By Kent Schmidt
CSN West Columnist
I have to admit that I started to write this column on Saturday night after personally seeing North Dakota State dominate the Big 10’s Minnesota in the Bison 37-24 win.
But then, I started looking at other scores. Much to my delight, I saw two other ‘West’ teams with wins over their FBS opponents and it changed my column plans for the week.
I first saw Southern Utah dominate Nevada-Las Vegas 41-16 and second saw Sam Houston State outlast New Mexico 48-45 in overtime.
That had to change what I was going to write about as this was the first time that I had ever seen three such wins by teams I cover in the same weekend.
I had seen two in the past. Portland State and Montana State getting wins in 2006 over New Mexico and Colorado respectively in the opening week of that season is one that comes to mind. There may have been others but don’t recall since I started writing my FCS column in 2004.
How did each of these three teams win their respective games?
In the game I witnessed personally, I watched NDSU win their fifth FBS game in eight tries over Minnesota and really looked liked the stronger team with a mix of throwing and running and a defense that forced two turnovers directly into touchdowns.
The Bison previously defeated Ball State, Central Michigan and Kansas, along with Minnesota earlier, since they moved up to the Division I ranks in 2004.
In this matchup with the Gophers, NDSU scored four touchdowns in the second quarter, finished by sophomore cornerback Marcus Williams' first of two returns for touchdowns to provide a 28-14 halftime lead. That play had sophomore safety Colton Heagle intercepted a play as the first half clock read zero and he pitched back the ball to Williams, who ran it 52 yards back for the two touchdown lead at the break.
Senior D.J. McNorton rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown, and sophomore quarterback Brock Jensen was 16 of 21 for 197 yards in the air.
Sam Houston State beat New Mexico, 48-45, in overtime as Tim Flanders led the Bearkats as he rushed for a career-high 194 yards and five touchdowns.
Southern Utah drilled UNLV and former Montana coach Bobby Hauck, 41-16 by recording three interceptions by three different players (Nick Witzmann, Blake Fenn, and Erron Vonner) for touchdowns.
Earlier this season, the FCS teams upsetting FBS opponents were Sacramento State against Oregon State, Richmond against Duke and Indiana State against Western Kentucky.
That makes five of the six FCS wins over FBS teams by ‘West’ teams.
What does an FBS win mean for these three teams?
All three teams are now ranked in all major FCS polls and will all have a chance at the postseason in my opinion.
Winning such games is not, however, a sure thing to even a winning record as we found out last year with South Dakota defeating Minnesota. The Coyotes finished just 4-7 a season ago.
But wins like these can spring teams into the postseason as NDSU found out last year after the Kansas win. While the Bison finished with a .500 record within the Missouri Valley Football Conference, the strength of that win likely is what got them into the postseason.
In any event, it is great to have three such victories in a weekend to show that FCS teams can not only compete with their FBS brethren but also can win these games.
It makes for a very delightful weekend for all FCS fans and for me as well.
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CSN WEST GAME OF THE WEEK
Sacramento State (2-2) @ Montana State (3-1), 3:35 Eastern
A week ago, Sacramento State evened its record at 2-2 with a convincing 42-28 win over Montana at home in the team’s first home game of the season. Jeff Fleming threw for two touchdowns and rushed for two more to spark the Hornet offense. The team also scored on a blocked punt and the defense kept the Grizzlies option-based offense in check, limiting the team to 139 rushing yards.
This is after the Hornets lost two games in a row to Southern Utah and Weber State on the road. Sacramento State defeated as mentioned above defeated FBS Oregon State to start their season.
Montana State comes into this game after winning three games in a row after starting the season with a loss at FBS Utah. The Bobcats defeated Eastern Washington 36-21 win at Cheney. The Bobcats became the first road team to win on EWU’s red turf and relied on kicker Jason Cunningham who made five field goals, including two from 50-plus yards.
A year ago, MSU won a wild game in Sacramento 64-61 where fans were wondering where the defense was at.
This year’s game probably won’t be quite as high scoring but I think it will be fairly high still.
I like the home field for the Bobcats in this one to be the advantage. I will take MSU by a touchdown. Montana State 41 Sacramento State 34.