Two weeks into the football season, the Big Sky Conference is without an unbeaten team.
That’s no surprise, considering every team has played a Division I-A opponent, accounting for eight of the nine losses. The other loss – for 0-2 Sacramento State – came at the hands of a Top 25 I-AA team, Cal Poly.
But there have still been surprises.
Two stand out – Montana State and Idaho State.
MSU’s Bobcats lost their opener at Oklahoma State (15-10) and followed that up with a 42-6 whipping of visiting Stephen F. Austin, generally a decent I-AA team.
Idaho State, after coasting past I-AA Southern Utah 38-13, led Kentucky with less than six minutes to play before losing 41-29. Kentucky may not be a good team, but the Southeast Conference is the Southeast Conference.
There is one more play-up game coming. Portland State, which has already lost to Oregon State, will travel to Boise State next month.
On the flip side, six of the Big Sky teams have play-down games, with three victories already in the books. Eastern Washington has Western Oregon for its home opener at Woodward Field at 6:05 p.m. Saturday, and Montana-Western is at Idaho State.
Montana, Northern Arizona and Weber State have wins. Sacramento State plays Azusa Pacific next month. MSU and PSU don’t play below the I-AA level.
Cats scratch again
MSU coach Mike Kramer was one happy coach after the Bobcats beat Stephen F. Austin.
“This was the best game at home that we’ve played in my (six) years here,” he said in a school press release. “Top to bottom, inside out, we were in command and in control throughout the game, and we were never really threatened except by ourselves.”
SFA opened the scoring with a field goal, but that was it. MSU quarterback Travis Lulay rushed for 106 yards and threw for 202 with a career-high four touchdowns, and the Bobcats defense held the Lumberjacks to 185 yards.
The Bobcats had their first home-opening sellout of 13,327 fans despite cold, rainy conditions.
Eleventh-ranked MSU next goes to No. 18 Cal Poly, which has a six-game winning streak in the series.
Bengals show their bite
The word out of Pocatello is that Idaho State dominated the line of scrimmage at Kentucky.
“We knew coming in that if we could control the front on offense and defense and keep the momentum going in those areas, we’d have a chance,” ISU coach Larry Lewis told the Idaho State Journal.
The Bengals led 29-28 with 5:06 to play after Sherack Okoebor blocked a punt and Sterling Mennear returned it for a touchdown. Kentucky’s Rafael Little, however, returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards.
Still, the running game must be for real, as the Bengals averaged 4.4 yards per carry. Matt Hagler threw for 291 yards.
“I don’t like to say the words ‘moral victory,’ ” safety Quinton Freeman told the newspaper. “A win is a win and a loss was a loss. This was a chance to get better as a team, and I think we did that.”
Jonathan Stewart, a true freshman who almost went to Washington State, returned Montana’s opening kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown as Oregon routed the Grizzlies 47-14. “We just had our lunch handed to us by a real talented, well-coached football team,” UM coach Bobby Hauck told the Missoulian. … Sacramento State lost its 14th straight road game as Cal Poly scored 30 straight points en route to a 37-13 win. It was 10-7 at the half, but former Washington State player Chris Hurd threw two interceptions in the third quarter before leaving with bruised ribs. Hurd finished 11 of 19 for 94 yards, and Brad Tredway went 8 of 12 for 64 yards to keep the Hornets’ QB situation still unsettled.
“Brady Leaf, brother of former WSU quarterback Ryan Leaf, completed 2 of 5 passes for 25 yards on Oregon’s final possession against UM. … Clifton Smith returned punts 92 and 84 yards for TDs, a first in Fresno State history, on the way to a 55-17 win over Weber State. … MSU wide receiver Tramaine Murray, a WSU transfer, Portland State cornerback Odell Jackson and Idaho State kicker Jaret Johnson are the conference players of the week. Murray caught seven passes for 141 yards and two TDs. … Sacramento State and PSU, entering their 10th year in the conference, kick off the 43rd season of Big Sky football Saturday in Portland in the only conference game. … The Big Sky is the top-rated I-AA conference in the Sagarin ratings, with seven of the eight teams in the top 32.
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