BOZEMAN — The way Gage Gubrud is playing, it was going to take a special performance to knock Eastern Washington’s star quarterback from his Big Sky Conference player of the week pedestal. But that’s what Northern Arizona QB Case Cookus did.
Cookus, after a 380-yard, three touchdown effort in a 37-16 upset over No. 11 Illinois State on Saturday, was named the league’s top offensive performer Monday, ending a record-tying string of three straight weeks in which Gubrud had earned at least a share of the award.
Cookus also caught a touchdown pass from receiver Chance Brewington on a trick play as NAU won its third consecutive game.
“I don’t know why, but coach trusted me with the ball,” Cookus told the Arizona Daily Sun. “Chance got it to me, and he’s got a better completion percentage than me now.”
Cookus was also named the STATS FCS national player of the week.
Gubrud, meanwhile, piloted Eastern Washington to its fourth consecutive win, a 41-38 thriller over UC Davis. Gubrud passed for 452 yards and six touchdowns as the Eagles erased an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit.
Not to be overshadowed, Gubrud was named the national player of the week by College Sports Madness on Sunday.
Gubrud has now thrown for 400 or more yards in three consecutive contests, and has nine such games in his career, an extension of his school record. During EWU’s four-game winning streak Gubrud has passed for 1,847 yards and 18 touchdowns.
His 2,188 passing yards and 19 TD throws lead the nation going into the Eagles' home game versus Montana State.
“We’re not in this for stats, we’re in this for wins. Gage is the first to admit that,” EWU coach Aaron Best said in an athletic department release. “He doesn’t care if it’s six handoffs or six throws, he’s all about team victories and we’ll see how that goes. But we’ll continue to lean on our star.”
Griz crack Top 25
Montana prevailed 39-31 in a hotly contested game at Idaho State, and as a result moved into the STATS FCS Top 25 poll for the first time this season.
The Grizzlies (4-2, 2-1 Big Sky) came in at No. 24 upon the release of the poll on Monday. It is Montana’s first ranking since Week 11 of last year.
The victory over Idaho State came on the heels of a win at Portland State the week prior. According to UM’s sports information office, it marks the first time since 2013 that the Grizzlies had won back-to-back road games.
Griz quarterback Gresch Jensen threw for 360 yards and accounted for five touchdowns without a turnover. Jensen was an honorable mention for the STATS FCS national freshman of the week award.
Finally, a win
North Dakota has battled through an injury epidemic this season, but finally earned its first Big Sky Conference victory, a 48-38 homecoming win at the Alerus Center.
Led by veteran quarterback Keaton Studsrud, the Fighting Hawks’ offense had its best game of the season, totaling 562 yards. UND’s defense was without linebacker Jake Disterhaupt and safety Cole Reyes, the reigning Big Sky defensive MVP, but held the Bears to 331 yards.
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak.
"We really need that one," coach Bubba Schweigert said in a UND release. "Our guys needed a positive result and I was really proud of our team for the way we battled, especially in the second half.”
North Dakota (2-4, 1-2) travels to face Montana on Saturday.
With its win over UC Davis, Eastern Washington (4-2, 3-0) stood pat at No. 10 in the STATS poll. Illinois State (4-1) dropped six spots to No. 17.
Weber State had a bye last week. The Wildcats (4-1, 2-0) dropped one spot to No. 19. Northern Arizona’s three consecutive victories now has it on the verge of cracking the poll. The Lumberjacks (3-2, 2-0) picked up 136 points in the “others receiving votes” category this week.
Nationally, South Dakota (5-0) crept into the top five at No. 4 after a 31-28 upset over Missouri Valley Football Conference rival Youngstown State. YSU (3-2) dipped five spots to No. 8.
No. 1 James Madison (5-0), No. 2 North Dakota State (5-0), No. 3 Jacksonville State (4-1) and No. 5 Wofford (5-0) round out the top five.
Around the league
NAU S Josh Clarke joined Cookus on the awards list Monday by being named the Big Sky’s defensive player of the week. Clarke had a career-high 11 tackles (three for loss) and a sack against Illinois State. ... Southern Utah P Rashaan Miller was named the league’s special teams POW after pinning four punts inside the 20 yard line in a 20-14 victory over still-winless Cal Poly. ... UC Davis QB Jake Maier threw for 367 yards vs. EWU, his fifth 300-yard passing game of the season.