Monday, June 04, 2007

Big Sky Fans dot com!

I am now currently involved in a new website dedicated to Big Sky sports, Chris, from egriz has done the legwork, and with the help of a few bloggers from each school, has created your one-stop source for information about the Big Sky Conference. Included are: a gallery, a forum and a blog. Stop by and check it out!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More Trouble At Northern Colorado

GREELEY, Colo. -- A Northern Colorado fullback was arrested after a weekend fight outside an apartment complex, becoming the third UNC football player in five weeks to be accused in altercations.

Garrett Bliss, 21, was arrested on suspicion of third-degree assault early Sunday in Evans, a small town adjacent to Greeley. Police Sgt. Tracy Moore told the Greeley Tribune investigators believe Bliss was angry over text messages sent to his girlfriend's mobile phone, went to the apartment complex with friends and attacked a man he suspected of sending the messages.

Moore said Bliss was booked into the jail after he acknowledged to officers he had attacked the man. He was released on $7,500 bail. No court appearance had been set.

Bliss had no listed phone number. He did not immediately return a message left at his parents' home in Durango.

In a statement issued through the school, coach Scott Downing said other football players were present during the incident and their involvement was being investigated. Bliss has been suspended for one game, Downing said.

The victim's name and condition were not immediately released.

Last month, UNC backup punter Mitch Cozad was arrested on suspicion of stabbing rival Rafael Mendoza in the leg in a bid to win the starting job. The case drew nationwide attention and comparisons to the attack on Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan by Tonya Harding's hit man.

Mendoza has returned to the team. Prosecutors declined to charge Cozad but said they were still investigating.

Last week, defensive lineman and co-captain Jacob Carlson was cited for disorderly conduct after a fight outside a sports restaurant and bar. A police report indicated he was punched at a bar after telling a Latino man he didn't like Mexicans.

Carson, 23, of Greeley was suspended from the team and was awaiting surgery on the orbital bone around his left eye.

Bliss, a sophomore from Durango, started eight games last season but has played a backup role this year, appearing in four games. He spent the 2004 season as a redshirt at Wyoming.

UNC spokesman Kyle Schwartz said Monday the university was waiting for more information from police before taking action.

"We just don't know all the details yet," he said.

This certainly is an inauspicious start for the Bears, who have found themselves in the national press several times as a member of the Big Sky so far, none of which how they would like. These events should really put a strain on the Big Sky directors, given that they had the chance to add at the very least a quality North Dakota State program, and instead opted for UNC.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Big Sky Players Of The Week

Josh Barnett, ISU, RB, offensive player of the week:
Barnett, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound junior from Riverside, Calif., rushed for 173 yards on 21 carries and scored a touchdown in Idaho State’s 41-13 Big Sky Conference victory at Northern Colorado. Barnett carried 21 times, averaging 8.2 yards per carry. He scored on a 5-yard run in the second quarter to give Idaho State a 20-0 lead. Barnett also had a 58-yard non-scoring run. Barnett leads the Big Sky and ranks eighth in the nation with an average of 126.2 rushing yards per game. This is Barnett’s first Player of the Week Award.

Jimmy Wilson, UM, CB, defensive player of the week:
Wilson, a 5-11, 184-pound junior from San Diego, Calif., intercepted three passes and tallied six tackles in No. 4 Montana’s 33-17 victory at Eastern Washington. Wilson had two interceptions on back-to-back possessions in the first quarter. His first interception occurred at the Eastern Washington 36-yard line, and led to a Montana touchdown two plays later. On EWU’s next possession, Wilson picked off a pass at the UM 5-yard line, stopping an EWU drive. His third interception came in the second quarter and led to a Grizzly field goal. Montana had five interceptions, and six total forced turnovers. This is Wilson’s first Player of the Week.

Tuff Harris, UM, CB, special teams player of the week:
Harris, a 6-0, 197-pound senior from Colstrip, Mont., tied a Big Sky Conference record and set a Montana record with a 94-yard punt return for a touchdown. Harris took a Ryan Donckers punt at his own 6-yard line, and raced 94 yards for the score. The return tied a mark set in 1971 by Weber State’s Randle Anderson. Harris ranks fourth in the nation and leads the Big Sky with a punt return average of 20.9 yards. The 94-yard return is the longest in I-AA football this season. This is Harris’ second Special Teams Player of the Week Award.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Big Sky Preview - Week 6

Last week saw 3 of the 4 games lost at home. Eastern fell in the waning moments to Sac, NAU fell to a ferocious Bobcat attack, and the Vikings were bested by a stingy Griz defense. Only Weber came away victorious on their home field, and that was only a 5 point game.

Biggest Win : UM
Biggest Loss : NAU

My power rankings through week 5:
1. Montana
2. Portland State
3. Weber State
4. Montana State
5. Northern Arizona
5. Sacramento State
6. Idaho State
7. Eastern Washington
8. Northern Colorado

Only PSU and UM have looked good so far - the league is either down this year, or teams haven't found solid replacements for their gamebreakers of last year just yet. A lot of new faces in the Sky this year.

This week, there is a good chance that every home team may lose.

Idaho State @ Northern Colorado
- Where is this Idaho State team that was so hyped at the beginning of the season? The offense has been pretty impressive, however. Quarterback Matt Gutierrez is in a very close 3rd place in yards thrown (34 yards seperate the top 3) despite playing in one less game, but has thrown 6 INTs with his 8 TDs. Running back Josh Barnett leads the league in rushing yards per game. So why the 1-3 start? Turnovers and defense. They are -1 in turnover and give up 31 points per game. The Bengals travel to Northern Colorado, who has started showing signs of life undfer first year head coach Scott Downing. They beat Texas State on the road, played Western Illinois fairly tough, and then played Weber pretty tough on the road as well. Running back Andre Wilson has 435 yards so far, but is coming off back-to-back 130+ day performances, and looks to find another one this week against a team that is giving up 130 per game on the ground. The Bears will have to find a passing game to be sucessful in this one. I talked about the turnover battle for ISU, but it is even worse for NoCo. The Bears will have to be sucessful running the ball early, which may open the passing game up. The Bears have fumbled the ball 7 times and threw 8 interceptions so far, and will have to play much better than that if they wanted to beat this ISU squad. The Bears are improving, and will keep it close it what will be a high scoring affair in Greeley.
What to watch: Andre Wilson will get 25 carries, but will it be enough to control the clock and minimize turnovers?
- 28-24

#3 Montana @ Eastern Washington
- After last week's victory over Portland State, Montana has proven they are currently cream of the crop in the Big Sky. The Griz are leading the Big Sky in offensive points per game, and Reggie Bradshaw has found the endzone 5 times this season, replacing Payton finalist Lex Hilliard. The Grizzlies are plus 1 in the turnover margin, and face a team that has thrown for the most interceptions so far. EWU quarterback Matt Nichols is just a freshman, but has shown signs of a promising future this season so far, even though his stats won't show it (starts against two very good IA teams). The Eagles have a solid front 5, and a good running back in Ryan Coles. But it has been a very bleak season for the Eagles, dropping games at home vs DII Central Washington and were also victims in the demise of Sacramento's States 19 game road losing streak. Two years ago, this game was decided by a blocked field goal, in Montana's favor. I don't see this one being near that close. The Grizzlies defense is as good as ever this year, and the Eagles have the worst offense they have fielded for at least 3 years. The Grizzly linebacking corp will pressure Nichols all day, and Nichols isn't very good when hassled. If he has time, he can pick you apart (then again, what QB can't?), but the Griz won't let him. The Griz secondary will also lead to pressure sacks, lead by CB Quinton Jackson. Offensively, the Griz should be able to move at will against a defense that gives up less than 200 yards a game in the air, but is last in run defense. The Griz are a very balanced team this year, and Eastern doesn't have the defensive personnel to stop them.
What to watch: Matt Nichols is certainly having growing pains, but has shown glimpses of how good he can be. If he performs well the Eags may be able to hang.
- 38-13

