In the opening weekend of Big Sky Conference play, Eastern Washington scored more points than it ever had against a Division I opponent, UC Davis rudely welcomed Idaho back to the league, North Dakota could find no answer for Idaho State’s inside zone rushing attack, Weber State used a customary second half to pull away and Northern Arizona kept the defending Big Sky champions from Southern Utah winless in 2018.
All 13 teams in the conference along with UND — the Fighting Hawks are playing a Big Sky schedule as an FCS independent this season and next while they transition to the Missouri Valley Football Conference — were in action Saturday to open up what should be an unpredictable race for the conference crown.
Behind 440 yards of total offense, including 206 yards rushing, from junior quarterback Dalton Sneed, No. 19 Montana outlasted Sacramento State 41-34 in Missoula.
Not to be out-done, Montana State sophomore Troy Andersen became the first Bobcat to go over 200 yards rushing since 2011. The quarterback returned to the lineup after a two-game absence to rush for 211 yards and lead MSU to a 43-23 win at Portland State.
BIG SKY ROUNDUP
No. 6 Eastern Washington 70, Cal Poly 17
Besides wind, there was some thunder and lightning Saturday at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
With Antoine Custer Jr., and the Eagle defense leading the way, the sixth-ranked Eagles bested Cal Poly in the ground game, piling up 441 yards rushing on just 30 carries in scoring more points than EWU ever has against a Division I opponent.
The thunder was provided by fumble returns for touchdowns in the first half by Cole Karstetter (33 yards) and Jim Townsend (62 yards) following sacks and forced fumbles by Kurt Calhoun and Mitchell Johnson, respectively. The lightning was provided by the return of Custer Jr., who scored on touchdown runs of 62 and 43 yards to help EWU open a 42-17 lead by halftime.
With 30 carries for 441 yards on a windy day with sustained winds of 23 miles per hour, EWU set a new Big Sky record for average per rush with a mark of 14.7. That broke the old record of 11.1 set by Portland State versus UC Davis in 2013 (427 yards, 38 attempts). The total of 441 were the most for EWU since getting a school-record 456 versus Cal State Northridge on Sept. 25, 1999.
“Everybody was doing their job,” EWU second-year head coach Aaron Best said after his team moved to 3-1 overall. “We thought we had some situations where we could take advantage of some of our schemes against their schemes. Early on it was a little bit of a slugfest in terms of trying to get out of the way of ourselves a little bit. The first series wasn’t who we are, but sometimes you have to get your feet wet before you get things going. But I was excited about our coaches and the game plan they put in. I’m proud of the players, coaches and everybody involved.”
When the dust cleared after a 35-point second half, Eastern rolled up 657 total yards – ninth-most in school history — and held Cal Poly to 399. The Mustangs and their triple option offense entered with an average of 230.0 rushing yards per game, but EWU out-gained them on the ground 441-378. The 70 points scored were the fourth-most in Eastern school history and most versus a NCAA Division I opponent.
The 53-point margin was EWU’s largest in 31+ seasons as a member of the Big Sky Conference (239 games), and its third-largest in 34+ years a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (401 games).
Cal Poly senior Joe Protheroe notched 34 carries for 176 yards a week after rushing 43 times for 228 yards in Cal Poly’s 43-15 win over Brown, the Mustangs’ lone victory this season.
Eastern Washington plays at Montana State on Saturday. Cal Poly hosts Montana.
No. 7 Weber State 45, Northern Colorado 28
In Ogden, All-American kick returner Rashid Shaheed took the opening kickoff of the second half 100 yards for a touchdown to break a 21-21 tie before Josh Davis helped last season’s co-Big Sky champions win for the third straight week.
Shaheed, who scored a 46-yard touchdown five minutes into the game to tie the action at 7-7 and answer Milo Hall’s 13-yard touchdown run, has now taken two kickoffs 100 yards for scores in his career.
Davis, a redshirt freshman who is proving to be one of the breakout stars in the league already after missing last season with an injury, scored 95-yard touchdown with six minutes left in the first quarter to give Weber its first lead. His third quarter touchdown pushed the advantage to 35-21, enough cushion for the hosts to cruise.
