The Bottom Line -- Week 4 Great West columnist Chris Kelly provides his take on week four while on his honeymoon.
Chris Kelly provides the Bottom Line in week four of the Great West season.
The Bottom Line - Week 4
By Chris Kelly
The Big Sky-Great West Challenge in week three ended in a split as two teams won from each respective conference. However, the game of the week saw Cal Poly roll into Bozeman, Mont., and plant the Great West Football Conference flag deep into the MontanaState end zone. Cal Poly left Montana with a big 27-14 win, easily signifying the biggest win to date for the conference.
The Mustangs fell behind early on a Bobcat rushing touchdown, but then reeled off 17 points in a row to take control of the game. Darrell Jones got Cal Poly on the scoreboard with a 19-yard touchdown catch from Cordell Webb. Jones led the offense with 123 yards receiving. Webb, the Mustangs starting quarterback, was replaced shortly after that drive due to ineffectiveness by John Mende. The backup would go the rest of the way throwing for just over 100 yards.
After MSU pulled within three points at 17-14, it was ten fourth quarter points that sealed the game. Byungwoo Yoon connected on his second field goal of the day, while Adam Martinez (87 yards rushing) scampered in from nine yards out to seal the game. The Mustangs defense held the Bobcats to just 248 yards of total offense, including just over 2 yards per rush.
CK's Take: What a big win for Cal Poly, as they made a statement on the road against a top-15 team. This defense is proving to be as legit as they come as they are thriving wherever they play, whether at home or on the road. The Mustangs rightfully saw their rankings jump (14th and 15th in the "big" polls) with quite a few losses in the top 25 this week. Oh, and for the voters out there, here is a recommendation - you might want to pencil in Jordan Beck as a Buck Buchanan Finalist. He's flat out playing unreal football right now. He's averaging eight tackles per game, and one interception per game, as he picked off his third pass in as many games last Saturday. He also has two scores, and four tackles for loss. He outplayed Roger Cooper, MontanaState's star linebacker, leading his team to a victory with his best game of the year. And this isn't as if the other two were by any means anything but stellar. The All-American is living up to this season's hype delivering whenever he has the chance.
Other GWFC Games
UC Davis 31, WeberState 29
The Aggies jumped out to a big lead in the first half then saw WeberState score 19 unanswered points to take the lead. UCD freshman Emmanual Benjamin kicked a game winning field goal with under five minutes to go as the Aggies scored the fourth win over a Big Sky opponent this year.
*Highlight- UCD defense held star running back Nick Chournos to just three yards per carry. Jon Grant threw for 300 yards and three scores.
*Lowlight- UCD committed 4 second half turnover and committed 13 penalties as part of a sloppy second half.
North DakotaState 49, Carson-Newman 19
NDSU allowed Carson-Newman to jump out to the early 7-0 lead before reeling off 42 unanswered points. The Bison used a stingy defense and balanced offense to pick up their third victory. North DakotaState passed for 236 yards, while rushing for 231 yards.
*Highlight- Tony Stauss quieted his critics with a strong game passing for 236 yards, and two touchdowns. He also only missed on six of his 26 pass attempts, while throwing no interceptions. The Bison were an amazing 10-of-12 on third down conversions.
*Lowlight- A few too many penalties are the only blemish on a strong game by the Bison.
IdahoState 49, Northern Colorado 42 (Double OT)
The Bears led 24-7 early in the first half before the Bengal offense awoke. ISU was able to come back from the deficit to take the lead 35-34. Each team would score one more time, including a 95-yard touchdown drive by IdahoState to send the game into overtime. Both teams were unsuccessful in the first overtime leaving the game tied at 42. The Bengals scored a touchdown in double overtime to take the lead, 49-42. UNC was knocking on the door as Jamar Farbes caught a ball at the two yard line, but had the ball jarred loose and recovered by ISU in the endzone.
*Highlight- Vincent Jackson, who had been a non-factor in the first two Bears games, had eight grabs for 127 yards and .
*Lowlight- The Bears allowed nearly 500 yards of total offense, as the defense continues to allow the opposing offense significantly more production than a season ago.
