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Big Sky Notebook: Weber State prepares for top-10 matchup without starting quarterback
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Big Sky Notebook: Weber State prepares for top-10 matchup without starting quarterback

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Weber St Utah Football

Weber State quarterback Bronson Barron (10) throws a pass during the first half of the Wildcats' game against Utah on Sept. 2 in Salt Lake City. 

BOZEMAN — The first top-10 FCS football matchup of the season features a Big Sky Conference team.

Four-time defending Big Sky champion Weber State is set to host James Madison at 6 p.m. Saturday. WSU (1-1) is No. 9 in the latest Stats Perform FCS rankings, and James Madison (2-0) is No. 3.

WSU is coming off a 41-3 win over Dixie State, one week after losing 40-17 to Utah (a Pac-12 team). The Wildcats’ first victory, however, came with a negative: starting quarterback Bronson Barron left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury. The second-year freshman is questionable for the James Madison game, according to the (Ogden, Utah) Standard-Examiner.

“It’s an MCL. It’s hard to tell exactly how bad that is,” WSU coach Jay Hill told the Standard-Examiner on Saturday. “Sometimes it’s a week, sometimes it’s two weeks, sometimes it’s four weeks. We just don’t know at this point.”

The Wildcats might stay afloat without Barron, thanks to players such as redshirt freshman running back Dontae McMillan, who has rushed for 190 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries (8.3 ypc) this season.

WSU also has a stellar kick returner in Rashid Shaheed, who broke the Big Sky record for most kickoff return TDs with a 100-yard runback against Utah. The senior wide receiver now has six kick return scores in his career, which is tied for the most in FCS history.

The Wildcats will host Montana State on Oct. 15.

James Madison has rolled over two FCS opponents, beating Morehead State 68-10 to open the season and handling Maine 55-7 on Saturday.

JMU’s rushing offense has been excellent (72 carries, 478 yards, four TDs) so far this season, and its passing game has been even better. Redshirt senior Cole Johnson has completed 44 of 58 passes (75.9%) for 677 yards, nine TDs and no interceptions.

The Dukes lost to North Dakota State in the 2019 FCS title game, and they fell to eventual champion Sam Houston State in the semifinals this past spring.

Montana stays put, MSU falls in rankings

Despite blowing out Drake 45-7 on Saturday for its first win of the season, Montana State fell two spots in this week’s Stats Perform FCS Top 25.

The Bobcats are now No. 13, falling behind Jacksonville State and Villanova. JSU rose from No. 16 to No. 10 thanks to its 20-17 win over the ACC’s Florida State on Saturday. Villanova, which has been No. 12 since the start of the season, hasn’t allowed a touchdown yet. The Wildcats have beaten Lehigh 47-3 and Bucknell 55-3.

Montana, which beat Western Illinois 42-7 on Saturday, remained at No. 4 behind James Madison, No. 2 South Dakota State and top-ranked Sam Houston.

Big Sky teams Eastern Washington and UC Davis remained No. 7 and No. 14, respectively. 

Big Sky players of week

UC Davis quarterback Hunter Rodrigues earned his second straight Big Sky offensive player of the week honor, the conference announced Monday.

Rodrigues teammate Trent Tompkins got the special teams award, and Northern Colorado defensive lineman David Hoage was named defensive player of the week.

Montana State receiver Lance McCutcheon and defensive end Daniel Hardy were nominated for the weekly honors, as were Montana QB Cam Humphrey, linebacker Patrick O’Connell and (for special teams) receiver Malik Flowers.

Rodrigues went 22 of 37 (59.5%) for a career-high 322 yards, four TDs and no picks in Davis’ 53-7 win over San Diego on Saturday.

Hoage compiled eight tackles (four for loss), three sacks and two fumble recoveries in a 45-13 victory over Houston Baptist.

Tompkins returned a punt 85 yards for a score, the longest punt return TD in the FCS so far this season.

San Diego getting familiar with Big Sky

San Diego will conclude its nonconference schedule this Saturday at Montana State. All three of its nonconference opponents play in the Big Sky.

The pre-Pioneer Football League games haven’t gone great for the Toreros. One week before Saturday’s 53-7 defeat to UC Davis, they lost 28-17 to Cal Poly. Both games were in San Diego.

USD also opened the 2019 season with losses to Cal Poly and Davis. The Toreros didn’t face any Big Sky teams last season, but they did open their six-game slate with a 13-10 win at Drake, which lost at MSU on Saturday.

Email Victor Flores at victor.flores@406mtsports.com and follow him on Twitter at @VictorFlores406

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