GWFC heats up in week 9 action

Chris Mangan

Chris Mangan

The Jackrabbits football team won against Cal Poly this past week, kicked off the conference schedule and signaled that the conference play is in full force.

Four of the five teams from the Great West Conference competed in a conference game. While SDSU took down Cal Poly, UC Davis took out Southern Utah. The only team that was not competing in a conference game was North Dakota State University, and they beat Big Ten foe Minnesota. This is the second time this year that NDSU has beaten a BCS team, the first time that has been accomplished since 2001.

“I think our players went into the game feeling like there was a sense if we played well that we’d win the football game,” NDSU head coach craig Bohl said. “Now if we weren’t going to play well it wasn’t going to happen. Fortunately we played well enough to win.”

NDSU is being looked at as the favorite to win the conference championship. The Bison are ranked first in the latest FCS Coaches poll and have won 11 in a row dating back to last season.

The Bison dominated the Gophers this past week, much like they did last year, but they came away with the win this time around. The Bison were led by running back Tyler Roehl, who rushed for 263 yards and set a new school record. The Bison have already beaten UC Davis this year and host Southern Utah this week.

SDSU is tied for the conference lead at 1-0 with NDSU after this past week. The Jacks were led by senior running back Cory Koenig, who rushed for 259 yards-the fifth most in school history-and four scores. The Jacks are on the road this week playing UC Davis. The Jacks are averaging 42.5 points per game in their last four games, winning three of those.

“I don’t think we have a team that is blessed with guys that are going to be consistently making big plays,” head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “We got some great play out of our special teams, which gave us a really short field at times. It’s not just the offense; it’s the defense getting the ball back and the special teams setting the ball up for the offense.”

Cal Poly is 1-1 in the conference, having beaten UC Davis two weeks ago. Cal Poly won four games in a row before falling to the Jacks last Saturday. The Mustangs have one of the highest rated offenses in the FCS and were ranked in the top 25 last week, but fell out after this week’s loss. The Mustangs also have one of the highest rated wide receivers in FCS football, Ramses Barden, who is up for the Payton Award, which goes to the FCS offensive player of the year. The Mustangs are off from conference play this week but travel to Idaho State.

UC Davis is 1-2 in the conference, having lost to Cal Poly and NDSU but beat Southern Utah this past week. The Aggies are trying for 38 consecutive winning seasons, but at 3-5 they need to win their final three games to accomplish that. In the win against Southern Utah, running back Brandon Tucker rushed for 119 yards and two scores while Matt Engle threw for 295 yards and three scores. The Aggies are also bruised up. They are missing their All-American defensive tackle and starting free safety; both are questionable for this week. The last time that the Aggies hosted the Jacks, it was the Jacks’ first game transitioning to Division I and UC Davis let them know it, putting a 52-0 beating on them. The Jacks have won both games since then, a 16-14 victory in Sioux Falls in 2005 and then last year’s 22-21 come-from-behind victory on Hobo Day

“It was definitely a wake up call; it was 30-0 before the quarter break.” Stiegelmeier said of the 52-0 loss to the Aggies. “It was unbelievable how poorly we played and Davis was a very good team, still is.”

Southern Utah is winless on the season and has not won in over a year, a span of 14 games. The Thunderbirds have been in some close games this season, including a 23-22 loss at Youngstown State. Some of the losses have been bad for the T-Birds, too. The most notable of these was the 37-10 loss to NCC foe North Dakota.