Montana vibe, Eastern Washington playoff draw, Sac State defense – Skyline Sports
The final week of the regular season is the traditional Big Sky Conference rivalry week, as it involves so much of college football. In the Big Sky, playoff standings and conference championships were on the line in the Montana-Montana State and Sac State-UC Davis rivalry matches. Elsewhere, Idaho and Idaho State played a surreal scene in the Battle of the Domes. It’s the Big Sky Scramble, with analyzes of every game around the conference.
ZERO TO BONE: It’s cliché, but the atmosphere at Washington-Grizzly Stadium was electric on Saturday. This is the easiest way to put it. Montana took care of it. Montana State didn’t, especially on their second practice, when back-to-back false start penalties backed the UM Bobcats 5-15 and turned a potential touchdown into a Blake Glessner field goal.
Much discussion of “home advantage” refers to primarily intangible benefits. Montana doesn’t, and it’s proven five meters at a time.
Either way, the loss doesn’t expose a fatal flaw for the state of Montana, which has beaten Weber state and eastern Washington on the road this year. The Bobcats won’t have to face Montana – or the state of North Dakota, the only other team with a comparable home atmosphere – before the national championship game, which takes place at a neutral venue.
For full coverage of the Grizzlies’ victory, visit skylinesportsmt.com.
HOPE IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS: East Washington was brutally sacked by the FCS playoff committee despite their 42-28 victory over Portland State in the regular season finale. EWU missed out on a top-eight seed despite going 9-2, an FBS victory over UNLV and victories over No.5 from Montana and No.14 from UC Davis. The recency bias thwarted the Eagles, who suffered their only two losses in the past month – by four points combined against Weber State and No.7 in Montana State.
Monday’s STATS FCS poll confirmed the committee’s insanity, placing EWU at No.4, first among Big Sky teams.
Montana fans have been complaining since Sunday morning about the tough road support has given the Griz. Eastern, who finished with the same record and beat UM one-on-one (yes Montana’s victory over FBS was much more impressive and the Eagles have a D-II victory as well), not only has to face a team very tough from northern Iowa in the first round but then has to make it to Montana. The first is not taken for granted – northern Iowa beat the undefeated Big Sky Sac State champion earlier this year – and the second will be pretty darn tough. If EWU manages both, it will potentially go to No.3 James Madison and then No.2 in North Dakota State.
It’s probably the hardest path possible in this year’s bracket, the harsh reality for the country’s best attacking and most talented unranked team on their side of the draw – and at worst the second team not. ranked most talented in the overall support, behind the state of South Dakota.
BECAUSE I COULD NOT STOP FOR DEATH: As important games for playoff positioning unfolded throughout the remainder of the conference, Idaho and Idaho State were part of a surreal experience at Holt Arena.
The Tubs at the Club podcast reported Thursday that Vandals coach Paul Petrino will not be returning after the season. Jordan Kaye of the Idaho State Journal reported the same about Idaho State coach Rob Phenicie on Saturday morning.
That meant Saturday’s game featured two coaches coaching their final game at their respective schools. Idaho scored two touchdowns in the first quarter, including one by former Montana fullback / linebacker Trase Le Texier. Neither team scored the remainder of the game and Petrino tied his Battle of the Domes record at 2-2. The teams combined for four turnovers. Idaho State missed two baskets and lost despite a 246-218 win over the Vandals.
This is a fairly accurate epitaph for Phenicia’s tenure in the state of Idaho. The former Montana offensive coordinator took the Bengals to 6-5 in 2018, his sophomore year, and to a 3-3 start in 2019. Starting with a 45-21 loss to Idaho in the middle of that year, the ISU has fallen to 3-20 since then, with two of those wins coming in the spring of 2021. Six of those losses have been a score or less, including a near-knockdown of Sacramento State this year. season. It was a disconcerting drop from optimistic mediocrity below the basement for the Bengals, and it marked the end of the line for Phenicie.
