back on the saddle again and begin our work for Fordham tomorrow.”

EWU led in the second quarter 10-9, but the Bison scored the final 10 points of the half to lead 19-10 at intermission. An Eastern field goal cut the advantage to 19-13, but NDSU scored on three-straight possessions to take a 40-13 advantage early in the fourth quarter.

Eastern scored on an eight-play, 75-yard drive in the first quarter, highlighted by a 50-yard passing connection from junior Gage Gubrud to junior Terence Grady. Gubrud scored on a 2-yard rush. Senior Roldan Alcobendas added field goals of 38 and 22 yards.

“All in all, our players fight and they will continue to fight – they are Eastern Washington Eagles,” Best said. “We’ll look at the film closely and get better from it because there is no choice.”

The Bison are now 2-0 and EWU is 0-2. While NDSU opened its season with 72-7 home romp past Mississippi Valley State, Eastern lost 56-10 against Texas Tech of the Big 12 Conference on Sept. 2 to mark the head coaching debut of Best.

The Bison outgained MVSU 683-58 in total offense, including a massive 498 to minus-31 advantage in rushing and 85-89 in passing. Meanwhile, Eastern faced the top offense in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision and were out-gained 626-301 in total offense and 449-220 through the air.

The showdown with the five-time NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Champions was the second game of a home-and-home series against the Bison. Eastern, which won the national title in 2010 prior to NDSU’s incredible run of five-straight, lost 50-44 in overtime in Fargo last season.

Eastern knocked off NDSU 38-31 in overtime in the only previous meeting with the Bison on Dec. 11, 2010, in the FCS Playoffs in Cheney. Both teams advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs last season, but losses enabled current No. 1 ranked James Madison to become the first team other than EWU or NDSU to win the national title since 2009.

EWu quarterback Gage Gubrud (8)/ by Jason Bacaj

EWu quarterback Gage Gubrud (8)/ by Jason Bacaj

Gubrud, the runner-up for the Walter Payton Award last season, finished 10-of-30 for 134 yards and was intercepted twice. NDSU out-gained EWU 532 to 204, including 436 to 73 after the first quarter.

“We have to make sure our competitive juices continue to flow. We talked about it last week, but the hardest thing in sports is losing. One team wins every week and one team loses, and doing it twice in a row is difficult. We have to find out who we do have for next week’s game and ride those guys.”

No. 11 North Dakota 34, Missouri State 0 — In Bubba Schweigert’s third game as head coach at North Dakota back in 2014, UND was on the receiving end of a 38-0 beat down by Missouri State. Schweigert and the Fighting Hawks exacted a decisive measure of revenge on Saturday afternoon, pounding the Bears in the 52nd annual Potato Bowl USA game in front of 12,047, the first crowd of more than 12,000 at the Alerus Center since 2009.

UND (1-1) broke things open with a 21-point outburst in the second quarter as sophomore wide receiver Noah Wanzek hauled in a pair of touchdown catches and junior John Santiago added a rushing score. That turned a 3-0 game into a 24-point lead for the home team, sending the Fighting Hawks to their fourth straight Potato Bowl win and their first Potato Bowl shutout since 2004.

“I won’t say we expected a shutout, but that’s the goal every time we go out there,” Schweigert said. “It was a good team win. We still have some things to clean up, but anytime you can run the ball the way we did and stop the run like we did, you’re going to give yourself a chance for a positive result and that’s we got today.”

The shutout was also the first of the Schweigert’s UND era and first overall for the program since the 2012 season opener, a 66-0 blanking of South Dakota Mines.

The Fighting Hawks piled up 526 yards of total offense, keyed by Wanzek’s career-high 117 yards on seven catches. Senior quarterback Keaton Studsrud was his typical efficient self, completing 22 of 31 passes for 273 yards and those two scoring strikes to Wanzek.

Sophomore Noah Wanzek set career-highs with seven receptions for 117 yards and two scores in the Potato Bowl-win over Missouri State/ by Russ Hons

Sophomore Noah Wanzek set career-highs with seven receptions for 117 yards and two scores in the Potato Bowl-win over Missouri State/ by Russ Hons

Junior Brady Oliveira paced the ground game with 16 carries for 164 yards, while Santiago and sophomore James Johannesson both added rushing scores in the victory. Johannesson’s 19-yard rumble where he dragged several Bear defenders into the end zone with him, capped the scoring for the Fighting Hawks and served as the Minnesota transfer’s first TD at UND.

