Big Sky Conference

BIG SKY ROUNDUP: SUU topples Eastern; NAU now atop standings


The Lumberjacks stayed red-hot, the Thunderbirds confirmed themselves as contenders and Eastern Washington saw a winning streak vanish in Cedar City. Weber State bounced back with a defensive performance for the books, Sac State kept surprising while Montana State kept pace and Idaho State posted a historic offensive outburst.

Southern Utah’s victory at home against EWU snapped a 12-game winning streak in Big Sky Conference competition, SUU’s third win this season over a team ranked in the FCS Top 25. That victory combined with Northern Arizona’s fifth straight win means the ‘Jacks are alone atop the Big Sky standings with the official second half of the league slate upcoming. Montana, which had a bye, along with SUU, Weber, Sac State and MSU all have three league victories entering the final Saturday of October.

2017 Football Standings

Northern Arizona 4-0 1.000 5-2 3-1 2-1 W5
Eastern Washington 4-1 0.800 5-3 2-1 3-2 L1
Montana 3-1 0.750 5-2 3-1 2-1 W3
Southern Utah 3-1 0.750 5-2 3-0 2-2 W3
Weber State 3-1 0.750 5-2 2-1 3-1 W1
Sacramento State 3-1 0.750 4-3 3-1 1-2 W2
Montana State 3-2 0.600 3-4 1-2 2-2 W1
Idaho State 2-3 0.400 4-4 3-1 1-3 W1
UC Davis 1-3 0.250 3-4 2-1 1-3 L2
Northern Colorado 1-3 0.250 2-4 2-1 0-3 L3
North Dakota 1-4 0.200 2-6 2-2 0-4 L2
Cal Poly 0-4 0.000 0-7 0-3 0-4 L7
Portland State 0-4 0.000 0-7 0-3 0-4 L7


Southern Utah 46, No. 8 Eastern Washington 28 (CLICK FOR BOX SCORE) — Southern Utah fell behind 14-0 and lost three key players in the process. Junior linebacker Chinedu Ahanonu, SUU’s leading tackler, suffered an ACL injury that will likely end his season. Robert Torgerson, a first-team All-Big Sky selection at defensive tackle as a junior last fall, suffered an arm injury that sidelined him for the rest of the evening at Eccles Coliseum. Tight end McCoy Hill also suffered an ACL injury that might cost him his season.

Eastern Washington junior wide receiver Nsimba Webster/ by Blake Hempstead

Eastern Washington, a team that entered the contest having won 44 of its last 50 league games, showed no mercy. All-American junior Gage Gubrud capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Nsimba Webster on EWU’s opening possession. Sam McPherson’s 3-yard touchdown run put EWU up 14-0. Dre Dorton’s 96-yard kick return for a touchdown gave Eastern a 21-8 lead with five minutes to go in the first half.

SUU tailback James Felila, who finished with 143 yards on 27 carries, scored the first of his two touchdowns with 88 seconds to play before halftime. Southern Utah senior quarterback Patrick Tyler threw three touchdowns after halftime, including two to true freshman Landen Measom as southern Utah won the second half 31-7. Antoine Custer scored a 2-yard touchdown with 11:32 to play to give EWU its final lead, 28-25, before the SUU avalanche.

Tyler threw a 26-yard touchdown to Logan Parker to finish a nine-play, 80-yard drive to give Southern Utah the lead for good, 32-28. Two plays later, Jalen Russell picked off Gubrud, the EWU quarterback’s third pick of the night. Tyler hit Measom for a 12-yard touchdown two players later and the T-Birds never looked back.

“This is a huge win for our program,” SUU head coach Demario Warren said. “Our guys just battled. “It puts a goal right in front of us now. Our first goal is to have a winning season, we’ve never had three winning seasons in a row, so now it puts that right there for us.”

This was SUU’s third victory over a Top 25 opponent this season, and the second in as many weeks. The win improves SUU to 5-2 on the season and 3-1 in Big Sky Conference play. EWU is 4-1 in league play, alone in second place entering its bye week, 5-2 overall.

The Eagles were held to an uncharacteristic 382 yards of offense, but had a dominating 173-39 advantage after their first three possessions of the game. But SUU caught fire, out-gaining EWU 416-209 from that point. After coming up empty on its first five possessions – including three-straight three-and-outs for the Eagles – SUU scored on seven of its next nine. Eastern, meanwhile, had seven-consecutive empty possessions – a span of 35:40 — with the lone score coming Dorton’s kick return.

“It’s a confident bunch and we’ll continue to stay confident,” EWU head coach Aaron Best said. “It’s not the first loss we’ve endured, and for a lot of those younger players it won’t be the last loss they will probably have. We’ll continue to work on the things we need to work on, but a few of our players in our locker room have never lost a Big Sky game. It was a game we didn’t play as well as we would have liked, and felt we could have played better. But the team we played was a pretty darn good outfit. Coach (DeMario) Warren got them going and they executed well in a lot of different areas. We’ll get better.”