South DakotaState 38, Western Oregon 3
As expected, the Jackrabbits pounded Western Oregon 38-3 as they out-gained the Wolves 472-90. The Wolves actually scored first, then things quickly fell apart as SDSU scored 25 straight to take a 25-3 lead into halftime. WOU would never find the scoreboard again.
*Highlight- SDSU held WOU to minus-42 yards rushing, a school record. Quarterback Brad Nelson had another efficient game passing the ball, while Anthony Watson had a strong game running it topping 100 yards. Parker Douglass kicked SIX field goals.
*Lowlight- The Jacks struggled to punch the ball in the end zone time after time, something that must improve as the schedule heats up.
SacramentoState 23, Southern Utah 17
SacramentoState bounced back from a drubbing by I-A Nevada by edging SUU, 23-17. The Hornets were in control early, leading 17-3, until the T-Birds got rolling. SUU rallied to tie the game at 17, and then following a Hornet touchdown actually had a chance to win the game. Needing just a touchdown and extra point the T-Birds were inside the Hornet thirty. They completed a pass to the Sacramento 11 yard line, only to see a fumble forced and recovered by a Hornet defender.
*Highlight- SUU showed great poise in coming from behind the tie the game in the fourth quarter. AJ Smith's 11 catches for 119 yards led the offense, while Colorado transfer Marques Harris led the team in tackles, including three for loss.
*Lowlight- SUU inability to convert really hurt the T-Birds on Saturday evening. SUU only converted on 6 of 17 3rd downs, and was 0 for 3 on 4th down.
Great West Power Rankings Well preseason rankings are just that. A chance for the media to take all the available information and put expectations upon teams based on returning starters, losses, transfers, schedule, etc. Now that we're three weeks into the year I get my first chance to amend my preseason prognostications. The first few games have revealed a lot about each team, and now we have a better idea of each team's strengths and weaknesses.
Cal Poly- The Mustangs have the best defense in the league, and defense wins championships. Jordan Beck appears he can be a difference maker in almost every game. Two road wins against Big Sky opponents shows some this team can go win anywhere. The Mustangs are still the top-ranked team, even with the 4th or 5th best offense in the league. That should explain how good this team is, but can their offense produce if it's ever needed in a game? We may find out when the Mustangs host the Aggies on October 30th. These teams have a history of close battles.
UC Davis- The Aggies, along with Southern Utah, have given fans the least amount to draw from as they have only played two games to every other teams three or four games. They've played 90 minutes of nearly flawless football, thrown in with two sloppy quarters. They appear to have an offense capable of scoring at will when they are clicking and a tough defense which will be difficult to run against all season. They still need to continue to jell along the offensive line, as Weber, at times, did what they wanted up front. Jon Grant is good, we know that, but can he move the ball on the road against that Mustang D? The talent is plentiful, but mistakes which nearly cost the Aggies last week, must be avoided to win the conference.
North DakotaState- The Bison may have something to say about the conference championship if Tony Stauss gains back that confidence he exuded all last season. Last week was a big step, as the talk about a quarterback controversy has thankfully quieted. The Bison lost to UNC in Greeley, but they outplayed the Bears, and are a better football team at this point in the year. The defense is playing sound football, and the offense has big potential when Stauss is on point. A home game with Cal Poly may challenge the Mustangs offense in the Fargodome, but a late season bout in Davis will be tough. NDSU is the X factor at this point in the season. Tony Stauss' play will dictate this group's chances.
Southern Utah- The T-Birds are 1-1 and could very well be 2-0 if it weren't for some untimely turnovers. The defense, however, isn't the dominating group I expected. That's not to say they've in any way been bad, they just haven't played to the lofty expectations I placed on them early in the year. Another factor is the offense which has outshined the defense in the first two weekends, surprising most everyone. Casey Rehrer is having a drastically better start to this season than last, and is proving a nice weapon for the T-Birds. If he continues, SUU will be in every game. Southern Utah is a talented group; they just haven't put it all together yet. This team has weapons to score some big wins, but needs some tweaks here and there. I'm not counting them out just yet, but to date they aren't the caliber of the top three teams.