Weber State @ Sacramento State
- Well, this statement hasn't been said for a very long time - "The Hornets are coming off a road win..." That is because they haven't won on the road for 19 straight games, a streak dating back till 2002. Now that they have that proverbial monkey off their back, how will they respond? I wasn't able to view the EWU/Sac game, but the box score indicates Sac scored twice in the last 3:36 to pull out the one point victory. They won't be able to pull out another miracle against McBride's Wildcats. Weber State is first in the league in total defense (yards), and second in scoring defense. While the offense has yet to get on track, the defense has been winning ballgames for them. This the perfect week to figure out what has been causing the offensive struggles in Ogden. Quarterback Ian Pizzaro has seen limited action this year; most of the snaps have been taken by Shawn Woods, who has not found his stride. With 4 INTs to 3 TDs, the Wildcats passing game has produced just 138 yards per game, but their running game hasn't been any more productive, at just 106 yards per game. But freshman running back Trevyn Smith has rushed for 455 yards in just 4 games, and is looking very promising for the Cats. Sac, per usual, has a talented group of players that can never seem to put it together. Marcel Marquez played better against EWU (187 passing yards in the second half), but still has a long way to go to be a productive QB in this league. I think Weber spoils the Hornets Homecoming.
What to watch: Trevyn Smith is making a case for freshman of the year, with two 150+ days under his belt already.
- 24-17

#15 Portland State @ Montana State
- Even though Portland State fell at home last week to the Griz, their defense has been playing outstanding all year, and played well in that game as well. They are only giving up 17.6 points per game, and that includes two games against IA foes. Linebacker Adam Hayward has been a monster, racking up 48 tackles, 8 for loss, 4 sacks, two forced fumbles, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery so far. PSU also held the Grizzlies to just 1-10 third down conversions. With QB Sawyer Smith still out, Colorado transfer Brian White was thrust into the game midway through the second quarter, and played pretty well considering he had only been in the system for a week. But if Smith is healthy (no one is sure), he will start. Otherwise White will get his first start in I-AA, and I doubt he would like to lose to the Bobcats twice in one year with two different teams. While the Viks defense has been solid, the Bobcats offense has been... unpredictable. Last week they gashed NAU's depleted secondary for 348 passing yards, and for good measure decided to rush for 211 more. Michael Jefferson set Bobcat receiving records, grabbing 12 balls for 239 yards and a score. A good matchup is to be found between Jefferson and Dominic Dixon, the leading CB in a talented Viking secondary. Good news for Bobcats fans, however, as wideout Josh Lewis is expected to return to the lineup this week, giving hot-and-cold quarterback Cory Carpenter another weapon. Along with his return, S Ryan Force and DE Aaron Papich (both all-conference) return to the lineup this week. But there is also good news for Viking fans, as Mu'Ammar Ali is expected to see some action, his first as a Viking. This game favors the Vikings, as their defense may be the best the Bobcats have faced this year, and the Bobcats have been playing awful at home. The Cats are fresh off a top25 victory on the road at NAU, and will be playing in front of a sell out crowd for homecoming. But I think the Vikings defense is going to be too strong for the struggling Bobcat offense, but I don't think the Viking offense is going to romp the Cats defense, either. This game could get ugly, but I think the Cats play with a lot of heart but come up short at home.
What to watch: True freshman Aaron Mason got his first collegiate start last week at NAU, and it was a doosy. He rushed 24 times for 192 yards and 2 TDs, and will have to have at least 100 yards this week to keep the Cats in it.
- 27-17

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Biermann and Jefferson Garner National POTW Honors

Montana defensive end Kroy Biermann was selected as a national weekly all-star for his defensive effort against Portland State.

Biermann was a catalyst on defense as Montana held off Portland State 26-20 on the road in a key Big Sky Conference game. Biermann forced a fumble, recovered two fumbles, piled up eight tackles, with one sack, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. Five of his tackles were solo stops. The Grizzlies limited Portland State to 246 yards of total offense. Biermann was named the Big Sky defensive player of the week for the second time this season with the performance.

Montana State's Michael Jefferson was awarded co-offensive player of the week, according to The Sports Network.
Jefferson caught 12 passes for a career-high and school-record 239 yards and one touchdown in the Bobcats' 39-32 victory at Northern Arizona...Caught a 56- yard TD pass in the second quarter to give Montana State a 22-7 advantage...Had four catches of 20 yards or more...Notched a 24-yard reception on Montana State's gamewinning touchdown drive...12 receptions ranked sixth in Montana State history.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Big Sky Preview - Week 3

After week 2, I am 13-3.

Standings are as follows:
1. Portland State 2-0 1-0
2. Montana 1-1 0-0
3. Idaho 1-1 0-0
4. Montana State 1-1 0-0
5. Sacramento State 0-1 0-0
6. Weber State 0-2 0-0
7. Eastern Washington 0-2 0-0
8. Northern Arizona 0-2 0-0
9. Northern Colorado 0-2 0-1

Let's get right to it.

#14 Portland State @ Cal (#21 in that BS)
- The Vikings are playing as well as anyone in the conference right now. They have held their two Division I opponents to a total of just 9 points, 6 of those coming at the hands of IA New Mexico. In totaly, they have outscored their foes 62-9. But they haven't found much sucess running the ball, with their top three backs running for just 186 yards in two games, with a long of 16 yards. QB Sawyer Smith has played well enough, but nothing that will win him any accolades. The defense has been dominating, forcing 7 turnovers in two games and not giving uyp a single touchdown. But all that will change this Saturday, as a very talented Cal offense will have a chance to strut their stuff. Heisman candidate Marshawn Lycn has rushed for over 200 yards already, and looks to have a big game. I think the Vikings have a shot at keeping this one close, but this Cal team is for real this year.
What to watch: If the defense can contain Lynch, QB Nate Longshore and the WR tandem of DeShawn Jackson and Lavelle Hawkins, they have a shot at the upset. No big deal, right?
- 17-38

Dixie State @ Northern Arizona
- The Jacks finally get some relief, after a two-week road stint against stiff IA competition, the boys get to stay home and play in their dome, against DII Dixie State. As brilliantly predicted by yours truly, Alex Waton was indeed shut down by Utah's Eric Weddle, containing him to just 3 receptions for 19 yards. The Jacks would strike first, a 25 yard strike to Kenny Mahone, but the Utes would go on to score 45 straight. Surprisingly enough, there was only 1 turnover by either team, an INT by Murietta. Meanwhile, Dixie State is having a rough go in their first year in the NCAA, losing to Mesa State 14-42, Adarms State 7-37, and IAA Mid-Major power San Diego, 7-41. Well time will tell if the Jacks are better than the #1 ranked Mid-Major, San Diego, but they are better than Dixie State. Couple that with the fact that this is the 4th straight road game for the... (why is it so hard to find what a DII teams mascot is? I think they are the Redbirds but their site eludes that fact) "Redbirds", and this one should be an easy win for the Jacks who themselves are just coming off a tough road stint. UPDATE - I finally saw the word "Rebel" on the webpage in a random article. Booyea, I'm good at what I do.
What to watch: NAU has an impressive record against DIIs, and should continue that trend.
- 10-45

#19 UC-Davis @ #20 Montana State
- There is no team harder to predict that the Bobcats. They go from an inspiring performance against IA Colorado, and then fall flat on their faces getting thumped at home by DII Chadron State. So the question on everybodies mind is, which Bobcat team shows up? I wish I had an answer. But I do know the Bobcats will be without starting WR Josh Lewis, who is second in the conference in yards. Injured starting RB Evin Groves is also out, as well as starting TE Elliot Barnhart. The Cats have talent in the wings however, as Tyler Lulay (name sound familiar?), Mike Brown and Deon Toliver can all step in and show their stuff. While the Cats were turning the ball over more often than J-Lo gets engaged (yet still racking up 460 yards of offense), the Aggies were being outmatched by #23 TCU on the road, losing that contest 46-13. This is a very interesting game from a national standpoint, and Matt Dougherty has picked it as his game of the week. The Cats offense has been rolling, but the Aggies boast of the top best defenses in the country. The Aggies are a passing team, lead by QB Jon Grant and WR Tony Kays, but Kays is probable for the contest. Davis isn't a particularly strong running team, but the Bobcats are capable of making them look that way. The Cats defense has only allowed 1 score through the air so far this season (Chadron), and are 27th in the country in pass efficiency defense. RB Alex Garfio has only mustered up 92 rushing yards so far, so the Aggies will most likely look to the air. Both teams are a bit inconsistent, and for that reason alone I will simply have to go with the home team here. This game is eerily reminiscent of last years' Bobcat/NDSU matchup, which the Cats won narrowily 20-17.
What to watch: It is going to be a cold, dreary day in Bozeman, with a chance of snow. How will it affect the outcome?
- 24-27

