Big Sky Conference

Weber, EWU, Davis all earn seeds; Bobcats earn at-large bid in FCS Playoffs

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For the third time since the league expanded from nine to 13 teams, the Big Sky Conference earned four spots in the FCS Playoffs. For the first time since the postseason tournament expanded to 24 teams, the league has three teams seeded among the top eight, earning the accompanying first round byes.

Big Sky co-champions Weber State, Eastern Washington and UC Davis each posted 7-1 marks in league play, 9-2 marks overall. Each earned seeds and first round byes. Weber State is the No. 2 seed, Eastern Washington is seeded third and UC Davis is the No. 6 seed.

Montana State (7-4) earned its third straight victory over the season and its third straight victory over rival Montana to punch its first ticket to the postseason since 2014.

Weber defeated Eastern 14-6 in the second start of quarterback Eric Barriere’s career after replacing EWU senior starter Gage Gubrud. Eastern handed UC Davis its lone league loss of head coach Dan Hawkins’ second season at the helm, 59-20, two weeks ago. Weber did not play Davis. The Wildcats’ lone Big Sky loss came to Northern Arizona, 28-24, in the second game of the conference schedule.

Weber State running back Josh Davis rushed for 129 yards in a win over Sac State/ by Weber athletics

Weber’s 26-13 win at Idaho State on Saturday eliminated the Bengals from playoff contention and gave WSU its third straight playoff bid. The victory also solidified the automatic bid for the Wildcats. Weber State is the No. 2 seed in the bracket. The Wildcats are making their seventh playoff appearance in school history after winning back-to-back league championships for the first time.

“We are super excited to get back to the playoffs for the third-straight year and we hope we get better and better each time we go,” WSU fifth-year head coach Jay Hill said. “It’s a huge deal to get the two seed and have home field advantage throughout the playoffs, now we just have to take care of business.”

The Wildcats will take on the winner of the Stony Brook and Southeast Missouri State, which will be played Saturday in Cape Girardeau, Missouri on Saturday. Stony Brook finished third in the CAA and Southeast Missouri State was second in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Eastern Washington ripped off four straight victories to earn its 13th bid to the FCS tournament, including the sixth time this decade and the first time under second-year head coach Aaron Best. The Big Sky championship is EWU’s sixth this decade and 10th overall. Eastern has made the playoffs 10 times in the last 15 seasons dating back to 2004.

Last season, EWU finished 7-4, including winning seven of nine games to finish 2017. Despite a No. 17 national ranking, the Eagles did not make the playoffs in Best’s first season.

Eastern Washington second-year head coach Aaron Best/ by Brooks Nuanez

“The standard around here are Big Sky championships and playoff berths, so when we don’t do that like last year it hurts,” Best said. “I’ve been here 20-plus years (as a player and a coach) and have been a part of a lot of victories, so it hurt when I couldn’t tell those players last year why we didn’t get in.

“The natural response is we didn’t do enough on our resume to get in, but this year we didn’t want to put it anybody else’s hands. We weren’t going to let a committee or people decide our fate. We decided our own fate, and here we are and being in the bracket and being allowed to play it out.”

The Eagles are the No. 3 seed and will face the winner of Southland Conference champion Nicholls State (8-3) and Pioneer Football League champion San Diego (9-2).

In its 100th season playing football, UC Davis qualified for the FCS playoffs for the first time since moving to Division I in 2004. The last of the four newest Big Sky members to make the playoffs – Southern Utah has been to the playoffs three times while Cal Poly has been twice and North Dakota once since the former Great West Conference teams including Davis joined the league in 2012 – had never even finished above .500 since joining the league.

In Hawkins’ second season back at his alma mater, a win over FBS San Jose State began the season and the meat of the schedule included a six-game winning streak before the loss to EWU in Cheney two weeks ago. Davis solidified the playoff seed with a 56-13 win over rival Sacramento State in the 65th annual Causeway Classic. The rivalry game was played in Reno, Nevada because of poor air quality stemming from the fires raging in Central and Southern California.

Davis hosts the winner of Southland Conference at-large qualifier Lamar (7-4) and Missouri Valley Football Conference at-large Northern Iowa (6-5).

The Bobcats rallied from a 22-0 deficit for a 29-25 win in Missoula over Montana. That helped MSU earn a first-round home game against Incarnate Word, an at-large team from the Southland who shared the league title with Nicholls State. Montana State last hosted a playoff game in 2014, a 47-40 loss to South Dakota State in the first round. MSU’s last playoff win came over Stony Brook in the second round of the 2012 tournament.

The Bobcats rallied from a 22-0 deficit for a 29-25 win in Missoula over Montana. That helped MSU earn a first-round home game against Incarnate Word, an at-large team from the Southland who shared the league title with Nicholls State. Montana State last hosted a playoff game in 2014, a 47-40 loss to South Dakota State in the first round. MSU’s last playoff win came over Stony Brook in the second round of the 2012 tournament.

Montana State earns first FCS playoff bid since 2014, hosts Incarnate Word

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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