Northern Arizona 45, UC Davis 31 —  The Lumberjacks fell behind early before burying yet another opponent for their fifth straight win. NAU’s fourth straight Big Sky victory puts the ‘Jacks alone atop the league standings midway through league play.

Northern Arizona defensive back Cole Stearns/ by Cody Lane, NAU athletics

Case Cookus did not throw a single interception in NAU’s first three Big Sky games. He entered Saturday’s matchup in Flagstaff with 204 consecutive passes without a pick. Vincent White stepped in front of a Cookus attempt and snared an interception, giving UC Davis the ball 80 yards from the end-zone. Thirteen plays later, Jake Maier hit Keelan Doss from six yards out for a touchdown that capped the Aggies first scoring drive and gave the visitors a 7-0 lead.

For the next 20 minutes, the Lumberjacks did not let up. Cory Young, who finished with 94 yards rushing, scored two touchdowns in the second quarter, including a 43-yard rip and the Lumberjacks scored 35 straight points to take a four-touchdown advantage four minutes into the second half. The first of two Joe Logan touchdown runs after halftime gave NAU a 35-7 lead.

“The best of part the game that I really liked is our response to the early turnover,” NAU head coach Jerome Souers aid.  “The way Maurice Davison stayed in position and then they overthrew the ball and he picked it.  Then our offense climbed on top and scored, then we got a stop and scored.  It was 35 unanswered points and that was huge.  It didn’t put the game out of reach but it forced them to have to take a lot of chances.”

In a game filled with momentum swings, Davis scored 17 straight points to cut the lead to 35-24 entering the final frame. Namane Modise had a 100-yard kickoff return for a score. Doss, who finished with 10 catches and 106 yards, scored a 41-yard touchdown during the run.

Griffin Roehler’s 20-yard field goal and Logan’s second two-yard touchdown run pushed the lead to 45-24 to ensure NAU won its fifth straight. The five-game winning streak represents the longest for the ‘Jacks since 2013 when it posted six consecutive victories.  With the win, Northern Arizona improves to 5-2 overall and 4-0 in Big Sky Conference action.  UC Davis slips to 3-4 on the season and 1-3 in conference play with the loss.

NAU hosts Sac State next weekend. UC Davis hosts Cal Poly.

No. 23 Weber State 17, Cal Poly 3 — A week after suffering a rivalry setback in a 32-16 loss to Southern Utah, Weber State returned to the win column by smothering Cal Poly’s triple option, keeping the Mustangs winless in the process.

Weber State held Cal Poly to 106 yards rushing and 179 yards overall. Weber notched three sacks, including two by senior defensive tackle McKay Murphy. Taron Johnson, Xequille Harry and Connor Mortensen all had fourth quarter interceptions of Cal Poly redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Jeffrey.

Weber State senior quarterback Stefan Cantwell/ by Brooks Nuanez

Weber State senior quarterback Stefan Cantwell, who missed the second half against Southern Utah with a head injury, passed for two touchdowns and No. 23 Weber State forced four total turnovers. Cantwell, who threw for 182 yards, connected with David Jones on a 25-yard scoring pass midway through the first quarter and with Drew Batchelor for a 35-yard touchdown play six second into the final period for Weber State.

Cal Poly turned the ball over four times, three on interceptions and one by a fumble. The Mustangs, who have scored in 213 consecutive games, were held to just a field goal for the third time during that run.

Trey Tuttle kicked a 37-yard field goal for Weber State midway through the third period and Casey Sublette prevented Cal Poly from being shut out for the first time since 1998, connecting on a 43-yard field goal with 1:17 to play in the first half.

Cal Poly was held to just 106 rushing yards and 73 yards passing for 179 yards of total offense. Weber State finished with 340 total yards, 158 on the ground and 182 through the air. Mustang true freshman Broc Mortensen rushed for 52 yards on 12 carries and caught a pair of passes for 46 yards. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Jeffrey completed seven of 20 passes for 73 yards. Treshawn Garrett was Weber State’s top rusher with 69 yards on 13 carries and Cantwell netted 54 yards on 11 trips. Cantwell was 14 of 23 through the air for 182 yards and his favorite receiver was tight end Andrew Vollert with four catches for 44 yards.

Weber State hosts Montana in crucial Big Sky game next week. Cal Poly looks for its first win at UC Davis (3-4, 1-3 Big Sky) in the Battle of the Golden Horseshoe next Saturday. The Aggies fell 45-31 to Northern Arizona in Flagstaff on Saturday.

Sacramento State 34, North Dakota 27 — A fourth-quarter rally by North Dakota fell just short as the Fighting Hawks dropped a 34-27 decision to Sacramento State Saturday at the Alerus Center.

The teams were tied 10-10 at halftime, but the Hornets (4-3, 3-1 BSC) were able to outscore UND 24-7 in a decisive third quarter that saw Sacramento State turn a pair of fumbles into 10 of those points. The visitors would end up with a 3-0 advantage in turnovers and also limit UND to only two third-down conversions on 14 attempts.