#24 Idaho State @ Idaho
- The battle of the spuds. Okay, just kidding, but this should be an interesting game. But Idaho is just a bad football team, and have been since leaving the Big Sky Conference. They continue to get beat by former conference foes (mainly Montana), and are in danger of dropping another one. They brought in Dennis Erickson because of this (you know it's true), but he isn't going to build Rome in an egg, err day. The Bengals dissapointed me last week with their performance against a rebuilding albeit talented UNLV squad, but they can redeem themselves. The Vandals have thrown just one TD all season, and ran for just 2 more. They will most likely equal that effort against a lackluster Bengal defense that surrendered 56 points to the Runnin' Rebels. But Matt Gutierrez has already throwing for 456 yards and 3 TDs, and should get another pair agains the suspect Vandal defense. While I may be giving the Bengals too much credit here, and the Vandals too little, I see this as an even more winnable game than UNLV (cough). The Vandals gave up 343 rushing yards last week to Washington State, and I could see a solid 200 yard day from the Josh Barnett/Ken Cornist duo. If Gutierrez has time, he could pick apart the Vandal secondary. I like the Bengals in this one, where there "should" be plenty of Bengal fans at the game to cheer them on.
What to watch: Josh Barnett and Ken Cornist could have huge days against a Vandal team that has surrendered 259 rushing yards per game so far this season.
- 28-24

Northern Colorado @ Texas State
- Texas State is in a rebuilding year (they would like to believe it is a reloading year), but the loss of Barrick Nealy has been a lot to overcome so far for the Bobcats on San Marcos. They are relying on a host of running backs for a balanced offensive attack, and so far it has worked, though they haven't faced a IAA opponenet yet. A convincing victory here should be enough to put them in the rankings (though they already are in two publications, but as a voting member of the AGS poll that is the one I use for my rankings). And that is exactly what I think will happen. Face it Bear fans, this season is looking very bleak. UNC has been outscored 83-10 in their two contest this year, and both of those were IAA contests, so there is no outlier here. To make matters worse, the backup punter stabbed the starting punter in the leg to try and earn himself the starting spot. So that puts you out two kickers, making one wonder if the third string kicker was really behind this the whole time. The Bears have averaged 215 total yards per game so far, but they have played two very tough defenses, in UC-Davis and Portland State. They finally get a break this week against a Texas State defense ranked 91st in IAA, so they should finally score more than once in a game, but it isn't going to be enough. I predect their opponents scoring total will surpass 100 after this game, while the points for total will be lucky to break 30. Buckle up Bear fans, this is going to be a bumpy season.
What to watch: Andre Wilson may finally have his first 100 yard game of the season, but I wouldn't bet money on it.
- 13-31

I will post the rest if I have time before tomorrow, but the outlook looks bleak...
Here are my scores:

SUU @ Weber
- 14-24

Cal Poly @ Sacramento State
- 35-10

Central Washington @ Eastern Washington
- 17-35

Possible upset of the week: CWU over EWU
Best matchup: UC-Davis @ Montana State
Worst matchup: Dixie State @ Norther Arizona

Monday, September 11, 2006

Review Week 1

Well I was 6-1 last week, thanks to the surprising (maybe not as much as you'd think) letdown by MSU against DII Chadron State. So far my record is 13-3. I sure don't mind having those 2 losses from week on on my record though.

Last week wasn't a very important week in terms of opponents and future indications, but it did show us several things.

(scores in bold are missed predictions)

Mountaineers cruise past Eastern Washington
- Eastern would finish with just 185 yards of total offense while surrendering 591 against the #6 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers. Ryan Cole would account for 60 of those on 17 carries, about the lone bright spot on a dreary day in West Virginia. Redshirt freshman Matt Nichols got his first collegiate start, going 13-25 for 90 yards and one INT. Not to bad considering his competition and inexperience. Starter Chris Peerboom did not make the trip due to a concussion suffered last week against Oregon State.
Final: 3-56
Next up: Central Washington

Weber falls to Cal Poly
- In a day dominated by defense, the Wildcats struggled offensively and ended up being shut out at home by a Cal Poly defense that has yet to be scored on this season in two contents. One of the Mustang touchdowns came right after a screen pass fumble that Poly recovered on the Wildcat 1 yard line. Noble would later run it in. The other TD was a 42 yard interception return by Mark Restelli, with 2:22 to play. Freshman running back Trevyn Smith appears to be the real deal as he ran for 81 yards on 15 carries against a very stout Mustange defense. Starter Adrian Conway was benched halfway into the contest. The Wildcats have three straight home games.
Final: 0-17
Next up: Southern Utah

Chadron State runs past Bobcats
- Just one week after pulling the biggest upset in college football, the Bobcats fall victim to DII Chadron State, perhaps the biggest upset in IAA this week, if not all of college football. The Cats had no answer for Danny Woodhead, who rushed for 215 yards on 33 carries with 2 scores, on a serires of misdirections, shovel passes, and counters. The Bobcats would do nothing but hurt themselves, with a slew of penalties, poor tackling, and 4 interceptions. Starting running back Evin Groves would not play, and was replaced by a combo of Isaiah Taito and true freshman Aaron Mason, and would play pretty well, averaging over 5 YPC. Almost everyone in IAA would've predicted the Cats would be 1-1 at this point, but certainly not the way they achieved that record.
Final: 24-35
Next up: #19 UC-Davis

Vikings score at will against Bears
- Portland State scored on its first five possessions of the game en route to a 31-0 halftime lead against the hapless Northern Colorado Bears. Senior LB Adam Hayward registered 14 tackles for the Viks, including 8 solo. Andre Wilson was held to just 26 yards on 12 carries, as quarterback Dominic Breazeale led the rushing attack with 56 total yards on 11 carries. He would also throw 2 INTs and just 112 yards. Kelena Ho'okona rushed for 72 yards for the Viks, and found the endzone three times. Sawyer Smith also had a very good day, throwing 2 TDs on 13-21 passing and 254. The Vikings defense is playing as well as anyone in the country right now, but face a giant task next week vs #22 Cal.
Final: 45-3
Next Up: @Cal

Grizzlies impressive at home
- The Montana Grizzlies, without starting RB Lex Hilliard, and starting QB Josh Swogger, still managed to rack up 535 yards of total offense against a lackluster South Dakot State squad. The Griz ran the ball an amazing 53 times for 244 yards, and threw the ball another 39 times in their rout against the Jackrabbits. Cole Berquist tossed a career high 257 yards on an efficient 22-35 passing. The ground attack was lead by Reggie Bradshaw, who rushed for 77 yards and a pair of TDs in his first career start. The Griz looked impressive on both sides of the ball, and proved that Lex Hilliard isn't the only thing they have going for them. Eric Allen had a breakout game as well, catching 7 balls for 101 yards. The score should have been much worse, however, because SDSU was able to keep the Griz out of the endzone on 5 different drives, that would all result in FGs, and all five FGs were from inside the red-zone.
Final: 36-7
Next up: Sacramento State

Jacks fall flat at Utah
- Northern Arizona took a 7-0 lead, but would never find the endzone again against IA foe Utah. Jason Murietta finished 11-21 for 118 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. NAU outgained, outscored and outplayed Utah in the first quarter, but the Utes would score 17 unanswered en route to a 45-7 victory. Alex Wastson was shut down, catching just 3 balls for 19 yards. The Jacks played pretty well in their two IA games, and maybe tougher than given credit for come conference play.
Final: 7-45
Next up: Dixie State College

Battle of the Gutierrezes
- Flows off the tongue, doesn't it? Fort Lewis's Matt Gutierrez couldn't compete with the Bengals quarterback of the same name, as the latter passed for 191 yards, 2 scores and an INT in just two quarters of work as the Bengals grabbed their first victory of the season. Josh Barnett did his part, scampering for a career-high 185 yards and three touchdowns, as the Bengals used a balanced attack to blow by the outmatched Skyhawks. Akilah Lacey, injured most of last year, is back and has a new hired gun throwing him the ball, and nabbed 4 receptions for 103 yards and a TD. Ken Cornis also had a nice day running the ball, and proved that the Bengals may have the best running tandem in the league. Couple that with a new-found passing offense, and there is reason for defenses to fear this talented Bengal offense.
Final: 48-12
Next up: Idaho

Team of the week: Portland State
Slouch of the week: Montana State

Updated personal standings (they do not reflect future predictions, just a current ranking system)
1. Portland State
2. Montana
3. Idaho State
4. Montana State
5. Weber State
6. Northern Arizona
7. Eastern Washington
8. Sacramento State
9. Northern Colorado

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Jason Washington Gives Back

Griz redshirt helps wish come true for young fan

MISSOULA - University of Montana redshirt quarterback Jason Washington has formed the Griz Make-a-Wish Foundation as the result of a chance meeting with a young Missoula fan at Wal-Mart.

Because of that meeting Abby Reimann and her family will be watching when the Grizzlies take on South Dakota State Saturday.

