Big Sky Roundup

BIG SKY ROUNDUP: Wild weekend shakes up league standings


Several unlikely results made for a wild first weekend of October on Saturday.

Two of the league’s four ranked teams — No. 7 Weber State and No. 14 Montana — lost for the first time in Big Sky Conference play. Meanwhile, with All-American quarterback Gage Gubrud on the shelf, No. 4 Eastern Washington continued sitting in the driver’s seat in the league race by rolling still-winless Southern Utah.

In front of a crowd that approached the first sellout at Holt Arena since 1984 (11,105), Idaho State dismantled its in-state rivals, breaking multiple offensive records in dispatching the Idaho Vandals. No. 16 UC Davis took care of business against Northern Colorado, keeping the Bears winless and joining EWU and ISU as the three teams with 3-0 records in league play. The 3-0 start for the Bengals is the first time ISU has been in this position since 1995. Davis’ No. 16 national ranking is already the highest in the school’s Division I history.

Northern Arizona’s 28-24 win over Weber State kept the Lumberjacks’ playoff hopes alive, while Sac State’s took a hit with a loss to in-state rival Cal Poly. Portland State’s last-second field goal to beat the Griz marked PSU’s first win in Missoula since 1987.

Vikings earn historic win in Missoula over mistake-prone Grizzlies

Montana State (1-1 in league play, 3-2 overall) was the lone member of the Big Sky idle this week. FCS independent North Dakota, a team playing eight games against Big Sky teams that count as league games for UND’s opponent, also had a bye.


*Portland State at Montana

*Weber State at Northern Arizona – L

*Cal Poly at Sacramento State – L

*UC Davis at Northern Colorado

*Southern Utah at Eastern Washington (ROOT)

*Idaho at Idaho State


WEEK: 4-2

OVERALL: 43-10



No. 4 Eastern Washington 55, Southern Utah 17 (click for box score)

Eastern Washington junior quarterback Eric Barriere led EWU to a 55-17 win over Southern Utah/ EWU athletics

Even without their All-America signal caller, the Eagles didn’t miss a beat in Cheney against the defending Big Sky champions.

Junior Eric Barriere replaced injured starting quarterback Gage Gubrud, and he used his arm and feet to lead the Eastern to its fifth win in six outings this season. With James Madison’s 27-24 loss to Elon, EWU will likely move up to the Top 3 in the FCS when the newest polls are released on Monday.

Barriere made his second career start, and he completed a 48-yard pass on the first offensive play of the day for the Eagles, then later had an 85-yard rush for a touchdown – a school record for a quarterback — to give the Eagles a 31-10 lead in the second quarter.

He accounted for three of EWU’s seven touchdowns, rushing for 98 yards and two scores and passing for 233 and a TD. EWU ran for 380 yards and averaged more than nine yards per carry against a Southern Utah defense that has been the key factor in SUU claiming two of the last three Big Sky titles.

“From start to finish I was a proud coach of Eric Barriere,” said Eastern head coach Aaron Best. “He’s one individual that no matter how much I yell or how much I hug him, he looks the same no matter what. He has the same unflappable personality, which is a great trait to have as a quarterback. There are going to highs and there are going to be lows, but he had a great day today at the office.”

In the first of two-straight Big Sky Conference games versus opponents EWU lost to last season, Gubrud didn’t play because of a lower leg injury suffered last week in a victory at Montana State. It was supposed to be a milestone day for the Eagle senior, who is just 16 passing yards from reaching the 10,000-yard plateau in his illustrious career.

Instead, Gubrud watched as the Eagles had its 10th-most yards in school history with 648 and equaled the 23rd-most points all-time. Eastern had 380 yards rushing and 268 passing, and averaged 9.4 yards per play compared to just 4.4 for the Thunderbirds.

Defensively, Eastern had seven passes broken up, an interception and a sack, and won the turnover battle 2-1. Eastern is now 44-0 since 2010 when it wins the turnover battle.

Eastern jumped out to a 14-0 lead with a pair of long scoring drives that took just eight plays to complete, but unlike a year ago, EWU poured it on from there. The Eagles scored 20 points in the second quarter and 21 in the third quarter – 31 unanswered in all — for its fifth lopsided victory of the season. Last year, EWU jumped out to a 14-0 lead before the Thunderbirds held Eastern scoreless for a 35-minute stretch and won 46-28 in Cedar City.

