Kai Quinn versus Carroll 2021

Eastern Oregon quarterback Kai Quinn looks to complete a pass in a win against Carroll last Saturday inside Nelson Stadium.

HELENA — All eight Frontier Conference football teams were back in action on Saturday after an open date. Like in the first two weeks of league games, this week’s slate featured a good balance of close contests, as well as convincing wins by College of Idaho and Montana Western.

This week also helped to build some separation into the conference standings. With a win over Carroll, Eastern Oregon moved to 3-0 on the season and became the final remaining undefeated team in the conference after Rocky Mountain College fell to Montana Tech. Western, College of Idaho and Rocky Mountain all currently sit at 2-1 after three league games, while Carroll, Tech and Southern Oregon are 1-2. Montana State Northern is the lone winless team at 0-3.

Andrew Carter versus Eastern Oregon 2021

Carroll offensive lineman Andrew Carter calls out blocking assignments before a play last Saturday against Eastern Oregon.

Spring in their step?

Programs that had not played since the fall of 2019 prior to this season won two games in three opportunities over teams that played in the spring of 2021 on Saturday. Western downed Northern 42-28 and Tech held off a Battlin’ Bears rally to win 31-29.

Saturday’s slate of games drops spring teams to 5-4 overall against teams that previously played in the fall of 2019 through four weeks of play. In the last two weeks, teams that played in the spring of 2021 are 1-3 against their counterparts.

Carroll’s contest with Southern Oregon is the lone game on Saturday in which the two factions of teams (fall of 2019 and spring of 2021) matchup.

Defensive big three

At times this season, it seemed as if defense was optional in the Frontier. Already this year teams have given up at least 30 points nine times, with Northern having allowed 42 points in each of its first three contests.

In the early-going, however, three teams have seemingly separated themselves from the rest of the conference when it comes to defensive points allowed.

College of Idaho, Carroll and Eastern Oregon are all allowing less than 20 points per game after three league tilts. The Yotes gave up just three points and 205 yards of total offense to Southern Oregon on Saturday, while both the Mountaineers and Saints allowed no more than 10 points against each other.

Both College of Idaho and Carroll rank inside the top-25 nationally allowing 16.7 and 17.7 points per game, while Eastern Oregon checks in at No. 31 in the NAIA ranking giving up 19.7 points per contest.

As for the rest of the Frontier, Southern Oregon, Western and Tech are the next three teams in terms of defensive points allowed at 26, 28.3 and 28.7 per game.

Frontier Conference in the polls

As the last remaining unbeaten in the Frontier, and after a 10-7 win over Carroll, Eastern Oregon moved up two spots to No. 11 in the NAIA coaches’ top-25 poll released on Monday.

Western’s two-touchdown win over Northern meant the Bulldogs remained stationary in the poll at No. 23. College of Idaho was the second of three teams in the receiving votes category, while Rocky Mountain, ranked No. 24 last week, dropped from the poll following a loss to Tech.

Conference Players of the Week

Offense: Wide receiver Nate Simkins, Montana Western

Defense: Linebacker Tanner Leaf, College of Idaho*

Special Teams: Kicker Zachary Cahill, Eastern Oregon

*Leaf also earned NAIA National Player of the Week honors for his performance.

Week 4 top performers

Offense

Rocky Mountain quarterback Nate Dick: 23-for-42 passing, 350 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT

Montana State Northern quarterback Kaymen Cureton: 22-for-40 passing, 218 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Montana Western running back Colten McPhee: 160 rushing yards, 1 TD

Montana State Northern running back Izayah Boss: 122 rushing yards, 2 TDs

Montana Tech quarterback Jet Campbell: 13-for-29 passing, 182 yards, 2 TDs -- 40 rushing yards, 1 TD

College of Idaho running back Nick Calzaretta: 89 rushing yards, 2 TDs

Montana Western wide receiver Nate Simkins: 8 receptions, 92 yards, 3 TDs

Rocky Mountain wide receiver Donavan Sellgren: 2 receptions, 95 yards, 1 TD

Montana Western quarterback Jon Jund: 14-for-30 passing, 196 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs

Defense

Montana Western linebacker Joe Caicedo: 12 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 pass break-up

Eastern Oregon linebacker Hayden Brandon: 12 tackles, 0.5 TFL

Eastern Oregon linebacker Solo Taylor: 11 tackles, 0.5 sack, 0.5 TFL, 1 pass break-up

Carroll linebacker Rex Irby: 11 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1.5 TFL

College of Idaho linebacker Tanner Leaf: 10 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 TFL, 1 pass break-up

Rocky Mountain linebacker Nolan McCafferty: 11 tackles, 0.5 TFL

Carroll defensive lineman Garrett Kocab: 10 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1.5 TFL

College of Idaho linebacker Dylan Martinez: 9 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 2 pass break-ups, 2 quarterback hurries

Montana State Northern defensive back Hunter Riley: 10 tackles

College of Idaho defensive back Taeson Hardin: 7 tackles, 1 INT, 2 pass break-ups

Eastern Oregon linebacker Chase Van Wyck: 7 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 1 fumble recovery

Special teams

Eastern Oregon kicker/punter Zachary Cahill: 7 punts, 324 yards, 46.3 average, long 55, 2 touchbacks, 4 punts inside 20-yard line -- 1-for-1 FG, 1-for-1 on extra points

Montana Western kicker John Mears: 6-for-6 on extra points

Carroll punter Brock Paldi: 5 punts, 205 yards, 41 average, long 46, 2 punts inside 20-yard line

Southern Oregon wide receiver Shane McLaughlin: 4 kick off returns, 81 yards, 20.3 average, long 28

Montana Tech kicker Jared Griffith: 4-for-4 on extra points, 1-for-1 FG, 1 punt, 63 yards

Week 5 predictions

Eastern Oregon vs. College of Idaho: Mountaineers 24, Yotes 14

A battle between the top-two preseason favorites to win the Frontier, both teams will enter the weekend after wins on Saturday. College of Idaho looked better getting its victory, but Eastern Oregon is playing at home, and it feels like quarterback Kai Quinn is primed for a big game after the defense carried the Mountaineers to a win over Carroll.

Montana Tech vs. Montana Western: Bulldogs 31, Orediggers 17

Western is scoring better than 34 points per game through four contests, including 42 points in each of its last two victories. Jon Jund threw four more touchdowns (and three interceptions) against Northern on Saturday, but will guide an offense that ranks 24th in yards per game (434.8) into a matchup with Tech.

Montana State Northern vs. Rocky Mountain College: Battlin’ Bears 42, Lights 17

The Lights have given up 42 points in each of their three losses this season. Teams are racking up better than 450 yards of offense, on average, against Northern in the early-going. Rocky Mountain has a quarterback in Nate Dick who has thrown for 834 yards and eight touchdowns through three games, including a 350-yard effort in a loss to Tech on Saturday.

Southern Oregon vs. Carroll: Raiders 24, Saints 14

Both teams’ offenses were held out of the end zone in losses on Saturday. The Raiders seem to be a throw-first team and average better than 280 yards through the air per game. Quarterback Matt Struck is already over 700 yards passing in three contests, he has also tossed six touchdowns and turned the ball over just once through the air.

Carroll struggled offensively on Saturday against Eastern Oregon, and while the Saints are flying to Ashland, Oregon, they are still tasked with figuring things out on the road this weekend in a battle of 1-2 teams.

Email Daniel Shepard at daniel.shepard@406mtsports.com or find him on Twitter @IR_DanielS.

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