The girl’s father recognized Washington, who thought Abby was sleeping in her father’s arms. But because of a life-threatening illness she was awake but largely unresponsive.

“She can’t speak now,” Washington said. “But she can understand. The disease is starting to take away her senses.”

The press release from UM did not identify the disease.

Christie Anderson, Grizzly Athletics marketing and promotions director, said Washington came to her office and was “just adamant that we do something for this family.” Washington, sitting out the season while recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, said that because he can’t contribute on the field he’s using his time to help out in the community.

“Hopefully we can help make one of her last days a little bit brighter,” he said. “Kids in Missoula idolize the Griz.”

Abby and her family will have pre-game passes to be on the field during warmups and will receive shirts, hats and goodie bags courtesy of the UM bookstore and the president’s office.

Washington, from Oakland, Calif., has donated his player tickets to his new foundation since his family isn’t in the area to attend games. He and Anderson will try to find a family in need of a boost for each home game and are looking for candidates through Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, Wash.

Good for Jason. It makes me proud to see players do something like this. With so many media outlets reporting nothing but stories about the dark side (coughchroniclecough), I thought I would post something that reflects well on universities and it's student athletes for once.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Big Sky Preview - Week 2

I've never been so happy to be wrong as I was last week. Portland State and Montana State both shocked the college footbal world, by upending their IA foes on the road. PSU and MSU both used similar gameplans - dominate defense and control the football. Both squads shut out their respective opponents in the second half.

After week 1, I am 7-2.

Standings are as follows:
1. Montana State 1-0 0-0
2. Portland State 1-0 0-0
3. Montana 0-1 0-0
4. Idaho State 0-1 0-0
5. Weber State 0-1 0-0
6. Northern Arizona 0-1 0-0
7. Eastern Washington 0-1 0-0
8. Sacramento State 0-1 0-0
9. Northern Colorado 0-1 0-0

Eastern Washington @ #6 West Virginia
- Ummm, yea. EWU was creamed by a mediocre Oregon State squad last week, 17-56. But the Eagles did themselves in with four very early turnovers, to find themselves in 35 point hole by halftime. The Eagles finished with -14 rushing yards and just 140 through the air. Ryan Cole had 29 yards and a score, on 13 carries. With the first game jitters out of the way, the Eagles face perhaps the toughest IA opponent any Big Sky squad faces this year, West Virginia. The Mountaineers rushed for 312 yards against Marshall last week, and there is no reason they can't equal that this week. While Eastern is a respectable 7-13 against IA competition, this is going to be a slaughter.
What to watch: Anything else that you can get your eyes on, this ain't gonna be pretty.
- 10-57

#4 Cal Poly @ Weber State
- The Mustangs boast one of the best defenses in the country, and showed it last week vs DII Fort Lewis, blanking them 44-0. Fort Lewis didn't even cross the 50 until well into the 4th quarter. LB Kyle Shotwell is a potential Buchanan Award winner. The Wildcats couln't find any offensive ryhthm last week at Colorado State, and it wouldn't be out of line to say the Mustangs defense is superior to CSU's. Thanks to sacks, the Wildcats had an outstanding -38 total rush yards, and it doesn't get any easier this week. With senior RB Zach Hall out for the season, the Cats will rely on seasoned veteran Adrian Conway to get them going offensively. The Wildcats defense played fairly well against the run Saturday, but Cal Poly is a run, run, run, sometimes pass then run some more team. Phew. They racked up 347 yards and boast one of the best young backs in the nation, James Noble.
What to watch: Ian Pizzaro needs to get more protection, and if he does he could have a decent day. If he has trouble finding WRs or getting time, the Wildcats are going 0-2.
- 31-10

Chadron State @ #9 Montana State
- The Bobcats pulled off possibly the biggest upset in college football last week by going into Boulder and dominating the Buffs defensively, holding them to just 216 yards of total offense, and allowing just 8 completions by 5th year QB James Cox. Kramer has been a very busy man this week, basking in what could be the most amount of media attention the school has ever received. This could make it a little harder to focus on practice. The CSC Eagles won their opening against DII newcomer St. Mary's with a solid ground game led by all-everything Danny Woodhead, who rushed for 181 yards on 27 carries and 2 TDs, and boasts legit 4.4 speed. Add to that the fact that I am not sold on MSU's run defense, although they allowed just 105 yards to IA Colorado, they did give up nearly 5 YPC, but didn't allow a run over 13 yards, either. I'm sure the Eagles were a bit nervous to hear the final of the MSU/CU game, and they should be. Chadron will come in with the same plan as the Bobcats had for CU. The Bobcats are now the big bad D1 squad, and the Eagles assume the role of the Bobcats in the previous week. A letdown here is something past Bobcat teams might let happen, but I do not think it will happen this week, against a middle-of-the-road DII Eagle squad. Cory Carpenter had a coming out party of sorts against CU, having the best day in Bobcat history in a first start, throwing for 229 yards on 22-31 passing and a TD, and his trio of receivers had to have been wearing sticky glue against the Buffs, dropping less than 3 passes.
What to watch: With starting RB Evin Groves out, the Bobcats will rely on a pair of sophmores, with Isaiah Taito expected to get the start, but UTEP transfer Jon Lane should see plenty of actrion as well.
- 7-30

Northern Colorado @ #19 Portland State
- The first conference game of the season will have the PSU Vikings hosting the newly joined UNC Bears. NoCo played a very tough UC-Davis squad last week, and didn't play very well. Four turnovers plagued the Bear offense, and the Aggies were able to stick to the Bears on the road, 38-7. The offense took a hit with the injury to star wideout Andy Birkel, and the Bear defense gave up 366 total yards to a very talented Aggie team. The Vikings still have a lot of question marks offensively, but are coming off one of the biggest wins in school history, a 16-6 shocker against IA New Mexico. Mu'Ammar Ali, who was expected to be an ample replacement for All-American Joe Rubin, has injured his shoulder and is out at least 4 weeks. His backups are a couple guys with names that are even harder to pronounce, thank God I only have to type them: Kelena Ho'okano rushed for 35 yards against New Mexico, and Olaniyi Sobomehin added 8. QB Sawyer Smith came on strong at the end of last year, and played pretty well against the Lobos, tossing 2 TD passes and 173 yards. Even though the Lobos outgained the Vikings 339-233, they could not find the endzone, and did not score in the second half. Credit the Vikings defense who may have proven they are #1 in the Big Sky. LB Adam Hayword registered 10 tackles, 4 sacks and forced a fumble. I like the Vikings at home for this one, their defense is stout and the Bears offense has yet to find itself.
What to watch: Last time these two teams met, Joe Rubin racked up 356 yards and 5 TDs. This time around, the Bears have the better back in Andre Wilson, who is going to have to play a huge game if the Bears want to hang around.
- 10-28

South Dakota State @ #5 Montana
- South Dakota State may have just suffered one of the worst losses in school history Saturday. The Jackrabbits lost their season opener at home to DIII Wisconsin-La Crosse. The field conditions were soggy and wet, but a D1 program should never lose to a DIII program. DII losses are forgivable but not acceptable. Regardless, the Jacks should bounce back, but they face a very tough task visiting WA-Grizzly stadium tomorrow. The Jacks used a pair of QBs, Andy Kardoes and Ryan Berry, who would throw 4 INTs between them. While the Jacks were losing a game they were supposed to win, the Griz were losing one they were supposed to lose. The Griz traveled to Iowa City to play the Hawks, and got trounced 41-7. The Griz played admirably for 2 and a 1/2 quarters, coming as close as 17-7, but it went downhill from there. Josh Swogger has reportedly broken his non-throwing hand, but Bobby Hauck won't tell anyone the injury report, not even his own mother. So with potentially their starting QB out, their starting RB, and from what I have heard, starting WR (though he didn't play at Iowa) out for at least the first half (or not, I'm so confused on this whole thing), the Griz offense may revert to last years dismal output. Cole Berquist would/will take the helm if Swogger isn't good to go, who had a less than stellar freshman campaign a year ago. So what is the good news? The Griz defense played pretty well at Iowa, and returning to their hometown in front of their crowd, they are going to play very well. I wouldn't be suprised at a game very similar to last years.
What to watch: Nobody has proven themselves worth to replace Hilliard yet, but you couldn't expect anyone to against a nationally ranked IA team. It will be interesting to see who steps up, Reggie Bradshaw or Greg Coleman, or both.
- 0-17