Andrew Houghton and Colter Nuanez discussed the two new coaching openings in the league on Nuanez Now:
WHAT DREAMS TO BE SOMEONE: Northern Arizona handily defeated Cal Poly, 45-21, in San Luis Obispo as first-year quarterback RJ Martinez returned to the lineup. Martinez finished 11 of 22 for 167 yards and one touchdown, but the Lumberjacks still poured it on Poly as compatriot Kevin Daniels ran for 280 yards and five touchdowns. It’s the best conference floor performance since Josh Davis’ 328 for Weber State in 2019. Daniels also has the second-best (229 against Southern Utah) and sixth (177 against Idaho) rushing days in the Big Sky. This year.
At 6ft 2in and 225lb, Daniels fits the profile of a powerful back, but he’s also very unstable. In each of his last three touchdowns against Cal Poly, he missed the crucial defender in space before taking him home.
With the win, NAU finished 5-6 overall and 4-4 in conference, tying Portland State for the most average team winner of the Big Sky award. There wasn’t much to pay attention to the Lumberjacks in 2021 – no big upsets (except a non-conference win over Arizona), no shocking losses, and just four games decided by two scores or less (and l ‘one of them, a 40 -24 loss to UC Davis, extends that definition to the extreme).
There wasn’t much to pay attention to the Lumberjacks in 2021. With a year of experience under the radar for Daniels and Martinez, the Big Sky Freshman of the Year, there could be some in 2022.
ALL INVADED BY RUSSIAN FOAM: Sacramento State’s 27-7 victory over UC Davis gave the Hornets the Causeway Classic Trophy, the undisputed Big Sky title and a top-four seed in the FCS playoffs.
With a potential game against South Dakota State pending in the second round, Sac State is an upset popular choice. The Jackrabbits finished 8-3 with three narrow losses, but also crushed FBS Colorado State and beat the second-seeded North Dakota State in the Dakota Marker Game.
Most of the press around Sacramento State this year has turned to the Hornets’ offense, both because of its unique two-quarterback system and because head coach Troy Taylor, is explicitly an offensive first guy.
If Sac State is to avoid his second straight loss as a seed, the Hornets’ best prospect may lie in his defense, led by former Montana player Andy Thompson. Taylor’s hands-off approach to defense allowed Thompson, the former DC of Jerome Souers in northern Arizona, to build one of the best defenses in the conference. They’re not at Montana or Montana State level, but Sac State’s defense is third in the Big Sky in terms of defense and fourth in total defense.
The Hornets list four starters on the defensive line, but played against UC Davis with three linemen and junior Ariel Ngata as a standing defensive end. Linebacker Marcus Hawkins is the star with 74 total tackles, five sacks and three interceptions. Defensive lineman Josiah Erickson has nine sacks, and safety Marte Mapu and former Montana State cornerback Munchie Filer III each have four steals.
The victory over UC Davis marked the third time in five weeks Sac State has held an opponent in single digits, including a shutout against Martinez, Daniels and Northern Arizona.
In a potential game against South Dakota State, the Hornets might not have much more leeway than that. The Jackrabbits are 22nd nationally in total defense with 326.7 yards allowed per game (0.1 yards behind Sac State).
WILD NIGHTS: With a 48-17 win over northern Colorado in the season finale, Weber State scored 110 combined points in two weeks after the Wildcats were eliminated from the playoffs with a 30-18 loss to Portland State. .
The Wildcats have scored at least 35 points in each of their six wins, but have reached 24 points in their five losses and are under 20 points in four of those five games.
At the start of the season, first-year quarterback Bronson Barron was seen as a potent antidote to Weber’s recent game managers. Barron played eight games and was OK – 60.9% of passes completed, eight touchdowns, five interceptions – but his final total of 1,515 yards (just under 190 per game) didn’t smell like a revelation. In fact, it sounded a lot like what Weber’s quarterbacks have been putting together in recent years. Barron will be a player to watch when the Big Sky returns in 2022.