As the calendar turns to October, five teams remain unbeaten in Big Sky Conference play.
No. 5 Eastern Washington posted a 34-17 win over Montana State on Saturday in Bozeman to move to 2-0 in league, 4-1 overall. No. 17 Montana beat Cal Poly 48-28 in San Luis Obispo on Saturday night. Idaho State outlasted Northern Arizona 56-42 in Pocatello on Saturday. All three teams moved to 2-0 with the victories.
No. 7 Weber State is 1-0 in Big Sky play, 3-1 overall coming out of last week’s bye. No. 19 UC Davis has an identical record as Weber State coming out of their byes. UC Davis plays at Northern Colorado this week. Weber State plays at Northern Arizona.
Big Sky Roundup
North Dakota 38, Northern Colorado 13
A week after not being able to slow down Idaho State’s zone rushing attack, the Fighting Hawks ran the ball with authority to beat their first Big Sky team during a season where UND will play eight Big Sky teams. North Dakota is transitioning to the Missouri Valley Football Conference and will play a Big Sky schedule as an FCS independent this season and next season.
UND moved to 3-2 overall despite not having the services of All-American senior running back and returner John Santiago. In his place, James Johannesson rushed for 141 yards on 22 carries and senior Brady Oliveira added 123 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. North Dakota rushed 61 times for 351 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and scored all five of its touchdowns on the ground. Otis Weah scored a rushing touchdown and Nate Ketteringham, Sac State’s starting quarterback in 2015 and 2016, scored twice on the ground.
“We controlled the ball,” UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. “When you control the football, you have a good chance.”
The loss drops Northern Colorado to 0-2 in league play, 0-5 overall. The Bears are without senior starting quarterback Jacob Knipp. Keaton Mott completed just 2-of-11 passes for 17 yards in the first half before Conor Regan replaced him in the second half. Northern Colorado managed just 201 yards of total offense. Senior running back Trae Riek rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
UNC receiver Alex Wesley entered the game averaging 130 yards per game. He caught two passes for 50 yards and scored Northern Colorado’s other touchdown.
Northern Colorado hosts defending co-champion Weber State next week. UND has a bye before hosting Montana on October 13.
Idaho 20, Portland State 7
Idaho scored on its first three drives and returned a fumble for a touchdown before halftime in building a 20-0 lead at intermission on the way to the first Big Sky Conference victory for the Vandals since 1995.
Back in the FCS after spending the last 22 seasons in the FBS, the Vandals put together an 18-play drive and a 13-play drive on their first two possessions of the game. Both resulted in Cade Coffey field goals, the first from 29 yards, the second from 44 yards. Idaho’s third possession lasted six plays and ended when Jeff Cotton caught a seven-yard touchdown from Mason Petrino for Idaho’s only offensive touchdown of the day.
On PSU’s next possession, Jalen Hoover blocked Ben Niesner’s punt. Lorenzo Hightower recovered and raced 32 yards for Idaho’s last score with 3:47 left in the first half.
Portland State executed a 10-play, 80-yard drive to start the second half capped by Davis Koetter’s 10-yard touchdown reception from Davis Alexander. The Vikings forced a 3-and-out on Idaho’s first second-half possession, drove 12 plays into Idaho territory but Cody Williams missed a 49-yard field late in the third quarter.
The Vikings only got the ball twice more and only ran 14 more plays as the Vandals possessed the ball for 13:02 of the final 16:32 of the game. Idaho senior Isaiah Saunders rushed 22 times for 99 of UI’s 123 rushing yards, although the Vikings limited the hosts to 3.0 yards per carry.
Idaho plays at in-state rival Idaho State next week. Portland State travels to Montana.
Idaho State 56, Northern Arizona 42
The Bengals remained in the ranks of the Big Sky’s unbeaten with a second straight bulldozing rushing attack to bury the reeling Lumberjacks in front of 9,129 in Pocatello.
Idaho State rushed for 273 yards in a 25-21 win at No. 22 North Dakota to open up league play, then rushed for 315 yards to drop Northern Arizona to 1-1 in league play, 2-3 overall. James Madison, the Big Sky’s preseason all-league pick at running back, has lived up to the billing so far, averaging 107.4 yards per game during ISU’s 3-1 start. Against NAU, Madison rushed 19 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
Ty Flanagan, also one of the league’s leading rushers at 83.4 yards per game, rushed for 86 yards and two scores. ISU senior quarterback Tanner Gueller rushed for 84 yards and two more touchdowns for a Bengals’ offense that averaged 6.4 yards per rush. Gueller also threw for 179 yards and a touchdown.
NAU junior All-American quarterback Case Cookus missed his third straight game after suffering an upper body injury in the ‘Jacks’ 31-26 non-conference loss to Eastern Washington. Daniel Bridge-Gadd, the former Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year who transferred to NAU in the off-season after two years at Washington, completed 30-of-56 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns in the loss.
Bridge-Gadd’s first touchdown pass, a 10-yard scoring strike to senior tight end John Baldwin, tied the game 14-14 with 9:41 in the second quarter. Idaho State responded with a 51-yard touchdown run by Madison, a three-yard touchdown by Flanagan to cap a two-play drive following a Bridge-Gadd fumble and nine-yard recovery for a touchdown by Kainoa Fuiava on a second straight Bridge-Gadd fumble to take a 35-14 lead to halftime.
Out of halftime, Justis Stokes hit Emmanuel Butler for a 43-yard touchdown on a wide receiver pass to cut the ISU lead to 35-21. Butler, a senior who earned first-team All-Big Sky honors in 2015 and 2016 before missing most of last year with an injury, finished with eight catches for 187 yards.
Idaho State turned a Kody Graves interception into a 36-yard Flanagan touchdown run to push the lead back to three scores, 42-21, with 10 minutes left in the third. NAU’s Luis Aguilar missed a 42-yard field goal on the next possession and the Bengals responded with an eight-play, 72-yard drive capped by Madison’s four-yard touchdown. Gueller’s 43-yard touchdown with 14:25 left pushed the lead to 56-28 and proved to be the dagger.
Bridge-Gadd would lead a 13-play, 85-yard drive capped by an 18-yard touchdown to sophomore tight end Matthew Kempton. NAU forced a Flanagan fumble that five plays later Corey Young converted into a two-yard rushing touchdown to cut the lead to 56-42 and end the scoring.
Photos attributed. Videos courtesy of Idaho athletics and Madison Guernsey of the Idaho State Journal. All Rights Reserved.