Northern Arizona @ Utah
- Can it be? Is it true? Is Jason Murietta finally the QB we all thought he was in 2003? He showed glimpses in the Jacks opening loss to #24 Arizona State. He threw for 259 yards, 2 scores on an impressive 15-20 passing. But 206 of those yards, not to mention both scores came from WR Alex Watson, who earned national player of the week awards. NAU also had the best daying running the ball against IA foes, gaining 109 yards on the ground, though 31 came from Murietta. The game was tied in the 4th quarter until ASU blew it open. Utah may not be as tough as opponent as ASU, but the Jacks will still be overmatched in this one. Utah's Eric Weddle is one of the bestDBs in the MWC, and should match up well with Watson. While I applaud NAU's effort at ASU, I don't think they can repeat that performance. Well at very best they can match it, and still lose 35-14. I'm sick of talking about these IA games, but we still have several left on the schedule.
What to watch : Jason Murietta played exceptional versus top25 Arizona State - can he repeat thtt performance and regain his status as an elite QB in the BSC?
- 17-38

Fort Lewis @ Idaho State
- ISU played much better than the score would indicate. A closer look indicates the defense played awful, and the offense couldn't convert third downs. ISU's defense has finished in the bottom half of the conference for the last few years, and if this game is any indication, that trend should continue. Pago Togafu might be the only bright spot by the seasons end. Matt Gutierrez got himself off to a good start, finishing the week with the most yards in the Sky, 260, with 1 TD, 1INT on 17-32 passing. ISU is going to be very explosive this year against IAA foes, but they don't get to test those waters for another week, as they take on DII Fort Lewis. The Skyhawks were blanked 44-0 by national championship contender Cal Poly, and don't face a much easier task this week by traveling to Pocatello to take on the Bengals. They would be able to muster up just 79 yards of offense, and will find ISU's defense a breath of fresh air after the swarming defense of the Mustangs. They will be able to put some points on the board, but ISU has far too many weapons on offense to keep this game close. Gutierrez will have a big day connecting with a talented group of wideouts lead by senior Akilah Lacey, and the ever potent duo of Josh Barnett and Ken Cornist will rack up at least 150 yards.
What to watch: Matt Gutierrez had an impressive day against a talented UNLV defense, and could have his biggest day as a collegiate QB yet.
- 13-35

Possible upset of the week: Weber over Cal Poly
Best matchup: Cal Poly @ Weber
Worst matchup: EWU @ West Virginia

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Sorry about the lack of updates, especially with so many exciting things happening in the Big Sky this previous week. When I returned from my three day stint in Colorado, I found my PC was kaput. Luckily I got in at midnight or so, and the next day was Labor Day, so I didn't get a chance to get it to a shop until late Tuesday afternoon. Turns out my video card is fried, all 285 bucks of it. I should be operational again tomorrow, pending further complications.

With that, I will leave you with a glorious picture of yours truely at Folsom Field, courtesy of the ever-amazing Jay Thane.

I have the cowboy hat on. Sorry ladies, I'm taken.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Big Sky Opening Day

Three Big Sky teams opened their season today against I-A foes, but no one came out victorious.

Sacramento State 0 Boise State 45
- This one wasn't even close! Sac managed 50 rushing yards and 32 passing. I don't know what else to say.

Eastern Washington 17 Oregon State 56
- Well at least the Eags put some points on the board, though they found themselves down 35-0 just 19 minutes into the game, thanks to three fumbles and an INT. The Eags would finish with just 126 yards of total offense against a middle of the road OSU squad.

Northern Arizona 14 Arizon State (#24) 35
- The best showing so far by a BSC club, the Jacks were tied up with those Devils at the start of the 4th quarter, 14-14. NAU actually led two times in this game, 7-0 and then 14-7. Murietta and Watson hooked up 11 times for 206 yards and two TDs, and Murietta finished an impressive 15-20 for 259 yards. Is this the beginning of the return of Murietta that we Big Sky fans have been wondering about for years?

Overall, a dissapointing way to start the new season. I expected a bit more competition from our BSC bretheren, but it looks like only NAU showed up to play some football.

A real quick preview of the rest of the BSC action (I will be back to full preview mode next week, I had a very hectic week):

Griz 20 Iowa 45
- This is probably the best opponent the BSC has faced in years. The Griz have the potential to keep this closer than that, but the loss of Hilliard to injury and Chambers to... whatever... are going to make for a very tough matchup. Drew Tate and Albert Young are going to shine, but senior QB Josh Swogger has something to prove as well.

Wildcats 20 Colorado State 38
- CSU has been down and lost Kyle Bell to injury, but they are still way ahead of a regrouping Wildcat squad. The loss of Zach Hall hurts the Cats, although they are still talented enough in the backfield. CSU will be too much this early in the season.

Bobcats 17 Colorado 35
- This game might be close for a half, because both teams are breaking in new offensive players, and CU is breaking in a new coach. Both teams return talented defenses, and could kee this game relatively low-scoring for awhile. The Buffs will start to click in the second half and erase any chances of an upset.

Bengals 24 UNLV 30
- I believe this game will be the closest of the matchups between I-A squads. Gutierrez has been playing lights out in scrimmages, and Togafu will prove his worth defensively. UNLV is going through a transition phase, and a lot of changes have been made. UNLV will still have too much raw talent to overcome, but this talented ISU squad will give them all they can handle.

Vikings 17 New Mexico 38
- The Lobos are a quality IA program. The Vikings have way too many question marks, though lots of talent. But the inexperience and lack of playing together will make this a very tough task. And it doesn't get any easier for PSU after this, either...

Bears 14 UC Davis 27
- The Bears are impressively the only BSC team not playing a I-A opponent this season. But this a talented Aggie squad, lead by QB Jon Grant and WR Tony Kays. The Bears have a new scheme, new coach, new conference and question marks galore. Even at home they will not be able to stop their former GWFC foes.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Griz Land Exiled OK Guard

J.D. Quinn, one of the players that was suspended by the Oklahoma Sooners for being paid by a local car dealership without actually working there, has informed sources that he will attend the University of Montana. Quinn is a very talented guard who started for OU before his dismissal.
His colleague in this "scandal" is Rhett Bomar, the talented starting QB for the Sooners who earned MVP honors in his bowl game last year. Bomas has landed with Sam Houston State University, another I-AA school.

Here is the quote from the article, in New York Times: " Both players were declared ineligible by Oklahoma. J.D. Quinn will attend Montana."

I believe these two signings reflect poorly on I-AA, and did nothing to help the stereotype that we are the fallout league for players who got in trouble for various reasons at their I-A institutions. Normally the transfers with baggage aren't in the national spotlight with as much press as these two players were and are.

Wildcats Have Playoff Aspirations

Brief little snippit on the upcoming Wildcats season. One thing I found interesting was the lack of experience returning the secondary, with all four starters from a year ago lost to graduation. While I do disagree that Weber has a strong offensive line (you lost the McQuistan brothers, remember?), they have a lot of talent in the backfield, even with the loss of Zach Hall, to have a potent offense.

Also, here is a cool article about head coach Ron McBride:

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Both Sides Play Well In Final Scrim

The passing game threw four TDs in the final scrimmage for the Griz, on just 9-11 passing and 4 TDs. In fact only one ball actually hit the ground, the other incompletion was an INT thrown by true freshman Andrew Selle. The rushing game was much more ineffective, however, rushing for just 42 yards on 26 tries, but was also hurt by about 21 sack yards.


RUSHING (26-42): Brady Green 5-19, Chase Reynolds 4-14, Greg Coleman 3-11, Reggie Bradshaw 2-9, Thomas Brooks-Fletcher 5-9, Andrew Selle 1-5, Andrew Schmidt 1-minus 4, Josh Swogger 2-minus 5, Cole Bergqquist 3-minus 16.

PASSING (9-11-1 for 169 yards): Swogger 3-3-0 for 33 yards, 1 TD; Selle 3-4-1 for 93 yards, 2 TDs; Clint Stapp 2-2-0 for 36 yards, 1 TD; Bergquist 1-2-0 for 7 yards.

RECEIVING: Eric Allen 3-33, Craig Chambers 2-49, Dan Beaudin 1-65, Steven Pfahler 1-10, Marc Mariani 1-7, Bryan Riggs 1-5.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Big Sky Preview - The Oregonian

Norm Maves Jr. over at The Oregonian did a little preview of the Big Sky for it's readers. Unfortunately he misses on a few crucial parts here and there. So being the nice guy that I am, I thought I would correct a few things for him.