“It’s never going to be perfect – we still had some red zone mishaps,”‘ said Best. “We have things to work on, but we scored 55 points at home and for the third-straight game the defense has only allowed 17 points. I’m very proud of our team – it was a very gritty effort.”

Eastern was in a tie for fourth with South Dakota State in the American Football Coaches Association Top 25 poll this week and was fifth in the STATS poll of sportswriters, broadcasters and sports information directors. Weber State, EWU’s next opponent, was ranked right behind EWU in sixth by STATS and seventh by the AFCA, with Montana (14/15) and UC Davis (16/21) also ranked in the top 25. The Eagles don’t face Montana but host UC Davis on Nov. 10.

In a match-up of two Big Sky Conference heavyweights, Eastern travels to Ogden, Utah, to face a Weber State team on a roll with a league championship and deep playoff run on its resume. The co-Big Sky champions went 11-3 last season but enter next week’s matchup coming off its first Big Sky and FCS loss of the season at NAU.

Northern Arizona 28, No. 7 Weber State 24 

Weber State’s Preston Smith returned a fumble 86 yards for a touchdown at NAU/ WSU athletics

At Flagstaff, NAU quarterback Daniel Bridge-Gadd led a drive into the red-zone on the first drive of the game only to throw an interception in the end-zone to Weber State true freshman Marque Collins to spark a turnover barrage on both sides in a whacky game that resulted in Weber State’s first Big Sky loss since falling to Southern Utah last October.

After snaring the pick, Collins raced up the sideline with just Bridge-Gadd to beat, but an inadvertent whistle called the play dead. Collins likely would’ve scored after the interception.

“They just flat apologized to me. The refs said they blew it, they apologized,” WSU head coach Jay Hill told Brett Hein of the Ogden Standard-Examiner following the game. “What a huge play that could’ve been.”

Weber State forced three first-half turnovers but converted none in to points as the sputtering Wildcat offense gained just 176 total yards on Saturday. NAU marched into the red-zone late in the first half before All-Big Sky senior linebacker Landon Stice stripped Bridge-Gadd. Preston Smith scooped the fumble and raced 86 yards for a touchdown. WSU converted the two-point conversion to take an 8-7 halftime lead.

In a game that included nine total fumbles, six fumble recovers and five total interceptions, equaling 11 total turnovers, turned into a shootout during a third quarter that lasted more than one hour, according to Hein. Jake Constantine threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Darryl Denby early in the second half but the period ended with the score tied 21-21.

NAU All-Big Sky safety Kam’Ron Johnson intercepted WSU reserve quarterback Jake Constantine on the third play of the fourth quarter, returning the ball to the WSU 29. A personal foul on Weber defensive end Jonah Williams and two Corey Young runs led to Young’s eight-yard touchdown burst to put NAU put up 28-21.

WSU All-American Trey Tuttle drilled a career-long 52-yard field goal with 8:20 to play but Weber gained 16 more yards and suffered a second Constantine interception in losing its first Big Sky game since October 14, 2017. WSU plays at No. 4 Eastern Washington on Saturday.

Idaho State 62, Idaho 28 

Behind a career and record-setting day by quarterback Tanner Gueller, Idaho State ripped its nemesis in front of 11,015 in Pocatello.

Idaho State racked up 754 yards of total offense, 518 coming through the air and 236 on the ground. Gueller passed for a career-high 492 yards and a school record eight touchdown passes. He was 19-30 and had nine completions of 20 yards or more.

Mitch Gueller caught six balls for 184 yards and one touchdown. Five of his receptions were for longer than 20 yards and Michael Dean caught six passes for 156 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. The four touchdown receptions also tied a school record.

Posted by Idaho State Athletics on Saturday, October 6, 2018

Demonte Horton had two receptions for 113 yards and one touchdown.

Christian Holland led the defense with 10 tackles. Jayson Miller and Joe Martin each had nine. Christian McFarland recovered a fumble and Caleb Brown had an interception.

The Bengals trailed 7-0 with 10:53 left in the first quarter. ISU tied the game at seven on an Austin Campbell 11-yard touchdown reception with 8:35 left in the quarter. The Bengals never trailed the rest of the game.

