BOZEMAN — Many have entered the Fargodome, few have left victorious. That is the challenge UC Davis faces this week as it travels to face defending national champion North Dakota State on Saturday.
It will be the game of the week nationally in the FCS, with the No. 1-ranked Bison hosting No. 4 UC Davis. The Aggies will try to do what nobody has done since the 2017 season — beat NDSU.
The Bison have won 24 consecutive games, the third-longest winning streak in FCS history (and nine shy of their own record of 33 straight wins from 2012-14). Furthermore, NDSU is 15-1 against top-five opponents since 2011, including an 8-1 mark at home.
The one loss was a 27-17 setback to James Madison in the 2016 playoff semifinals.
UC Davis is coming off a 41-13 home victory over Lehigh, a game in which quarterback Jake Maier threw for 389 yards and four touchdowns. On Monday, Maier was named Big Sky Conference offensive player of the week.
Maier, a senior and the reigning Big Sky offensive player of the year, now ranks third in school history with 8,521 passing yards.
The game against NDSU will also be a continuation of the third annual challenge series between the Big Sky and the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The leagues have met four times so far this year, with the Big Sky holding a 3-1 edge: Montana defeated South Dakota and Northern Arizona beat Missouri State in Week 1, while Montana State beat Western Illinois this past Saturday. The Valley’s only win so far was Northern Iowa’s Week 2 win at Southern Utah.
In all, there are five Big Sky/MVFC matchups this week, including South Dakota at Northern Colorado, Idaho State at No. 9 Northern Iowa, Southern Utah at No. 3 South Dakota State, and Northern Arizona at No. 15 Illinois State.
The Missouri Valley won the challenge series in each of the past two seasons.
Bailey dials in
Montana State placekicker Tristan Bailey went 1 for 2 on field goals in each of the first two games of the season, prompting coach Jeff Choate to ask a pointed question entering last week’s contest at Western Illinois.
“I challenged him,” Choate said of Bailey. “I’m like, ‘Are we going to be 50% on field goals all year? Is that what the deal is here?’ And he’s like, ‘No.’ And he was right.”
Bailey, a senior from Colorado Springs, Colorado, rose to the occasion by going 3 for 3 in MSU’s 23-14 victory over the Leathernecks. He hit two field goals in the fourth quarter, including a 47-yarder with 2:50 remaining to give the Bobcats a two-possession lead.
On Monday, Bailey was named the Big Sky’s special teams player of the week.
Bailey is now 7 for 7 in his career against WIU. He made all four field goal tries against the Leathernecks during a 26-23 victory last season.
T-birds end skid
It had been a long time coming, but Southern Utah finally put an end to its losing streak with a 45-38 overtime victory at home against Stephen F. Austin last week.
An 11-yard touchdown run by James Felila provided the go-ahead points, and SUU’s defense stopped the Lumberjacks on the 9-yard line to preserve the win.
The Thunderbirds had lost seven consecutive games dating back to last Oct. 20.
Eastern Washington’s university board of trustees unanimously approved a strategy for a $25 million upgrade to Roos Field, the Eagles’ home football stadium.
The renovation plan was announced on Sept. 6 via press release. It includes upgrades to both the east and west grandstands, removal and relocation of the track that circles the field, added suites and priority seating, a new press area, and the placement of new red turf.
According to an EWU release, construction will begin when funds are in place. The project reportedly will be paid for with private donations.
The win at Western Illinois allowed Montana State (2-1) to slide ahead two spots to No. 8 in the STATS Top 25 FCS poll, which was released Monday. It matches MSU’s highest ranking since the 2014 season.
Despite a 35-3 loss on the road at Pac-12 power Oregon, Montana (2-1) moved up one position to No. 19.
At No. 4, UC Davis (2-1) is the highest-ranked of five Big Sky teams in the poll. Weber State again played tough against an FBS foe but lost 19-13 at Nevada. Still, the Wildcats (1-2) remained at No. 6.
After a 49-45 loss at Jacksonville State, Eastern Washington (1-2) dipped seven spots to No. 11. JSU jumped seven places to No. 10.
Nationally, Towson knocked off Maine 45-23 in a battle of ranked teams. The Tigers (3-0) vaulted three spots to No. 5 while the Black Bears (1-2) fell five places to No. 12.
Around the league
Sacramento State DE Dariyn Choates was named the Big Sky’s defensive player of the week. Choates had six tackles (3.5 for loss), a safety, two forced fumbles and a pass breakup in the Hornets’ 50-0 nonconference drubbing of Northern Colorado. … Weber State allowed a combined 25 points in two games against FBS opponents San Diego State, a 6-0 loss in Week 1, and Nevada. … Weber State and Cal Poly have byes this week before conference play begins Sept. 28.