MONTANA STATE 2005: 7-4 Returning starters: 5 offense, 7 defense, 1 kicker The story: Quarterback Travis Lulay no longer is around to bail out the Bobcats. Montana State can't replace him and won't try, but somebody -- Lincoln High School's Colin Beeson? -- has to step in and run the offense right away. If the defense buys time for the offense to readjust, Montana State will be back in the race. As usual.
- Colin Beeson transfered to Central Washington. So I have my doubts he will replace Lulay.

IDAHO STATE 2005: 5-6 Returning starters: 9 offense, 6 defense, 1 kicker The story: The Bengals have two 700-yard rushers -- Ken Cornist and Josh Barnett -- and nine returning offensive starters, but need a quarterback to ignite it all. If they do, the Bengals could make life tough for somebody in their indoor Holt Arena.
- I agree they need a quarterback, but it seems to me that Matt Gutierrez has been pretty darn impressive in fall camp/scrimmages. Maybe impressive enough to warrant a mention?

WEBER STATE 2005: 6-5 Returning starters: 8 offense, 4 defense The story: New coach Ron McBride turned the struggling Wildcats completely around last year, but must rebuild a defense with seven new starters this season to keep it going. Offensive weapons abound: quarterback Ian Pizarro, who threw for 2,357 yards last year, and running back Zach Hall, who ran for 848 yards, are back.
- Zach Hall is and was a force last year, but unfortunately he suffered the same fate as Lex Hilliard and is done for the year. Adrian Conway will be the #1 guy.

Overall a pretty good summation. Nothing glaring, just a few minor oversights. I'm glad to see the Big Sky get any press at all in big cities.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Backups Get Most Of The Reps In Scrimmage

The defense held the offense to 196 yards of total offense as the Eagles concluded their second scrimmage of the fall on Wednesday, which lasted 42 plays. Nothing much to report here, but slated #2 back Dale Morris suffered a foot injury which will sideline him for a month.

A.J. Jimmerson 1 run (Sheldon Weddle kick)

Rushing: Dezmon Cole 8-62, A.J. Jimerson 7-19, Toke Kefu 1-4, J.C. Sherritt 1-minus-2, Chris Peerboom 3-minus-5, Matt Nichols 1-minus-5, Alex Smart 4-minus-8, Total 26-65 (includes seven sacks for minus 36 yards).

Passing: Matt Nichols 1-2-0-64, Chris Peerboom 7-12-1-64, Alex Smart 1-2-0-3, Totals 9-16-1-131.

Receiving: A.J. Jimerson 3-24, Brynsen Brown 1-6, Shane Eller 2-74, Nicholas Ramos 2-18, Nathan Overbay 1-9, Total 9-131.

Interceptions: Lonnie Hosley.

Leading Tacklers: Brett Igbinoba 7, Shea Emry 6, Brady Smith 6, Marcus Walker 6, Brandon Keeler 6, DeNique Ford 5, Makai Borden 5.

Sacks: E.J. Whitley 5, Aaron Cartwright 4, Lorenzo Lomack 4, Tyler Jolley 4.

Got sack?

Bobcats Add Two Late Transfers

With the hamstring injury to backup running back Isaiah Taito, and everyone below him on the depth chart just a true freshman, Mike Kramer decided to fortify the position today with the addition of UTEP (University of Texas-El Paso) backup Jon Lane. Lane rushed for just 27 yards on 11 carries for a score last year and a couple receptions, but figured to be either the #2 back, but more likely the #3 back. Originally a walk-on at UTEP, he will receive a full-ride to play for the Bobcats. Lane is a sophmore. The link is HERE.

Also landing with the Bobcats is Tyrone Henderson, a talented safety from Colorado. Henderson was the third leading tackler for the Buffs last year, despite missing their bowl game against whoever (who watches bowl games, right?). He was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection. His experience at the I-A level will most likely land him a starting spot opposite returning starter Ryan Force. Henderson will be a junior, and was dismissed from the Buffs from "violating unspecific team rules." LINK.

Two Big Sky Standouts Land On Buchanon Watch List

Montana defensive end Mike Murphy and Idaho State linebacker Pago Togafu have both landed on the watch list for the Buchanon Award, I-AA's award for the top defensive player in the country.

Murphy, a senior, comes into the season sixth all-time on Montana's career sack and tackles for loss lists, with 31.5 and 20. Was hampered a bit with a thumb injury last year, but was still able to snag a second team all-conference spot.

Togafu was a first team linebacker last year, leading the team with 103 tackles, second in the conference, and also had an INT, a forced fumble, and three pass breakups. Togafu is also a senior.

There couldn't be two more deserving candidates in a traditionally offensive-oriented Big Sky.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Scrimmage Reports

Idaho State (second scrimmage)
Highlights: Gutierrez has thrown 296 yards on 21-30 passing in two scrimmages, with 5 TDs and only one INT.

Sacramento State (second scrimmage)
Highlights: 5 QBs are fighting for the starting spot. Marcel Marquez was just 1-4 for 13 yards, and no other QB impressed. Marquez does have the best escability, however.

Weber State (second scrimmage)
Highlights: Redshirt freshman Trevyn Smith filled in nicely for the injured Zach Hall, rushing for 115 yards on 12 carries and two TDs. Adrian Conway still looks to be the starter, however.

Portland State
Highlights: Sawyer Smith was 7-10 with 82 yard and a TD.

Montana State
Highlights: Defense had 7 sacks, 3 INTs, 6 tackles for loss, and 5 pass breakups.

Highlights: Josh Swogger and last years starting QB Cole Berquist combined for 8-22 for 87 yards, and running backs Brady Green and Thomas Brooks-Fletcher combined for 28 yards on 12 rushes.

QB Battle Over - Carpenter Gets Nod

Cory Carpenter has been named the starter for MSU. Carpenter had been in competition with Jack Rolovich since spring, and earned the starting spot on Monday. Here are a few nuggets from Carpenter:

"Sitting behind Travis was hard," he said. "I didn't get any playing time, and that's hard, but there's only one quarterback on the field at one time, and we all know that. That's how it is. I'm ready."

"It takes a little pressure off," he said.

This doesn't mean the competition is over, however. If Carpenter fails to get it going by the time conference rolls around (my guess), don't be surprised to see Rolovich tossed in to ignite the flame. I believe either quarterback is going to be a capable replacement for Travis Lulay, and what should be a talented group of wideouts will not hurt either.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Achilles Bites Again

Zach Hall, who took a majority of the carries last year, tore his achilles earlier this week and will miss the entire 2006 season. Hall, a senior, will petition for another year of eligibility. Hall was slated to be the #2 back this year, behind junior Adrian Conway. A host of RBs look to take Halls place, including Southern Utah transfer Marky Filipe and freshman Trevyn Smith, who ran very well in the most recent Wildcat scrimmage.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Preview #3 - Northern Colorado

After a unnecessarily long hiatus, the continuation of the Big Sky Preview carries on with Northern Colorado:

Northern Colorado (Great West Conference)
'05 Record (4-7, 0-5)
'05 Rating - C-
Starters returning: 6 off, 8 def, 1 spec
Letterwinners returning/lost: ??/??

2005 Review:
The 2005 season marked an improvement in what has been a fairly rough (yet expected) transition for the Bears from DII ranks to those of D1. While an improvement, the Bears still finished just 4-7, and 0-5 in a pretty tough GWF Conference. It would also mark the final season for head coach Kay Dalton, who would be relieved of his duties at the end of the bleak season. The Bears would struggle mightily on the road, losing all 6 contests, but would be a very respectable 4-1 at home. Key weaknesses for this Bear squad would be run defense and scoring defense. While only giving up slightly over 200 yards per game in the air, they would give up nearly 180 yards per game on the ground, 4th in the Great West, and 27 TDs on the ground, worst in the league. The main factor in the Bears secondary success was the play of S Reed Doughty, who landed a contract with the Redskins this offseason. He would lead the team in tackles with 159, over 50 more than the next closet player. Senior quarterback Nick Hager had a decent season, throwing for 1665 yards, 17 TDs and 11 INTs to finish third in the league in passing yards, partly in play to two very talented WRs, Andy Birkel and Cory Sleeth. The ground game also shined, combing for over 1800 yards, 1034 of which belonged to Junior sensation Andre Wilson, despite only playing in 9 games. But the combined TD output of the passing and running games would equal the total number of TDs given up by the run defense alone, 27. Unfortunately for UNC, this is a fairly inopportune time to join the Big Sky as the Sky is transitioning from a bombs away league into a power running one.

