November 15, 1996 in Sports

Big Sky Appears Locked In To Two Playoff Teams

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Montana could do the Big Sky Conference a huge favor this weekend by missing its plane to Ogden, Utah, and forfeiting Saturday’s game against Weber State.

That may be the only chance the top-ranked Division I-AA conference has of sneaking a third team into the NCAA postseason playoffs.

It’s happened three times, but the only time a third Big Sky team made it without finishing in at least a tie for second in the league standings was in 1988. Boise State finished alone in third place behind Idaho and Montana that year and not only got a playoff bid, but an opening-round home game.

This year, No. 2 Montana (9-0 overall and 5-0 in the Big Sky) has all but locked up the conference championship and will get the league’s automatic bid if it beats either Weber State or Montana State next weekend.

No. 6 Northern Arizona (9-2, 6-1) has concluded its regular reason and can finish no worse than second in the league, assuring itself of a playoff berth. But Weber (6-3, 3-2) remains on the bubble and probably needs to beat Montana on Saturday and Idaho State the following weekend to have any chance to qualify as the Sky’s third playoff team.

Eastern Washington athletic director John Johnson is a member of the I-AA’s eight-member playoff selection committee that will huddle in a hotel in Huntington, W.Va., a week from this Saturday and decide the 16-team playoff field.

And Johnson said he thinks the Wildcats can still qualify.

“If Weber State were to run the table and beat a top-ranked team (like Montana) in the process, that would probably get them in,” said Johnson, who was named to the selection committee last year. “At least they would still be under serious consideration.”

Outside looking in

Last week at this time, the I-AA playoffs were a big topic of conversation around the Eastern Washington campus where third-year coach Mike Kramer had his surprising Eagles sitting at 6-3 overall and 3-2 in the Big Sky.

But a 13-10 home loss to Northern Arizona last Saturday left Kramer and his team with no hope of playing beyond Saturday’s road matchup against Cal State Northridge.

There was some talk about the Eagles still being considered by the selection committee because their three league losses came to the league’s top three teams by a total of nine points.

“Doesn’t matter,” Kramer said Thursday afternoon. “Regardless of whether you lost them close or were blown out, the end result is what matters, and we’ve got three conference losses.

“We haven’t even used that nasty seven-letter word (playoff) around here this week.”

Fanfare

The crowd of 3,915 that witnessed Eastern Washington’s loss to Northern Arizona helped the Eagles set a single-season attendance record by raising the average gate at their five home games to 4,958. The previous record, set in 1992, was an average of 4,632 for five games.

Sky writings

With 36 touchdown passes this fall, Montana quarterback Brian Ah Yat needs to throw only three in the Grizzlies’ last two games to surpass the school record of 38 set last year by Payton Award winner Dave Dickenson… . NAU’s Archie Amerson finished the regular season with four NCAA Division I-AA records, including most all-purpose single-season yards (2,429), most single-season rushing touchdowns (25), most rushing and overall touchdowns in a single game (7) and most points in a single game (42). , DataTimes The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN - Big Sky football notebook


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