Defensively, UND blanked a Missouri State team that totaled 43 points last week at FBS-foe Missouri. The unit also forced three turnovers, including a key stop in the third quarter where the Bears had penetrated all the way down to the UND eight-yard line. Jason Randall picked up seven yards and was closing in on the goalline when he was stripped by Charles Flowers and the loose ball was recovered by linebacker Tanner Palmborg.

Flowers and classmate Cole Reyes shared the team-lead with seven tackles as the defense yielded only 211 total yards. UND dominated the time of possession (36:11 to 23:49) and ran 28 more offensive plays than the Bears in the contest (76 to 48).

UND returns to action next Saturday at South Dakota in a game scheduled for a 2 p.m. kickoff from Vermillion.

Cal 33, No. 20 Weber State 20 — Jay Hill knows how to defend against Beau Baldwin-coached offenses.

Weber State’s head coach executed a few of the best defensive game plans Baldwin saw during Baldwin’s run as EWU’s head coach. Hill designed a defense that held Eastern to 14 points in 2015.

That Hill-led Wildcat defense again stifled a Baldwin offense for most of the afternoon in Berkeley. Weber State totaled 571 yards of total offense and held the Pac-12 Bears to 431 yards. WSU converted 24 first downs to Cal’s 19.

Weber State quarterback Stefan Cantwell scores against Cal/ WSU athletics

Weber State quarterback Stefan Cantwell scores against Cal/ WSU athletics

Weber State quarterback Stefan Catwell piled up 492yyards of total offense, including throwing for a career-high 431 yards and a touchdown. He rushed 20 times for 61 yards and another TD. His total yardage total served as the seventh-most in Weber history.

But three fumbles proved costly for Hill’s Wildcats.

“The turnover margin really hurt us and hurt our momentum,” Hill said. “I thought the play calling was very good and we moved the ball well. We have a tough team that really fought today.

“There are no moral victories and we very well could have pulled this one out but Cal made the plays when they needed to. We left a lot on the field and had chances to win, we didn’t make the plays down the stretch.”

The Wildcats held a 20-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter before the Bears scored 10-straight points. Weber State couldn’t convert on a fourth down attempt with less than three minutes to play, then Cal added a 73-yard rushing touchdown to seal the win.

No. 22 Northern Iowa 45, Cal Poly 38 — Cal Poly rallied from a 14-point deficit with two touchdowns in the final 125 seconds of regulation to force overtime, but two illegal procedure penalties stymied the Mustangs on their drive as Northern Iowa posted a 45-38 victory Saturday afternoon in the UNI-Dome.

Eli Dunne threw four touchdown passes and Northern Iowa scooped up two Cal Poly fumbles and returned one of them for another score as the Panthers won their home opener.

Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh/ by Brooks Nuanez

Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh/ by Brooks Nuanez

Trailing 28-21 at the half, Cal Poly pulled to within four points on a 27-yard Casey Sublette field goal midway through the third quarter, but Northern Iowa built the lead back up to 14 points with a touchdown and field goal.

Khaleel Jenkins scored from a yard out with 2:05 to play to trim Northern Iowa’s lead to seven, 38-31 and got the ball back with 1:05 to go, needing 91 yards with no timeouts for a potential game-tying score. Jenkins found Kyle Lewis open for a 53-yard touchdown pass on the sixth play of the drive with five seconds remaining to tie the game at 38-38.

Northern Iowa scored on the first possession of overtime on a 13-yard pass from Dunne to Daurice Fountain and Cal Poly lost nine yards on its possession to end the 10th overtime game in Cal Poly’s FCS history. The Mustangs are 1-9 in extra time.

 With the loss, Cal Poly falls to 0-3 on the year for the first time in Tim Walsh’s nine seasons at the helm. Northern Iowa, now 1-1, has won seven straight in the series against Cal Poly since losing the opener in 1997.

Mustang senior fullback Jared Mohamed earned his second career 100-yard game, rushing 23 times for 112 yards. His other 100-yard game was against Southern Utah in 2015 when he rushed for 107 yards and was one of four Mustang 100-yard rushers in the game. He saw elevated playing time because of a knee injury suffered by All-American senior Joe Protheroe. 

Jenkins called his own number 37 times and added 102 yards. He also completed nine of 16 passes for 238 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Jenkins’ favorite target was sophomore J.J. Koski with five catches for 104 yards and two scores. Lewis caught the other two Mustang scoring passes and finished with three catches for 130 yards.

