Big Sky quarterbacks air it out
Offensive production hits its peak
In what was supposed to be another “Year of the Quarterback” in the Big Sky Conference, the guys under center hadn’t done all that much this fall – until last Saturday.
Then, suddenly, a league that had produced only one 300-yard passer in the first four weeks came up with three additional members to what had been a very exclusive club. And the only previous member, Weber State’s Cameron Higgins, tacked on a second 300-yard effort, throwing for 315 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-24 home loss to Eastern Washington.
Among the others who joined were EWU first-year junior transfer Bo Levi Mitchell, who torched Weber for 377 yards and four touchdowns; Montana State redshirt freshman Denarius McGhee, who threw for 385 yards and four TDs in a wild 64-61 overtime win over Sacramento State; and the Hornets’ Jeff Fleming, a junior transfer from New Mexico State, who passed for 348 yards and five TDs in the heartbreaking defeat.
Higgins’ 300-yard game was the 17th of his four-year career, while McGhee and Fleming each recorded their first.
Mitchell threw for 300 or more yards six times during his two-years at SMU.
Portland State junior Connor Kavanaugh fell well short of the 300-yard passing benchmark in the Vikings’ 38-3 win over Idaho State. But he did complete 15 of 19 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 125 yards an another score – 341 yards of total offense.
Craziness in Sacramento
Sacramento State, after trailing 37-10 at halftime of its Big Sky matchup against visiting Montana State, scored 51 second-half points before losing 64-61 in overtime.
During one 9-minute span of the third quarter, the Hornets scored 28 points and forced MSU to score a last-minute touchdown to set up the OT.
The wild affair, which featured 1,270 yards of total offense, was decided when Sac State kicker Chris Diniz, who hadn’t missed all season, pulled a 43-yard field goal try wide left. It would have tied the game and forced a second overtime.
MSU coach Rob Ash, after being asked about his team’s third-quarter collapse, told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, “I think we relaxed at halftime and thought Sacramento State would go away. They didn’t.”
Eastern Washington, on the strength of Saturday’s 35-24 road win over Weber State, jumped three places in both the Sports Network/Fathead.com Top 25 and FCS Coaches’ Poll. The Eagles vaulted from 16th to 13th in the SN ratings and from 17th to 14th in the coaches’ poll.
Montana State remained No. 10 in both polls after edging unranked Sac State in overtime, while Montana, after dumping Northern Colorado 30-7, stayed at No. 12 in the Sports Network ratings, but was dropped from 11 to 12 by the coaches.
Northern Arizona, which plays at Eastern Washington on Saturday, made it back into the coaches poll at No. 24 after beating Southern Utah 26-23, but is still unranked by the Sports Network.
PSU has announced that quarterback Drew Hubel will redshirt this season after recently undergoing surgery on the right shoulder he dislocated last season. Hubel plans to return for his senior season next fall. … The three touchdown passes tossed by Higgins during Saturday’s loss to EWU put the Weber State senior within two (94) of matching the Big Sky’s all-time career record of 96 held jointly by Eastern Washington’s Matt Nichols (2006-09) and Montana’s Dave Dickenson.