Montana pulled the upset so things could get messy in the Big Sky as to who is or is not a champion. The rare, but special three way tie is a very realistic possibility for the Big Sky. Montana needs to survive “Brawl of the Wild”, Weber surviving Idaho State, and Sacramento State surviving UC Davis. As for who gets the autobid refer to the Big Sky’s picture scenario below.
Marquee: Montana def. Weber State 35-16
The Big Sky conference has been plagued with the question who is better for the last few weeks. Weber State was in control of the Big Sky for majority of the year. Then Sacramento State came in hot and raised some doubts. Now all eyes are on Montana and if the Griz will be the new leader for the conference. In this game the quarterbacks were both the problems and the solutions to the outcome of the game. Both sides did admirable jobs to contain the run game successfully. The limitations came as Jake Constantine threw three interceptions and no touchdowns, while Dalton Sneed threw three touchdowns and two interceptions. Kaden Jenks had to be brought out for Weber and threw two touchdowns and no interceptions. If Jenks had operated the whole game maybe the Griz would not have been as lucky. Both teams also had at least one outstanding performance by a receiver as Weber’s Ty MacPherson had 11 catches for 162 yards and a touchdown. For Montana Samuel had eight catches for 193 yards and three touchdowns.
North Dakota def. Northern Colorado 45-38
North Dakota took hold of the game early and almost lost it with a late surge from the Bears. Nate Ketteringham and the Fightin’ Hawk running game kept up such force that the Bears were sunk into a 31-21 deficit by halftime. The never quit Bears made their best rally that they could, but a season-long issue of turnovers ultimately doomed them. Two interceptions, several fumbles lost or not, and a blocked punt for a touchdown separated a Bears win from reality. With more ball control UNC may have beaten UND, but turnovers won this ball game. A notable performance from UNC was young receiver Jarren Mitchell caught ten passes for 242 yard and two touchdowns.
BYU def. Idaho State 42-10
The Bengals minimized the damage to a 32-point loss to a sturdy BYU team. While ten points is not much to write home about Idaho State did have some encouraging stats. Freshman running back Malakai Rango was able to tally 142 yards and a touchdown off 24 carries. The defense had three sacks, five tackles for a loss, and four pass deflections. And Kody Graves recorded an interception against the Cougars.
Southern Utah def. Northern Arizona 31-30
Southern Utah celebrated a hard-fought win at home over NAU. An electric game of trading scores for the majority of the game left the result uncertain for its entirety. Thomas Duckett’s 54-yard rushing touchdown brought the Thunderbirds to a 31-27 lead. The Lumberjacks believed they had enough time so they settled for a field goal on the very next drive. NAU chose to settle for that field and it sealed their fate. Neither team would score for another five drives, until time ran out and Southern Utah had solidified their win. Chris Helbig played an incredibly accurate game and Thomas Duckett led the rushing attack to successfully assist Helbig with a much deserved win.
Sacramento State def. Idaho 31-7
Sacramento State took care of business in Idaho as any other day at the office. Kevin Thomson admittedly struggled to keep the ball tight and in control, but his running backs kept the pressure off when they could. Two almost fumbles and an interception with less than 50 percent completion rate is not what the Hornets want to see the staring quarterback doing. While he may not be entirely healthy, the ball control and incompletions are essential functions he can not afford to continue to fail. Elijah Dotson and BJ Perkinson were the star Hornets as they combined for 176 yards and three touchdowns together.
Montana State def. UC Davis 27-17
Montana State went back-and-forth with the Aggies in the first half and early third quarter. The Bobcats would then have 18+ minutes of no Aggies first downs as Montana State caused four consecutive three-and-outs. The final time of possession was the Bobcats’ 35:36 to the Aggies 24:24. An eleven minute difference and ten point advantage are part of the Bobcats impressive systematic win. The Bobcats win was a true team effort win, while Ulonzo Gilliam was the only Aggie to find less than limited success. Gilliam led the running stats with 133 yards and two touchdowns, and he was also the passing stats leader with a mere 48 yards receiving.
Eastern Washington def. Cal Poly 42-41
Eastern Washington received a much larger fight than they or I imagined. Turnovers were very unkind to the Eagles as Eric Barriere fumbled twice and Calin Criner fumbled. It seemed like the quarterback and running back mesh were on separate pages at times that led to those fumbles. Eric Barriere’s passing ability was also deeply restricted as Cal Poly forced EWU to run often. Barriere totaled nearly even passing and rushing yards this game as the Mustangs favor the run. Cal Poly picked up 368 yards total from seven different runners. The workload was fairly proportional so that each back received carries and had fresh legs for it. Ultimately, Cal Poly blew their chance to win twice. After getting a touchdown to bring it to within one the Mustangs opted for a two-point conversion and failed. Cal Poly would force EWU to fumble on their next drive and get into field goal range. Cal Poly just needed the kick to win, but it did not happen and EWU escaped 42-41.
My name is Ben Schleiger and I’m your representative for the Big Sky Conference. I have done work for multiple newspapers and sports blogs including The Johnstown Breeze, The University of Northern Colorado Mirror, and Mile High Maniac. I am a proud alumnus of the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Political Science. In my free time, I like watching sports, playing video games, and trying new foods.