On offense the Wildcats totaled a season-high 410 yards of offense with 224 yards rushing and 186 yards passing. Davis’ 95-yard touchdown run marked the longest in school history and was part of a 30-carry, 218-yard performance for the former Utah Gatorade Player of the Year. He has 80 carries for 499 yards and four touchdowns in three games played this season. Sophomore quarterback Jake Constantine, a transfer from Ventura College, finished 15 of 23 passing for 168 yards and two touchdowns, including the scoring toss to Shaheed and an 18-yard strike to Daryl Denby that gave WSU a 21-7 lead.
Defensively, Weber State held Northern Colorado to 372 yards, but allowed just 97 yards in the second half. UNC rushed for 110 yards and threw for 262 yards. The Wildcats also had two interceptions and forced one fumble, to go along with four sacks. Weber All-American senior linebacker LeGrand Toia led the way with 10 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Keilan Benjamin and Jeremy Maxwell each had interceptions.
With starting quarterback Jacob Knipp sidelined for a game for the third season in a row, Keaton Mott threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns in the loss as UNC fell to 0-4. Senior Alex Wesley hauled in six catches for 137 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown to tie the score at 21 entering halftime.
Weber State gets a week off before returning to action on October 6 at Northern Arizona. Northern Colorado hosts North Dakota next week.
No. 21 UC Davis 44, Idaho 21
At Davis, sophomore Tehran Thomas posted his second career 100-yard game with 119 yards on the ground, while junior quarterback Jake Maier threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns to lift Davis in Idaho’s first Big Sky game since 1995. UCD joined the Big Sky in 2012.
Thomas’ performance was his second career 100-yard game, which fell just shy of his career-best 125-yard performance against Sacramento State last season. His four-yard burst into the end zone staked the Aggies to a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter, part of a run that saw UC Davis score the first 24 points of the game.
Freshman tailback Ulonzo Gilliam finished with 133 all-purpose yards, gaining 84 on the ground and catching four balls for 49 yards — including a 34-yard touchdown pass from Maier in the third quarter.
Maier’s three touchdown passes were a season high, finding senior Keelan Doss for a 20-yard strike to open the scoring just 3:28 into the game, and hitting sophomore Darius Livingston in the end zone for his first career touchdown catch with 1:35 remaining in the third.
Junior Max O’Rourke hit all three of his field goal attempts from 31, 29, and 35 yards, while senior Namane Modise capitalized on a blocked punt by sophomore Connor Airey at the Vandal one-yard line, recovering the ball in the end zone for a touchdown to open the scoring in the second quarter.
Sophomore Jared Harrell led UC Davis with four catches for 66 yards — one of 10 different receivers who caught passes on the night.
Senior Isiah Olave finished with a team-high nine tackles, while senior Mason Moe finished with four tackles and an interception inside the red zone.
Idaho’s Mason Petrino threw for 284 yards and three touchdowns in the loss.
The Aggies have the next week off before returning to the road to take on Northern Colorado on October 6 in Greeley. Idaho hosts Portland State.
Idaho State 25, No. 22 North Dakota 21
In Grand Forks, fresh off a 24-23 upset of No. 5 Sam Houston State, North Dakota had no answer for Idaho State’s inside zone rushing attack as the Bengals posted their first win over a ranked opponent since beating UND in Grand Forks in 2015.
Idaho State had 566 yards of total offense, tied for the 11th most yards in a game since 2004. North Dakota had 469 yards of offense but held the Fighting Hawks to 150 in the second half. Ty Flanagan rushed nine times for 119 yards and James Madison added 25 carries for 106 yards as ISU piled up 273 yards rushing. Senior quarterback Tanner Gueller finished 16-of-31 for 293 yards passing and a touchdown. He also rushed for 58 yards on 10 carries.
Michael Dean had nine receptions for 130 yards and Mitch Gueller caught three passes for 108 yards and one touchdown for the Bengals, who moved to 2-1.
