Montana, Montana State, Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona, the four Big Sky Conference teams that opened their college football seasons against Division II schools last week, outscored their opponents 234-12.
So how eager is Eastern Washington University, a 49-24 loser at Nevada last Thursday, to get a shot at D-II power Central Washington at Qwest Field in Seattle on Saturday?
Extremely eager – but not for the reason one might think.
Any thoughts about blowing out the Wildcats are forbidden on the EWU practice field this week. The focus, instead, is on doing whatever it takes to get better and get rid of that zero in the wins column.
“We’ve got a salty taste in our mouths – along with an ‘L’ – and a couple of extra days to prepare for Central,” Eagles third-year head coach Beau Baldwin said following the loss to Nevada, an NCAA Football Bowl Division school. “I’m hoping we come back like gangbusters.”
Central (1-1), which is Baldwin’s alma mater and the team he led to the quarterfinals of the 2007 D-II playoffs in his first year as a college head coach, is ranked 13th among D-II schools and opened Great Northwest Athletic Conference play on Saturday with a 24-14 road win over Dixie State.
“I’ve said I don’t believe in play-up games or play-down games,” Baldwin said, “and (CWU) is certainly not a play-down game for us. That’s going to be one tough opponent over there, and they’re going to be hungry. It’s going to be a tough ballgame, but I expect us to grow a lot this week.”
Griz ride defense
Robin Pflugrad’s head coaching debut at Montana played well in Missoula on Saturday, where the Grizzlies – ranked No. 2 at the time among NCAA Football Championship Subdivision schools – blasted D-II Western State College 73-2.
Pflugrad was quick to credit the play of his defense, which returned three first-quarter pass interceptions for touchdowns, for making his debut such a smashing success.
“It was overwhelming, in the fact that our defense played so well,” he told the Missoulian. “I saw great spirit by our defense. I saw what I think is going to be good defensive team speed. That might change with the opponents we face, but I’m excited to see those guys play.”
Eastern Washington’s Taiwan Jones, a junior running back who accounted for a career-high 322 all-purpose yards in Thursday’s 49-24 loss to Nevada in Reno, was named the Big Sky’s offensive player of the week on Monday.
Northern Colorado cornerback Korey Askew was named the league’s defensive player of the week after picking off two passes – one of which he returned for a touchdown – in the Bears’ 54-0 rout of Adams State. Portland State’s Zach Brown was named special teams player of the week after booting three long field goals, including a 53-yarder, to account for all of PSU’s scoring in a 54-9 road loss to Arizona State.
Montana No. 1
Montana, previously ranked No. 2 in The Sports Network and FCS coaches’ top-25 ratings, moved into the top spot in both polls Monday, replacing defending national champion and preseason No. 1 Villanova, which opened its 2010 season with a 31-24 loss to Temple on Friday.
The Grizzlies were ranked No. 1 in the coaches’ poll briefly last fall, but have not held the top spot in The Sports Network poll since 2007.
Four other Big Sky teams – Eastern Washington (15th), Weber State (19th), Montana State (23rd) and Northern Arizona (24th) – are also ranked in this week’s coaches’ poll, while EWU (17th), Weber (20th) and MSU (24th) remained ranked in The Sports Network’s top-25.
In its two trips to Missoula, Mont., the past two seasons, Western State College has been outscored by the Grizzlies 111-2. … Just when you thought there were no more awards to be dreamed up, The Sports Network/Flathead.com announced on Monday that it has selected Northern Arizona’s Zach Bauman as its first-ever freshman of the week after the Lumberjacks’ running back rushed for 167 yards and four touchdowns in Thursday’s 48-0 rout of Western New Mexico. Bauman’s four TDs were the most in the nation by any FCS player during college football’s opening week. … Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins needs just four more passing yards to reach the 10,000-yard mark for his career and just 266 to move into the No. 10 spot on the BSC’s all-time passing list.
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