FCS Game of the Week:
Still struggling through the effect of off-season problems, the reeling #21 Montana Grizzlies wandered into Cheney to take on #7 Eastern Washington. The first half was pretty balanced; each team found the end zone once in the first quarter before the Eagles went up early in the second on a 36-yard strike from redshirt freshman Vernon Adams to Brandon Kaufman. (Adams took over the starting duties from SMU transfer Kyle Padron last week at Weber State, although coach Beau Baldwin asserts either quarterback might start any given game depending on the opposition.) The teams traded field goals before halftime, and the Eagles took a 17-10 lead into intermission.
The third quarter was all Montana, scoring on touchdown runs from Tren McKinney and Jordan Canada; a 25-yard Chris Lider field goal midway through the fourth handed the Grizzlies a 26-17 lead, and things looked awfully secure when Montana recovered an Eagle fumble on the ensuing drive.
The Grizzlies weren’t able to move the chains, though, and Eastern Washington took over. With 2:19 to go, Adams found Kaufman again from 30 yards out to bring the Eagles within two. They then recovered an onside kick, and with only 53 seconds left on the clock Adams again hit paydirt, connecting with Ashton Clark on a 20-yard score; they went for two and got it, going up 32-26. Montana was unable to return the favor in the time they had left, and suddenly Montana found themselves 2-3, 0-2 in conference play, and on Monday out of the polls for the first time since 1998.
Adams was 25-41 for 353 yards with three touchdowns. Montana had no passing offense to speak of, as McKinney went 13-16 for only 117 yards, but Jordan Canada gained 167 on the ground alongside Peter Nguyen’s 119. Dan Moore, the third member of Montana’s running triumvirate, was held to 24 yards on four carries before leaving with an injury early on.
Montana is now in deep, deep trouble; they’re two full games back of a pack including the Eagles, arch-rivals Montana State, and surprising Northern Arizona and newcomers Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. They’ve already eaten losses to Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona, as well, so they may as well be three games off the pace now. Luckily for the Griz, they have no real challenges left until the regular-season finale against Montana State; their problem isn’t their own schedule but everyone else’s. Northern Arizona avoids both Eastern Washington and Montana State, and Montana State does not play Cal Poly. It’s entirely possible for all four teams to finish with two or fewer conference losses, meaning Montana could already be doomed.
We also have to take note: this is almost entirely a result of the coaching change necessitated by the program’s off-field issues. Robin Pflugrad was a good on-field coach, and a rising star; Mick Delaney, his replacement, went 5-11-1 in two years at NAIA Montana-Western in the early ’90s, then spent 15 years as the running backs coach at Colorado State before joining the staff at Montana in 2008; he still wasn’t even a coordinator before being thrust into the head coaching role in Missoula as a result of a prior promotion to associate head coach. The promotion to head coach was hurried, the necessity notwithstanding; he’s overmatched as a head man, and Montana needs to have the search committee working already.
We’ve mentioned South Dakota State’s Zach Zenner here. Saturday, he racked up another 183 yards against Missouri State, pushing him to 1077 rushing yards before September came to a close. Wofford’s Eric Breitenstein’s having another good year himself, although he “only” has 735 yards on the year (albeit in four games compared to Zenner’s five). Of course, Breitenstein started the day with 414 yards, and then added 321 in Wofford’s rout of Elon.
Time to Start Tracking the Zeroes:
You can find all ten undefeated teams in the grid just below this paragraph. The winless, on the other hand, we’ll have to cover here. At least three of the sixteen winless teams will be removed from the list this week, as 0-5 Prairie View A&M plays 0-4 Grambling State, 0-4 Gardner-Webb and Liberty tangle up, and 0-4 Davidson and Dayton meet. At 0-5, we have Austin Peay, Bryant, Central Connecticut State, Georgia State, Missouri State, and Weber State. Hampton, Holy Cross, Savannah State, and Valparaiso are all 0-4. CCSU, Hampton, and Savannah State will all still be on this list next week, as they’re idle. Savannah State, at 11 games, currently has the division’s longest losing streak.
Other Eye-Catching Results:
Morgan State 21, at North Carolina A&T 18
at Robert Morris (PA) 31, Lafayette 28
at Duquesne 24, Saint Francis (PA) 21
Done Been Trucked:
at Eastern Illinois 65, Austin Peay 15
at Howard 56, Savannah State 9
Alabama State 54, at Alcorn State 14
Defense Is an Optional Package:
at Murray State 70, Tennessee Tech 35
Sacramento State 54, at Idaho State 31
No Offense… But No Offense:
at South Carolina State 14, Norfolk State 0
Cornell 15, at Bucknell 10