Look out, Vernon Adams: There’s a new kid on the block.
He’s quick on his feet, short on experience, but gaining fast – sort of like Adams was two years ago.
Meet Dakota Prukop, a redshirt sophomore at Montana State who was on the sidelines in Cheney last Nov. 9, when Adams and the Eagles routed the Bobcats 54-29.
That game sent Eastern on its way to a second straight Big Sky Conference title and sent MSU on a three-game losing streak that cost the Bobcats a spot in the FCS playoffs.
It also marked the passing of an era: Two-time Conference MVP DeNarius McGhee unwillingly passed the torch to Adams as the premier quarterback in the league.
The 14th-ranked Bobcats would love to return the favor on Saturday, when No. 2 Eastern visits Bozeman – and they may have the quarterback to do it.
Prukop, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound redshirt sophomore from Texas, has done it all this season for the 2-1 Bobcats. He’s completed 68.1 percent (47 for 69) of his passes while running for 270 yards and five touchdowns.
“He’s lived up to our hopes,” MSU coach Rob Ash said Wednesday in comparing Prukop with McGhee, who graduated last year.
“I think the thing they have most in common is they are very elusive in pass plays,” Ash said. “When things break down, they both have an uncanny ability to get out of the pocket and make plays.”
At the same point in his career, McGhee was a better passer, but Prukop is a superior runner, Ash said.
“He has only a few games under his belt, but you’re seeing a progress from games one to three that’s very impressive,” EWU coach Beau Baldwin said of Prukop. “And he can make every throw you need to make, with great touch, and he has some serious athleticism.”
Fortunately for the Eagles’ defenders, they also have something under their belts – two games against mobile quarterbacks, including Jared Johnson of Sam Houston State and Cyler Miles of Washington.
“There’s certain things that are similar to what UW did,” Baldwin said without going into detail.
Another concern is the MSU offensive line, which averages a shade less than 300 pounds. According to Eastern defensive tackle Dylan Zylstra, the line “is probably the best I’ve seen from them.”
Every game matters
For the first time in more than 25 years, the Eastern-MSU game won’t count in the Big Sky standings.
Then again, when you’re ranked second in the nation, every game counts for something, especially when the FCS playoff seedings are handed out in November.
“I don’t even know if it’s a conference game or not, but I’m looking forward to it,” said Eastern safety Jordan Tonani, whose interception return for touchdown in Bozeman two years ago proved to be the winning score in a 27-24 Eagles win. That win helped the Eagles share the Big Sky title with the Bobcats and earn the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
As part of the league’s expansion in 2012, only Montana and Portland State will be on EWU’s annual schedule. The other six league games are played on a rotating basis with the other 10 Big Sky teams. Thus, the Eagles will play nonleague games the next two years versus MSU.
The Bobcats are scheduled to play in Cheney on Sept. 19, 2015.
Since 1987, when EWU joined the Big Sky, the annual meeting has counted in the league standings.
Showdown in Fargo
No. 1 North Dakota State and No. 4 Montana will square off in Fargo, North Dakota, on Saturday.
NDSU enters riding a 27-game winning streak, the longest in FCS history. Montana won 24 games in a row from 2001-02, which tied Penn for the longest in FCS history until the Bison broke the mark earlier this season. This is the first meeting between the teams since 2003, when the Bison rallied from a 24-2 halftime deficit to stun Montana 25-24. NDSU was a Division II program at the time.
Weber State sophomore QB Billy Green threw for a career-high 377 yards against Sacramento State. It was the most passing yards by a WSU QB since Cameron Higgins threw for 410 in 2009. … Montana drew a stadium-record crowd of 26,303 last week against South Dakota. The previous record was 26,293 set last season vs. Appalachian State.
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