As its top teams continue to rack up victories, the Big Sky Conference maintained its hold on five of the top 14 spots in this week’s STATS Football Championship Subdivision poll.
Among the five are four programs that have become accustomed to national rankings: Montana (2-0) at No. 4, Eastern Washington (2-0) at No. 7, followed by ninth-ranked Weber State (1-1) and 13th-ranked Montana State (1-1).
Two of those four have an FBS win on their resumes this season, which can only help the conference come time to select at-large bids for the FCS postseason.
But not to be forgotten is UC Davis (2-0), sitting right behind Montana State in the rankings at No. 14.
The Aggies boast a victory over an FBS team (Tulsa) and also a quarterback, Hunter Rodrigues, who has been named Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year two weeks in a row after a 322-yard, four-touchdown passing performance – plus a rushing touchdown – Saturday in a 53-7 win over San Diego.
“I’m surrounded by a bunch of great players, and anyone could do what I do with the 10 guys I’m on the field with,” Rodrigues said during a news conference Tuesday.
“Well, let’s not say ‘anyone,’ ” UC Davis coach Dan Hawkins quickly interjected from two chairs over. “Let’s not say that.”
Hawkins praised the quarterback’s pocket presence and credited him for not turning over the ball in the team’s first two victories.
He also highlighted how soft-spoken Rodrigues is, a phrase Eastern Washington coaches and players have used to describe senior quarterback Eric Barriere, who shared Offensive Player of the Week honors with Rodrigues after the Eagles’ 35-33 victory over UNLV.
“(Rodrigues is) handling the protection game up front, getting us in and out of things, making clean throws, tough throws, making some plays with his legs and taking care of the football,” Hawkins said, “so there’s a reason he’s been the two-time offensive player (of the week) in the league, and he’s deserving.”
Eastern Washington is scheduled to play at UC Davis on Nov. 13.
Hill gets landmark win at Weber
After losing 40-17 to the Pac-12’s Utah Utes in their season opener, the Weber State Wildcats crushed FCS newcomer Dixie State 41-3 on Saturday for Jay Hill’s 53rd victory, which ties him for the most for a head coach in program history.
The Wildcats have won at least a share of the conference championship each of the past four years during which they were 26-3 in Big Sky games.
Dixie State, which is making the transition from Division II to Division I, is part of the newly formed Western Athletic Conference. The Trailblazers are scheduled to play four Big Sky teams this year, including UC Davis this weekend and Montana on Oct. 9.
Weber State hosts No. 2 James Madison on Saturday in a matchup of top-10 teams. It will be JMU’s first regular-season game played against a Big Sky opponent.
Coaches at UNC, MSU get first victories
First-year Big Sky coaches Ed McCaffrey (Northern Colorado) and Brent Vigen (Montana State) earned their first collegiate head coaching victories last weekend over a pair of fellow FCS teams.
Montana State beat Drake 45-7 in Bozeman, while Northern Colorado beat Houston Baptist 45-13 on the road Saturday.
Vigen, a North Dakota State graduate, coached previously as an assistant at NDSU and also at Wyoming, where he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
McCaffrey’s playing resume includes three Super Bowl championships but just two previous years as a coach, both as the head coach at Valor Christian High School in Colorado.