Key Losses: S Reed Doughty, QB Nick Hager, OL Shaun Farner, OL Bradley Forbush, CB Greg Gebhardt, LB Jake Duren
Key Players Returning: RB Andre Wilson, WR Andy Birkel, LB Joe Kenney, DL Matt West, DB Matt Thomas, DB Sirwestly Williams, LB Sam Lewis, RB Patrick Ealey, C Matt Sens, OL Jake Gable
Transfers: DL Nasseer Ghafur (Compton CC), K David Dyches (Nebraksa), TE Brian Barmann (Missouri), WR Cory Fauver (Adams State), DB Will Granger (U. of South Dakota), LB Asa Matthews (Butler CC), DB J.V. Vails (Otero JC)

2006 Outlook:

With a new coach and a new system, the offensive might struggle early on. First year head coach Scott Downing brings his multiple-pro offense to Greeley. And to help the transition, the Bears return several talented players that could benefit from this transition. Andre Wilson returns for his senior season, and looks to build from his performance from a year ago, where he rushed for 1034 yards and 6 TDs. Last year he caught 13 balls for 69 yards, but look for that number to increase in a multiple-pro scheme. Oh, and did I mention those numbers were in just 9 games? This is a top-notch back who could possibly lead the Sky in rushing at the end of the year, especially with the tragic loss of Lex Hilliard for the season. If Wilson can get loose, expect that to open the passing game up, leading to another big season for senior to be Andy Birkel. Birkel hauled in 50 passes for 907 yards and 10 TDs last season, his first as a Bear after spending two seasons at Nebraska. He is a talent at wideout and should look to break the 50 yard reception barrier once again. The rest of the WR corp is fairly green. They return only 2 receivers who made catches from last year, a combined 20 receptions. Zac Carlson will have to step up his play from a year ago, where he played in 11 games but hauled in just 15 receptions, third best on the team. Also gone is Nick Hager, the leading passer from a year ago. T.J. Swanson saw the most action last year, playing in 5 games throwing for 538 yards and 4 scores along with 4 INTs. He will be challenged by Cody Stone who saw action in 3 games last year, redshirt freshman Brian Wiedeman, and junior Dominic Breazeale. A fairly green offensive line will have to step up and make room for Wilson and keep defenders off the new QB for the Bears to run a successful new scheme in their first year in the tough Big Sky Conference.

Grade - C+

The Bears lost a big blow in losing their #1 and #2 tacklers from last year. Jake Duren left the team, he transferred to a IA school. You don't hear that very often. The #1 tackler, Reed Doughty, was picked up in the NFL draft, and was one of the best defensive players the school has ever seen. The Bears do return a solid group on defense, however, but will have to step up the fill the holes left by Duren and Doughty. Joe Kenney returns after being 3rd on the team in tackles, and will be filling in for Duren. Downing has been high on the sophmore in fall practice so far. Sam Lewis had a solid year in 2005, and is going to be called upon more this year. Perhaps the most talented portion of the Bears is the secondary. Replacing Doughty will be tough, but returning are starters Matt Thomas, Sirwestly Williams, Jason Hildenbrand and Aaron Henderson. Downing has applauded the play of Thomas, Henderson and Hildenbrand, and seems to think that Hildenbrand is a vocal leader in the secondary. The Bears LB and DB corps return a solid 7 INTs from last year, and can improve upon that number this year. The DL also returns plenty of veterans in Matt West, Vinny Pallone and Jacob Carlson, who all saw actions in every game last year, and combined for 3 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Also impressive in scrimmage is redshirt freshman DE Jake Ducket, who has made a couple sacks in the fall practices. Overall this is a group with enough veteran players and potentially talented newcomers that could finish in the top half of the Sky in defense.

Grade - C+

Overall Grade - C

Final Thoughts:
The Bears are not used to seasons like last. This is a proud program with a winning tradition, and they are doing everything in their power to return to that glory. While I do not think they will find in this year, they did make a solid hiring in Scott Downing and he should take this team and turn them into contenders for league crowns in years to come. But a new coach, a new scheme in a new conference does not bode well for this Bears squad, who may never find a rhythm in 2006. I look for them to finish in the bottom half, if not the very bottom. If they can come together and learn the scheme quicker than expected, they could finish middle of the pack, which would be a great accomplishment from a team that didn't win a conference game a year ago.

EWU Concludes First Scrimmage

The quarters tossed three touchdowns and threw for 303 yards as the Eagles concluded their first week of practice with a scrimmage. Starter Chris Peerboom was 5-12 for 41 yards, but was overshadowed by backup Chris Nichols, who threw for 209 yards on 12 of 19 passing with 2 scores. The biggest problem according to coach Wulff was inconsistency in the passing game, due to a lack of timing between the QBs and the WRs. His remedy? More practice.

"For a first scrimmage I think it was pretty good," he added. "The blocking was fairly solid and I thought the tackling was pretty darn solid. Again it is not where we need to be but I do think it is something we can definitely build from. And if we can build from this, I am going to be pretty happy when we get going."

Hilliard Done For Season

Sad news from Grizland - Lex Hilliard, the preseas All-American and Payton hopeful tore his achilles tendon Wednesday, according to It is always a shame to see a great kid suffer a terrible injury like this, especially right before his much hyped senior season. But on the bright side, he will be able to redshirt and return in 2007. Backing up Hilliard is a trio of talented running backs: Louisville transfer Reggie Bradshaw, Iowa State transfer Greg Coleman and Brady Green, a senior who has saw limited playing time throughout his career at UM.

Best of luck Lex, get well soon!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Practice Report / Players Leave Squad

I'm trying to play catch up here with the news, so I have to throw a couple stories into one headline.

Above is a link to an article that talks about the departure of two veteran Bobcats, CB Eddie Smith and FB Elliot Grant. Smith graduated last spring, and had a job offer he could not pass up. The often injured Smith was never fully healthy at MSU. Grant also retired due to injuries, planning ahead for his future after football. Bobcat to be Bubba Pugh will not be joining the team for academic reasons as well.

August 7 -- Players report
August 8 -- Testing
August 9 -- First practice
August 17 -- Bobcat Media Day (11:30 am, Bobcat Stadium)
August 26 -- Family Fun Day (12 noon, Bobcat Stadium)
August 28 -- Classes begin, practice at 3:30 pm
Sept. 2 -- MSU at Colorado, 1:30 pm

Sac State Media Guide / Practice Schedule

A few days late, I know, but above is a link to the media guide for the Hornets, while below is the dates of practice.

Mon., Aug. 7: 3:20-5:35 p.m. (half pads)
Tue, Aug., 8: 3:20-5:35 p.m. (half pads)
Wed., Aug. 9: 3:45-6:00 p.m. (full pads)
Thur., Aug. 10: 9:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m. (full pads)
8:00-9:45 p.m. (half pads)
Fri., Aug. 11: 9:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m. (full pads)
Sat., Aug, 12: SCRIMMAGE - 10 a.m.
Sun., Aug. 13: Off
Mon., Aug, 14: 9:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m. (full pads)
Tue., Aug. 15: 9:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m. (full pads)
8:00-9:45 p.m. (half pads)
Wed., Aug. 16: 9:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m. (full pads)
Thur., Aug. 17: 9:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m. (full pads)
8:00-9:45 p.m. (half pads)
Fri., Aug. 18: 9:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m. (full pads)
Sat., Aug. 19: SCRIMMAGE - 10 a.m.
Sun., Aug. 20: Off
Mon., Aug. 21: 9:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m. (full pads)
Tue., Aug. 22: 9:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m. (full pads)
8:00-9:45 p.m. (half pads)
Wed., Aug. 23: 9:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m. (full pads)
Thur., Aug. 24: 9:15-10:30 a.m. (shorts)
SCRIMMAGE - 6 p.m.

Eags Start Practice

The article talks about Harrison Nikolao, a senior DL who has transitioned over to the OL for his final season.

Here is the practice schedule for EWU:

Thursday, Aug. 10 - Practice 9-11 a.m.
Friday, Aug. 11 - Practice 9-11 a.m.
Saturday, Aug 12 - Practice 7:30-9:30 a.m.
Sunday, Aug. 13 - Practice 9-11 a.m. and 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 14 - Practice 9-11 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 15 - Practice 9-11 a.m. and 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 16 - Practice 9-11 a.m.
Thursday, Aug 17 - Practice 9-11 a.m.; Scrimmage 2:30 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 18 - Off
Saturday, Aug. 19 - Practice 9-11 a.m. and 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 20 - Practice 9-11 a.m.
Monday, Aug. 21 - Practice 9-11 a.m. and 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 22 - Practice 9-11 a.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 23 - Scrimmage 9 a.m.
Thursday, Aug 24 - Off
Friday, Aug. 25 - Practice 5-7 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 26 - Practice 3-5 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 27 - Practice 3-5 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 28 - Practice 3-5 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 29 - Practice 3-5 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 30 - Depart for Corvallis, Ore.
Thursday, Aug 31 - EWU versus Oregon State, 7 p.m. Pacific time
(Televised Live on Fox Sports Net)


Article concerning the changes for PSU, and about the upcoming season in general. Good read if you aren't educated in the ways of the Vikings like I am.