Northern Colorado- Almost everyone's pick (except the coaches) to finish first looks to have fallen the furthest from last season. The Bears did not look very impressive at all in their first two weeks, bottoming out against a very good Maine team. They showed some offensive signs of life, which I expected. I think the offense will only get better and Vincent Jackson will make life tough on opposing defense assuming quarterback Tony Christensen's worst is behind him. The defense, however, is just not the same, and is partially a product of a brutal schedule. UNC will hang in with some offense down the stretch, but I can't see them winning this conference unless we see the defense play much better football in the coming weeks. A year ago, the Bears possibly run the table. In 2004 the chemistry just isn't the same.
South Dakota State- The Jacks had a rough beginning at UCD, and when you look at the conference talent, may end up on the losing side of a couple more of those scores. However, even though they've since played two inferior opponents, the Jacks have fared much better. Brad Nelson is back on track, and the defense is growing. South DakotaState is in for a difficult stretch with a tough schedule from here on out. If Nelson can get some protection, SDSU will hang around some games, and play respectable football. The blowout wins the last two weeks can only help the confidence level. It's a learning year for SDSU, and fans hope that some of the young talent gains valuable experience for the next few seasons, as SDSU gets more competitive at the I-AA level.
Week 4 Games
Week four brings us to four more non-conference games in the Great West Football Conference.Two of the hottest GWFC teams take the week off as Cal Poly, and North DakotaState have byes this week. As for the other four teams, there isn't an easy game in the bunch as the members of the Great West square off against four quality opponents, two of which are currently ranked in this week's Sports Network poll. As I left for my honeymoon on Monday, I want to thank the members of the roundtable who stepped up to pitch in and provide the game previews this week. I'll include my picks at the end of the column. I took my first hits last weekend losing two close games, but still managed a respectable 4-2 on the week. For the season, I'm holding strong at 12-2. Let's keep the ball rolling.....
Northern Colorado (1-2) @ #7 Montana (2-1)
Kent Schmidt, West Columnist, I-aa.org says:
"This is another Great West-Big Sky match-up. Both squads are coming off losses from a week ago and will be looking to reverse that trend. Northern Colorado last week lost 49-42 to IdahoState in double overtime. The loss was the first for the Bears at home in 16 tries. Montana lost at SamHoustonState in a blowout 41-29 in a score that sounds better then it really was. SHSU led quarters before Montana made the score respectable in the fourth quarter. This "Battle of the Bears" Part II for both squads has one common opponent in the other "Bear" team in Maine. Montana defeated Maine 27-20 and Northern Colorado lost 38-0. This is the second time these two teams have squared against each other in the past three years. The previous game in 2002 was also in Missoula and Montana prevailed 31-14. I see a similar score this year for the Missoula bunch. Last year, the Grizzlies prevailed the next week after a loss. However, the Grizzlies will need to cover UNC's leading wide receiver Vincent Jackson. After getting burned for 512 yards total offense and 30 first downs last week by SamHouston State.
Montana 28 Northern Colorado 17"
South DakotaState (2-1) @ Southern (2-1)
Chris Solari, South DakotaState beat writer, Argus Leader says:
"South DakotaState (2-1) is finished with the creampuff portion of its schedule for a while. The Jackrabbits now must prove they aren't the patsies for their next few opponents. Against Southern this week in Baton Rouge, La., SDSU begins a difficult, month-long stretch in which it faces three ranked teams (Cal Poly, MontanaState and Georgia Southern) and a Jaguar club that was in most preseason Top 25s. This week should show the Jackrabbits how much they've improved since Week 1's pounding at the hands of UC-Davis in the Great West opener. In Southern (2-1), they will face a team that's as fast as the burn from the hottest of cajun spices. The preseason favorite to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference lost its first game of the season to McNeeseState, but pounded Prairie View 42-12 last week and appears to have righted things. Southern QB Thomas Ricks had a career day in the Jaguars' win over Prairie View, throwing for 257 yds and five touchdowns in a 24-for-36 performance. He also had 55 yards rushing, totaling 58 percent of Southern's 535 total yards in the game. Stopping him - a player who SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said is well-known by the staff at UCLA - is primary objective No. 1. The Jackrabbits' second goal is to find the end zone with a little more regularity. Freshman kicker Parker Douglass went 6-for-8 on field goal attempts last week, setting a single-game school record as the SDSU offense struggled to move the ball into the red zone. QB Brad Nelson threw for 254 yards and two TDs, but the 38-3 victory over a heavily overmatched Western Oregon squad could easily have been a bigger blowout if not for the offensive quagmire. If SDSU can pull itself out of the muck, this could be an offensive extravaganza. More than likely, however, Southern's depth and speed will wear out the Jackrabbits the same way they grinded down Western Oregon.