Cal Poly scored the opening touchdown of the game on a 44-yard pass from Jenkins to Lewis. Jenkins had thrown just two touchdown passes in his career with the Mustangs and notched three in the first half Saturday.

Jenkins was five of six passing for 143 yards and three scores before halftime. Dunne finished 25 of 40 for 325 yards.

Cal Poly compiled 543 yards in total offense, more than 100 yards ahead of Northern Iowa, and produced an advantage of 8 minutes, 36 seconds in time of possession. The Mustangs also had five more first downs than the Panthers 

Cal Poly has a bye next week and will prepare for its Big Sky Conference opener Sept. 23 against Northern Arizona. Kickoff for the Hall of Fame Game inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium is set for 6:05 p.m. 

Western Illinois 38, Northern Arizona 20 — Northern Arizona fell to 0-2 this season after losing to the Lumberjacks for the second straight season. Of more impact, NAU All-American wide receiver Emmanuel Butler suffered a shoulder injury that appeared it might be serious early on.

A season ago, NAU was the preseason Big Sky Conference favorite. But quarterback Case Cookus suffered a season-ending injury in Northern Arizona’s first conference game. NAU finished 5-6.

Northern Arizona wide receiver Emmanuel Butler/ by Brooks Nuanez

Northern Arizona wide receiver Emmanuel Butler/ by Brooks Nuanez

Butler suffered his injury with 9:55 left in the first quarter. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder has two straight 1,000-yard seasons. He did not return to the game. The offense struggled without him.

A week after throwing for 306 yards in a 62-24 loss to Arizona, Cookus completed 18-of-35 passes for 221 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. A week after posting two 100-yard rushers in Tucson, NAU managed just 80 yards on 25 carries, or 2.3 yards per carry.

“I’m not happy with where we are, but I like the locker room,” NAU head coach Jerome Souers said. “We’ve had two tough losses back to back. Their resolve has impressed me.”

NAU has a bye before playing at Cal Poly on September 23. 

UC Davis 35, San Diego 7 — UC Davis sophomore quarterback Jake Maier threw for three touchdowns and 369 yards — the most recorded by an Aggie quarterback against a Division I opponent since Montana State visited Davis on Oct. 11, 2014 — while senior running back Justin Williams ran for 93 yards and two scores, helping the host Aggies to their first win of the season.

The Toreros, a team that advanced to the second round of last year’s NCAA playoffs by posting the Pioneer Football League’s first-ever postseason win over Cal Poly, entered Saturday night’s game receiving votes in both national polls.

“I am thrilled for these guys,” first-year Davis head coach Dan Hawkins. “When you see everyone sacrificing and working hard throughout an unbelievable summer, and all throughout camp, it makes me happy when everyone is rewarded for doing everything they’ve been asked to do and believing in what the coaches are saying.

“I am happy for Davis, happy for our fans, I hope everyone is fired up with what we are doing and ready to come back to Aggie Stadium.”

UC Davis linebacker Nas Anesi/ UC Davis athletics

UC Davis linebacker Nas Anesi/ UC Davis athletics

Maier completed 23-of-37 passes to seven different receivers, connecting on a 75-yard bomb to Keelan Doss to kick-off the scoring in the first quarter, and later added scoring throws of 33 yards to Wesley Preece and 15 yards to Aaron Moore.

Doss, whose 75-yard touchdown catch was the longest of his career, capped off his second straight 100-yard receiving game, catching four balls for an even 100 yards, while Moore finished with six catches and 90 yards.

Senior defensive back Keleen Culberson and sophomore linebacker Nas Anesi finished with a team-high 10 tackles, while junior linebacker Anthony Baumgart and junior defensive back Isiah Olave each logged sacks on the night.

UC Davis returns to action on Saturday (Sept. 16), heading north to take on Portland State. The Aggies will enter that designated non-conference matchup against a Big Sky foe with a 1-1 record. Portland State, a team that was idle on Sept. 9, will host its first home game of the season with a 0-2 mark.

Eleven Sports (one of the league’s newest television partners) will broadcast its first-ever nationally televised Big Sky game from Providence Park starting at 2 p.m.

Southern Utah 51, Stephen F. Austin 14 — In Nacogdoches, Texas, Southern Utah picked up their first victory of the season on Saturday evening at Homer Bryce Stadium.