The road win is Sac State’s first in nearly three seasons. The Hornets improved to 4-3 overall and 3-1 in the Big Sky Conference. The conference record marks just the third time that Sacramento State has won three of its first four Big Sky games since the school joined the Big Sky in 1996. UND dropped to 2-6 overall and 1-4 in league games.Sacramento State started redshirt freshman Roman Ale at quarterback in place of the injured Kevin Thomson. Ale, who had never take a collegiate snap, responded by completing 13-of-19 passes for 263 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Carson, California, native hit four receivers during the game, including Andre Lindsey who had four catches for 154 yards and two long touchdowns. The defense also made big plays, holding the Fighting Hawks to 2-of-14 on third down, creating three turnovers and scoring a touchdown.

Sacramento State junior wide receiver Andre Lindsey had four catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns in Sac’s win at UND/ Sac State athletics

“It is a testament to Luke Huard, the offensive staff andRoman Ale,” Sac State head coach Jody Sears said. “Roman was able to step up and make some huge throws but that is why we signed him. He led his high school team to a state championship for the first time in 99 years — the kid is a winner. He didn’t flinch and the standards didn’t change for him.

“His inexperience showed at times but I was really pleased with how he played. To come on the road in a hostile environment and play the way he did makes me extremely proud of him.”

The Hornets broke a 10-10 halftime tie when Lindsey caught a 56-yard touchdown pass. Marcus Bruce then recovered a fumble and dashed 25 yards for a score give the team a 24-10 advantage. After a North Dakota touchdown, Sacramento State added a 2-yard score from BJ Perkinson and a field goal by Devon Medeiros to take a 34-17 lead into the fourth quarter.

North Dakota, however, was not done, as the team converted a field goal just one minute into the fourth quarter. Noah Wanzek caught an 18-yard touchdown pass with 8:10 remaining to make it a one score game. However, the Hornet defense stopped UND on its final two drives to seal the game. Manoah Pearson tackled the running back in the backfield on 3rd-and-1 which led to a punt and UND had three incompletions as well as 1-yard run on its final chance to tie the game.

Sacramento State used a balanced rushing attack throughout the game as the combination of Elijah Dotson, Isaiah Gable, BJ Perkinson and Joseph Ajeigbe combined for 47 carries for 181 yards. Dotson paced the team with 57 yards on 11 attempts. Defensively, Mister Harriel, Pearson and Ernest Jenkins each had seven tackles. Ben Sorensen was credited with six solo stops, including a pair of sacks and three tackles-for-loss.

Idaho State 59, Portland State 30 – The Idaho State football team put up its most points against a Division I football team since 1980 at Holt Arena Saturday. The Bengals are now 4-4 and 2-3 in Big Sky Conference play while Portland State dropped to 0-7 and 0-4 in league.

The last time ISU scored at least 59 points in a Division I game, was a 59-33 win over Portland State on Sept. 27, 1980.

“The kids played absolutely hard,” ISU first-year head coach Rob Phenicie said. “I was up half the night last night worried about this game. They could get us at anytime from anywhere. It was a nerve-racking game.

“The thing that’s awesome about this team is there’s probably a couple more that we could have won. There hasn’t been a game where we didn’t compete the whole time and that’s what these kids believe in.”

Idaho State wide receiver Mitch Gueller

The Bengal offense racked up 691 total yards, with 364 coming on the ground and 327 through the air. James Madison carried the ball 23 times for 160 yards and one touchdown while Ty Flanagan had 21 carries for 108 yards while tying a school record with four rushing touchdowns.

“Ty was really strong early in the year and now James is developed and it’s a good deal,” Phenicie said. “I think frankly, they are interchangeable. They both run hard and push forward. They ran with an attitude today and it was awesome.”

Junior quarterback Tanner Gueller completed 14 passes on 23 attempts for 327 yards and three touchdowns. Mitch Gueller had a career-high 195 yards receiving on four receptions and one touchdown. His touchdown was a school record 97-yard reception in the second quarter. Michael Dean caught five passes for 80 yards and one touchdown and Hagen Graves caught one touchdown pass

The Portland State offense had 477 total yards with true freshman Jalani Eason back in the fold as the starting quarterback. Eason completed 19-38 passes for 256 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Trent Riley had six catches for 71 yards and a score.

Paea Moala led the Bengal defense with a career-high 12 tackles. Daniel Heck recovered his first career fumble and Adkin Aguirre had his second interception of the season.

Portland State led 2-0 early in the game after a safety. The Bengals then took the lead for good and never looked back. Zak Johnson kicked a 25-yard field goal with 8:53 left in the first and Flanagan scored his first touchdown on a four-yard run to give the Bengals a 10-2 lead with 3:29 left in the first.

The Vikings answered the Bengals scores early with touchdowns to stay within striking distance. ISU went up 17-9 after a two-yard run by Flanagan with 14:01 left in the first half. PSU answered with a touchdown to make it 17-16 less than a minute later.

The Bengals then scored four straight touchdowns over the remaining minutes of the second quarter and first seven minutes of the third to jump out to a 45-16 lead.

Idaho State plays at Montana State on Saturday. Portland State hosts North Dakota next week.

Montana State 27, Northern Colorado 24

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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