Later in the quarter Dean caught his first touchdown, a 14-yarder from Gueller to give Idaho State a 14-7 lead. Idaho State put up 21 second quarter points to lead 35-14 at the break. Mitch Gueller caught a 29-yard strike with 13:12 left and Horton scored on his 87-yarder with 10:27 remaining until halftime.

Following an Idaho touchdown to make the score 28-14, Dean extended the lead on a 62-yard strike with 1:27 to play.

The Vandals got within 14 points early in the third quarter at 35-21 and 13 points at 41-28 with 5:25 left in the third but ISU scored the 21 points to put the game away

Idaho State returns to the field, Saturday, Oct. 13 for a 5 p.m. mountain time contest at UC Davis.

Posted by Idaho State Athletics on Saturday, October 6, 2018

No. 16 UC Davis 49, Northern Colorado 36 

Northern Colorado scored 26 points in the last six minutes, 42 seconds but it wasn’t enough as Davis continued its march through the Big Sky Conference and the Bears lost their sixth straight to start the season.

In Greeley, interceptions from seniorMason Moe and redshirt freshman Jordan Perryman — the second and first of their respective careers — each led to touchdowns in the first quarter for UC Davis, helping spark a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

After junior tight end Wesley Preece scored the first of his three touchdowns, redshirt freshman running back Ulonzo Gilliam collected his team-high eighth TD of the season, Northern Colorado cut the Aggies’ lead in half to 14-7 by scoring its first points of the afternoon.

UC Davis responded with another two scoring drives, which included Preece’s third career multi-TD game when junior quarterback Jake Maier found him in the back of the end zone from nine yards, followed by sophomore tailback Tehran Thomas bulldozing his way for another six points with 21 seconds before the break, which pushed the Aggies’ lead to 28-10 at halftime.

UC Davis junior tight end Wesley Preece scored three touchdowns in Davis’ win over Northern Colorado/ by Wayne Tilcock, UC Davis athletics

A jaw-dropping play from senior All-American wide receiver Keelan Doss set up the Aggies’ last-minute scoring effort since it was he who dragged his toes inbounds on a diving catch, to give UC Davis four opportunities to reach the end zone from Northern Colorado’s one-yard line with 28 seconds remaining until the break.

That reception, the sixth of Doss’ afternoon at that time, pushed him over 100 receiving yards for the second time this season, and the 14th time of his career, tying Charley Enos (1980-2001) for the most 100-yard games in program history. Doss ended his day with 11 receptions for 161 yards and a touchdown.

If UC Davis’ quick-strike offense and suffocating defense did not take the wind out of the fans in attendance before halftime, a fumble recovered by the Aggies on the opening drive of the second half, which led to a 25-yard catch from Doss for another six points on the subsequent drive, broke the spirits of everyone wearing Northern Colorado blue and yellow.

With its 49-36 victory, UC Davis will enter next Saturday’s 4 p.m. Homecoming game vs. Idaho State with records of 4-1 overall and 2-0 in league play. Northern Colorado, a team that faced nationally ranked teams, or teams receiving votes in every game played this season, falls to 0-6 and 0-3 after losing to the Aggies during its Homecoming weekend.

This Big Sky matchup also marked the first time this season that Northern Colorado did not enter the last five minutes of a game with an opportunity to tie the score, or take a lead — a situation created by an Aggie squad that dominated its first true road game for all 60 minutes.

UC Davis’ first two matchups outside of Aggie Stadium took place within driving distance at San José State and No. 9 Stanford. With Saturday’s result, the Aggies now lead the all-time series, 7-3.

This game also continued a unique trend for UC Davis this season: It has now scored at least 40 points in four games this season. By comparison, the Aggies posted 40 or more on the scoreboard in 10 games from 2012 (its first year in the Big Sky) through 2017.

Cal Poly 41, Sacramento State 27 

In Sacramento, a struggling previously struggling Cal Poly team took care of the ball and rolled over a Hornets team coming off a bye.

Cal Poly wide receiver J.J. Koski/ Photo by Alexander Bohlen, Cal Poly athletics

Junior wide receiver J.J. Koski scored twice, once on a punt return and the other on a long run on an end around, and five Cal Poly ball carriers rushed for over 60 yards as the Mustangs defeated Sacramento State 41-27 in a Big Sky Conference football game Saturday night inside Hornet Stadium.