“I’m just proud of the guys,” SUU second-year head coach Demario Warren said. “We talked about having high character and being able to bounce back from a tough loss (77-21 at Oregon) and they just proved what type of guys they are. They’re competitive, they’re willing to work and it was exciting to see those guys go out there and have success after all the hard work they’ve put in over the past 12 months.”

SUU quarterback Patrick Tyler/by Brooks Nuanez

SUU quarterback Patrick Tyler/by Brooks Nuanez

Senior quarterback Patrick Tyler threw for a career-high 414 yards and four touchdowns while adding 48 rushing yards and another score on the ground. He threw three first-half touchdowns to stake SUU to a 31-0 lead at halftime. Tyler’s second touchdown pass was a 96-yard strike to Landen Measom, who finished with five catches for 131 yards.

“Obviously we were embarrassed last week,” SUU linebacker Taylor Nelson said. “We didn’t want to play another game like that, so the coaches really challenged us to be more aggressive. We were on our heels a lot last week, and I think that’s what helped us is we were just aggressive.”

Nelson led the way with eight tackles and a sack to go along with a fumble recovery. Mitch Dalley, Mike Needham and Chinedu Ahanonu all finished with seven tackles on the night. Anu Pole’o had two tackles for loss and a sack.

The Thunderbirds will have their first home contest next Saturday when they host the University of Northern Iowa. 

Sacramento State 56, Incarnate Word 22 — Three Sacramento State quarterbacks combined to throw for 377 yards and account for six touchdowns and the Hornets forced five turnovers in a 56-22 victory over Incarnate Word on Saturday in the home opener at Hornet Stadium.

Kevin Thomson led the offensive attack by completing 10-of-16 passes for Sacramento State (1-1) and throwing five touchdowns. He became the first Hornet to throw five TDs in a game since Garrett Safron had five against Southern Utah in 2014. Senior Kolney Cassel shared time in the first half and was 2-of-6 for 31 yards. Junior Wyatt Clapper saw action in the third and fourth quarters where he passed for 26 yards and had 13 rushing yards, including a touchdown.

Six Hornets combined to catch 13 passes with five scoring touchdowns. Andre Lindsey had a career high 176 yards on just four receptions, including a 60-yard touchdown pass. Jaelin Ratliff caught three palls for 84 yards with a 48-yard TD grab and Isiah Hennie (44-yard TD catch, Elijah Dotson (32-yard touchdown catch) and Johnnie Rucker (7-yard TD catch) competed the receiving touchdowns.

Terrell’s reception total would have tied him for second on the team in the game but all three of his came on defense. The junior tied the school record which was held by Terry Patterson (1973), Merv Davis (1975), Chad Johnson (1995) and Ramon Payne (2004) and became the first Hornet to have multiple interceptions in a game since 2011.

Sacramento State continues its home stand against Weber State in a non-league matchup between two Big Sky Conference schools next week at 6 p.m. in Hornet Stadium.

THURSDAY

Utah State 51, Idaho State 13 — Utah State had 596 total yards while the Bengals were held to 303. Tanner Gueller was 17-30 with one touchdown pass and two interceptions. Hagen Graves had five receptions for 70 yards and Michael Dean had three receptions for 59 yards and one touchdown.

ISU quarterback Tanner Gueller (4)

ISU quarterback Tanner Gueller (4)/ by Brooks Nuanez

Ty Flanagan had 25 carries for 106 yards and one touchdown.

Joe Martin led the Bengal defense with a career-high 20 tackles. Adkin Aguirre and Nikko Hayes each had a career-high in tackles with 11 and 10 respectively. Tucker Louie-McGee had one interception and Mario Jenkins recovered a fumble.

Utah State jumped out to a 17-0 lead with 42 seconds left in the first quarter. The Bengals then jumped on the scoreboard with a five play, 23 yard drive following Louie-McGee’s interception to make the score 17-6 with 11:26 left in the first half.

Utah State led 38-6 at halftime and 45-6 in the third before ISU went on a nine play 94 yard drive that was capped off with a Michael Dean 42-yard touchdown reception from Gueller.

Utah State managed two field goals in the fourth quarter to extend the lead.

Idaho State returns to the field, Saturday, September 16 for a 5 p.m. mountain time kickoff at the University of Nevada.

Northern Colorado at No. 22 Florida — CANCELLED

Photos contributed and by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved. 

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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