Friday, August 04, 2006

So Long I-AA

Hello "NCAA Football Championship Subdivision". Pretty catchy, ain't it? Here is a blurb from the article:

In another action regarding the two football subdivisions in Division I, the Board approved new labels. The presidents approved a change in terminology to “Football Bowl Subdivision” for the former I-A classification and “NCAA Football Championship Subdivision” for the former I-AA group. The Collegiate Commissioners Association helped develop the new labels. ...
So, they are now the BS and we are the CS. Sounds about right to me. I don't know if this will help us CS schools shake the inferiority label we have been tagged with over the years, but I certainly believe it will not hurt. Overall, I wish they would've picked a better name, but the new name for I-A isn't much easier on the tongue either.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hunting Down Grizzlies

Matt Dougherty of The Sports Network has picked the Montana Grizzlies to finish atop the Big Sky conference.

1. UM
2. ISU
3. MSU
4. PSU
5. EWU
6. Weber
7. NAU
8. Sac
9. UNC

Offensive player of the year: Lex Hilliard
Defensive player of the year: Pago Togafu

Overall, pretty good analysis.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Griz Blog

If you haven't already, you should head on over to The Grizzoulian. It is a nice, professional blog that deals soley with UM athletics (other sports than football, what?). He does an excellent job, make sure to bookmark it!

Big Sky TV

Some of you may be wondering why I am up at 3:11 AM. Well it is quite simple: I am young and a lot of you are old. Deal with it. But mostly, I saw an advance screening of "Lady in the Water", which even for free wasn't worth the price. On to the news I say!

Officials from the Big Sky announced that all football, men's and women's basketball, and volleyball games will be available via live web-stream, as well as archived viewing, for each of the nine members of the Big Sky Conference starting this next year. According to The Missoulian:

SportsCast Network out of Salt Lake City has developed and produced the project, which is at Prices are $99.99 for all site content (called the Annual Conference Pass), $59.99 for single-school content or for a month-long all-site pass, $39.99 for a monthly single-school pass, and $6.99 if a fan just wanted to watch a single event
A bit pricey, but if the quality is TV tantamount, then your money may be well spent. It is well that the Bobcats and Griz have nearly all their games broadcast in Montana, but I never have the opportunity to watch other schools in the conference. A happy fan this would make.

And now, bed.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Coaches/Media Poll Place Montana At The Top

Montana was the overwhelming choice in both the media and coaches poll, taken on Monday. Montana received all 8 first place votes from opposing coaches, and assumedly head coach Bobby Hauck put his vote in for Idaho State. Here are the polls:

2006 Coaches Poll

Team (First-place votes) Points
1. Montana (8) 64
2. Eastern Washington 44
3. Montana State 43
4. Portland State 42
5. Idaho State (1) 40
6. Weber State 36
7. Northern Arizona 24
8. Sacramento State 21
9. Northern Colorado 10


Team (First-place votes) Points
1. Montana (28) 283
2. Montana State (2) 206
3. Weber State 188
3. Portland State (1) 185
5. Idaho State 181.5
6. Eastern Washington (1) 180
7. Northern Arizona 105.5
8. Sacramento State 65
9. Northern Colorado 48

I find it interesting that there is such disparity between the two polls. I have been saying all off-season with predictions over at, that 2-6 is really a toss up between ISU, Weber, MSU, PSU and EWU.
These polls further prove my theory in that the media and coaches share my sentiments. In the coaches poll, EWU received 44 votes, while 6th place Weber State receiver 36 votes, a difference of a mere 8 votes. In fact, spots 2 through 5 are only separated by a total of 4 votes!

The medial poll shapes up the same way, only in different order. MSU takes the #2 spot, but are only ahead 26 votes of the #6 pick, Eastern Washington (who came in at the #2 spot in the coaches poll).

In other words, no one has any idea what will happen in the Sky this year, but a majority of us BSC supporters seem to think Montana will run the table. I certainly cannot argue with that preseason #1 ranking. The question is, who will surprise this year?

Preseason All-Big Sky Team

Montana State and Idaho State each placed 5 on the list, topping all BSC teams.

QB Matt Gutierrez 6-4 231 Sr. Idaho State
RB Lex Hillard*# 6-0 228 Sr. Montana
FB Ken Cornist 5-11 210 So. Idaho State
TE Tim Calhoun 6-4 250 Sr. Eastern Washington
OG Matt Alfred*# 6-3 300 Jr. Eastern Washington
OG Brennan Carvalho* 6-1 310 Jr. Portland State
C Jeff Marshall 6-5 285 Sr. Montana
OT Joe Hirst# 6-7 292 Sr. Montana State
OT David Hale 6-6 300 Jr. Weber State
WR Eddie Thompson 5-10 185 So. Idaho State
WR Andy Birkel 6-2 180 Sr. Northern Colorado
WR Akilah Lacey 6-3 202 Sr. Idaho State
PK Dan Carpenter 6-2 211 Jr. Montana
Ret. Tuff Harris* 6-0 197 Sr. Montana

DE Mike Murphy# 6-3 240 Sr. Montana
DE Clive Lowe 6-3 232 Sr. Montana State
DT Aaron Papich 6-2 263 Jr. Montana State
DT Matthis Gehring 6-1 300 Sr. Portland State
LB Pago Togafau*# 5-10 210 Sr. Idaho State
LB Epikopo King 6-0 215 Jr. Montana State
LB Tyson Bulter 6-0 240 Sr. Sacramento State
LB Tyler DeBry 5-11 235 Sr. Weber State CB
KJ Gerard 6-1 170 Jr. Northern Arizona
CB Dominic Dixon*# 5-10 195 Sr. Portland State
S Ryan Force 6-2 207 Sr. Montana State
S Bryan Jarrett* 5-11 210 Jr. Eastern Washington
P Rhian Madrid* 5-11 208 Sr. Northern Arizona
ST Brady Green* 5-9 195 Sr. Montana

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sports Network Rankings

Matt Dougherty has come up with a ranking list for every I-AA squad in the country. While a few schools are a bit low in my opinion, overall I agree with most of his rankings (although I think UNI is a bit low at #7 and Poly is a bit high at #3). Anywho...

2. Montana (8-4) - The Grizzly defense is as deep as any in the country, and the addition of transfer talent at quarterback and wide receiver should inject more life in the Lex Hilliard-led offense and help vault the Grizzlies to a record that would keep them at home throughout the postseason.

18. Montana State (7-4) - Travis Lulay will be dearly missed after a spectacular career under center, but the running game led by Evin Groves and a strong and deep defense give the Bobcats hope to be as good or better in the first season without Lulay.

23. Idaho State (5-6) - The Bengals figure to put points on the board with a strong running tandem and Michigan transfer Matt Gutierrez to revive the passing game, and they have a chance at a postseason run if new starters on the defensive line can play well.

42. Weber State (6-5) - With Brady Fosmark, Shane Barkdull, Paul McQuistan and Pat McQuistan all moving on, both Wildcat lines suffer major losses and the team will be hard-pressed to improve again in Ron McBride’s second season.

47. Eastern Washington (7-5) - The Eagles return a strong offensive line and emerging running back Ryan Cole, but any team that plays average defense and loses the Walter Payton Award winner and one of the best receivers in I-AA history is due for a fall.

50. Portland State (6-5) - With three I-A games and key starters to replace on both sides of the ball, the Vikings will need quick contributions from a host of transfers if they are going to make a run at a winning record.

57. Sacramento State (2-9) - With major personnel losses for many of their conference foes, a Hornet team with Ryan Mole at running back and a few strong players on defense has a chance to at least climb out of the basement and inch closer to .500.

70. Northern Arizona (3-8) - After a promising freshman season, Jason Murrietta will need to display more consistency and a defense that gave up 30 ppg has to improve just to be competitive again in the Big Sky.

71. Northern Colorado (4-7) - Running back Andre Wilson gives Northern Colorado some explosiveness on offense, but the loss of first-team All-American Reed Doughty depletes a defense that surrendered 380 yards per game last year.

I wouldn't rank Sac above NAU, but the rest is tolerable. I still believe that PSU will finish pretty good, even with their three I-A games.