Drew Hernandez earned his second consecutive 100-yard game, rushing for 113 yards on 12 carries, and Joe Protheroe added 128 yards on 32 trips for his fourth consecutive 100-yard game and 18th of his Mustang career, scoring once, for the Mustangs, who improved to 2-4 on the year and 1-2 in Big Sky games.

Despite 322 passing yards from Kevin Thomson and 149 yards rushing by Elijah Dotson, Sacramento State fell to 2-3 and 0-2.

Cal Poly, which had two 100-yard rushers in a game for the second week in a row, built a 21-14 lead in the first half on two touchdown runs and its first punt return for a score in 10 years.

The two teams traded a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter, which ended tied at 14-14.

Dotson capped a quick 70-yard, six-play drive with a 10-yard run for the Hornets and Cal Poly answered with a 16-play drive, all rushes, covering 72 yards. Protheroe dove the final yard for the score and a 7-7 tie.

Sacramento State put together another quick drive, this time 75 yards on five plays, capped by Pierre Williams’ 54-yard reception from Thomson and a 14-7 Hornet advantage

Again, Cal Poly answered. An 88-yard march required just seven plays, quarterback Khaleel Jenkins scooting 13 yards around left end for the score and tying the game at 14-14 with a minute to play in the opening period.

Hernandez broke off a 56-yard run with a pitch around right end to help set up the tying score.

The second quarter was not quite as explosive offensively. In fact, neither team scored on offense. Instead, Cal Poly produced its first punt return for a touchdown since Tre’dale Tolver returned a Wisconsin punt 40 yards for a score on Nov. 22, 2008, inside Camp Randall Stadium.

Koski broke the long drought, returning an Owen Hoolihan punt 70 yards for a touchdown and a 21-14 lead with 9:31 to play in the first half. Koski fielded the punt on one hop, broke left, cut right at the Hornet 45, raced down the right sideline and, thanks to a block by Quentin Harrison, cut left at the 20 and scampered untouched into the end zone.

After giving up two touchdowns on two Hornet possessions in the first quarter, Cal Poly’s defense forced two Sacramento State punts and a pair of field goal attempts in the second period. Devon Medeiros’ first try from 50 yards missed wide right and the second attempt never got off the ground due to a low snap. Kitu Humphrey tackled the Hornet holder for a nine-yard loss.

Cal Poly added two field goals in the third quarter, Alex Vega hitting from 31 and 20 yards, and the Mustangs scored two more touchdowns in the final period on an 11-yard run by Jenkins and a 68-yard run by Koski with a pitch from Jenkins down the left sideline.

The Mustangs led by at least seven points throughout the second half.

Cal Poly rushed for 462 yards on 70 plays while holding the Hornets to just 171 yards on the ground. The Mustangs completed just one of six passes – a key 16-yarder from Jenkins to Koski on a third-and-eight play late in the third quarter – while Sacramento State gained 322 yards through the air.

Jenkins finished with 73 yards on 19 carries while Koski added 68 yards on his one trip. Redshirt freshman CJ Cole contributed 67 yards on three carries, including a 63-yard run down the right sideline to set up one of Vega’s field goals.

Linebacker Matt Shotwell made nine tackles and notched his first interception as a Mustang. Nik Navarro and Myles Cecil each earned a sack. Cal Poly’s offensive line did not allow a sack, breaking a string of 15 consecutive games by the Hornets with at least two sacks.

Immanuel Anderson earned 14 tackles for Sacramento State and Caelen Barnes added 10.

Cal Poly, which lost nine fumbles in its first five games this season, did not turn the ball over against the Hornets, winning on the road for the first time since October 2016, also at Sacramento State, snapping a nine-game road losing streak.

The Mustangs have won five of the last six meetings against the Hornets and 10 of 12, extending their seris advantage to 21 wins against 17 losses.

Cal Poly has a bye next week and hosts UC Davis in the Battle for the Golden Horseshoe on Mustang Family Weekend, Saturday, Oct. 20. Kickoff inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium is set for 4:05 p.m.

Game recaps courtesy of Big Sky Conference sports information department. Photos attributed. 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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