PICK: Southern 38, South DakotaState 10"
SacramentoState (1-1) @ UC Davis (2-0)
Michael Mirer, Davis Enterprise, UC Davis beat writer says:
"The Causeway Classic has been a decidedly one-sided affair recently, with the Aggies winning 10 of the last 12 meetings, including the last four. The 2003 game was a backbreaker for the Hornets, who lost the game on a last-minute touchdown drive and their starting quarterback, Ryan Leadingham, to an arm injury. The Hornets snapped the eight-game losing streak that began against Davis with a home 23-17 win over Southern Utah Saturday. With 43 new players on the roster, many of the Hornets don't have experience against the Aggies, which is probably a good thing. UCD looked nearly unstoppable in the first six quarters of the season before a bad second half at WeberState allowed the Wildcats to take the lead. Weber rallied with its passing game, which might give Leadingham and his top target Fred Amey some guidance heading into the week. While both teams have potentially potent offenses, the Aggies are deeper, especially at the receiver position. The Hornet defense is ranked in triple digits defensively, but much of that is due to a season-opening drubbing at Nevada. But it's hard to see the SacState unit outplaying a group of Aggies that will be trying to bounce back from its toughest half in a long time. Factor in the fact that Davis is at home and it hard to see this Hornet team bucking the recent trend.
UCD 34, Sac State 24"
Bottom Line: This week the big word is respect. The Great West Football conference earned some last week by winning its third and fourth game against the Big Sky. One of those wins was a landmark win for the conference as Cal Poly beat a top-15 ranked MontanaState team. This week is a different story. Three of the four teams in action are on the road against very good football teams. The fourth, UC Davis, hosts their arch rival where anything could happen. It is conceivable that after a good week last week the Great West could be swept this weekend. Sure, maybe someone pulls off a major upset, but I just don't see that happening, especially on the road. It may not end up a very pretty week for the Great West, but with some improved and inspired play the teams can still impress by keeping each of these games "respectable". In its infancy, baby steps are important, and earning the respect of the rest of the I-AA world comes by different means.
As for my picks- I agree with what each roundtable contributor had to say in terms of winners and losers. Here are my final picks:
*Montana beat Maine, which means this outcome could be ugly based on the Bears 38-0 loss to Maine. The Bears have improved, Christensen is feeling more comfortable, and it will show in the score. Montana 31, Northern Colorado 20
*SDSU needs one heck of an offensive game to stay close, which means Nelson needs protection. The offense won't be able to score with SU, which means the defense will feel the pressure. At this point, the Jacks defense isn't ready to carry this team, but the team has improved a bit since week one. Still, Southern should roll as the Jacks are challenged for the first time since meeting UC Davis. The score won't be as ugly, however. Southern 41, South DakotaState 17
*Stephen F Austin's resume in '04 includes some high profile wins over Northern Iowa, and Northern Arizona. Now they have a top 5 ranking. With the T-Birds on the road, following a loss to SacramentoState, all signs point to blowout city. I'm calling for a much closer game than everyone expects, and the T-Birds to put a scare into the home crowd. Stephen F. Austin 34, Southern Utah 27
*Davis beat Weber by two, while Southern Utah beat them by three. SUU then lost to SacramentoState. But you know what comparing scores gets you- nothing. UCD has a stronger offense, and tremendous talent and speed at wide receiver. Sac will stay in the game early with some key plays from an improved defensive line, but Davis will eventually pull away as the Hornet offense struggles against a quick Aggie defense. If UCD doesn't allow Fred Amey to beat them, their dominance over their rivals across the Causeway won't end just yet. UC Davis 35, SacramentoState 21
Comments. Questions. Email Chris at email@example.com