Kody Graves led the Bengal defense with a career-high 14 tackles and one interception. Christian Holland and Oshea Trujillo each had eight tackles. Christian McFarland had seven tackles and a game-sealing interception in the fourth quarter.
Both offenses were firing in the first half but freshman kicker Campbell Sheidow kept the Bengals in the game by going four-for-four in the first two quarters.The Bengals trailed 14-3 with 2:10 left in the first quarter. Sheidow 38-yard field goal with two seconds left in the quarter to cut the Fighting Hawk lead to 14-6.
Later in the second quarter, North Dakota was driving and on a first and goal from the four yard line when running back Brady Oliveira fumbled the ball and Ricks recovered in the end zone. The Bengals then marched down field to score a touchdown on a two-yard run by Madison with 8:14 left in the first half. The scoring drive was highlighted by a 55-yard run by Flanagan and a 23-yard run by Madison.
Later in the quarter Sheidow kicked a 22-yard field goal with 4:03 left to give ISU a 16-14 lead. UND had one more second quarter touchdown and Sheidow kicked his fourth field goal of the game with 40 seconds left to make the score 21-19 at halftime.
ISU scored the goal-ahead touchdown with Tanner Gueller hit his brother Mitch on a 67-yard strike with 7:38 remaining.
North Dakota attempted game-winning drive ended on a fourth and 11 from the ISU 15-yard line. McFarland picked off quarterback Nate Ketteringham and the Bengal offense then ran out of the clock. UND rushed for 245 yards in the loss, including 111 yards by senior John Santiago.
Idaho State returns home for a two-game home stand beginning Saturday against Northern Arizona in Pocatello. UND is at Northern Colorado.
Northern Arizona 31, Southern Utah 23
In Flagstaff, sophomore quarterback Daniel Bridge-Gadd hit wide receiver Brandon Porter with a 68-yard scoring strike with 34 seconds left in the third quarter to put the Northern Arizona University football team ahead for good in a back-and-forth game that kept Southern Utah still in search of its first win a season removed from sharing the Big Sky title.
The win allowed the Lumberjacks to claim the Hinton-Burdick Grand Canyon Trophy, which is awarded to the victor of the annual border war rivalry, for the first time since 2013. And the win came despite the second straight game missed by injured junior All-American quarterback Case Cookus.
“I love this team,” NAU head coach Jerome Souers said. “After the disappointment of last Saturday (a 40-8 loss at Missouri State), I really thought the guys showed their character today as well as their competitive nature.They worked very hard in the offseason, worked hard in camp. I am so proud of these guys the way that they have come together and figured out a way to get a win today.”
NAU added a final touchdown with 5:36 left on the clock to cap a scoring drive that saw Bridge-Gadd hit five different receivers, while totaling 57 aerial yards, and ended with him finding tight end Jonathan Baldwin from eight yards out.
Bridge-Gadd, who was making his second career start, finished 21-of-31 through the air for 295 yards and three touchdowns. Porter also enjoyed the best game of his collegiate career, as posted the first 100-plus yard receiving effort with five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. Porter also added 37 rushing yards and 47 on kickoff returns for a total of 188 all-purpose yards.
Senior wide receiver Emmanuel Butler placed his name at the top of the NAU career record book in the victory as well as he hauled in his 29th career touchdown reception with 6:26 of the second quarter to surpass Clarence Moore for the most in program history. Butler, who sat out last week’s loss to Missouri State with an injury, tallied four catches for 57 yards in the win.
Junior cornerback Khalil Dorsey led the defense with a pair of interceptions, including one with 2:51 left in regulation that snuffed out the final attempt at a comeback for Southern Utah. Sophomore Anthony Sweeney added his first career interception on the final play of the first half. The Lumberjack secondary has now recorded a total of nine picks over the first four games this season.
Southern Utah rushed for 218 yards, including 94 yards and a touchdown by Jay Green. Former Hawaii transfer Aaron Zwahlen got his first start at quarterback, throwing for 139 yards and a score.
The Lumberjacks will return to action on Saturday at Idaho State. Southern Utah has a bye before playing a fourth straight road game at Eastern Washington.