The Big Sky Conference's 'big games' this Saturday are supposed to be at Boise and at Missoula, Mont. But Idaho State coach Dave Kragthorpe says his team's game at Ogden, Utah, could be just as important.
Kragthorpe admitsaISU will 'need some help' to defend itsaBig Sky and NCAA Division I-AA titles 'but we still have an outside chance. Everybody has at least one conference loss, so we're still in the race going into this weekend.'
Idaho State takes on Weber State in one of three league games. In the others, Boise State hosts No. 17 Idaho while first-place Montana State is at Montana. In non-conference games, Nevada-Reno hosts Northern Iowa and Northern Arizona is at New Mexico State.
'We're fighting because we have some hope,' Kragthorpe says. 'We played our first sound game in our last five when we beat Montana 28-14 last weekend. We finally got good pass protection. I just hope we've come together.'
Last year in Pocatello, Idaho, the Bengals needed three overtimes to edge Weber State 33-30. The Wildcats finished the 1981 season with a 7-4 record, but they are only 2-5 this season.
'The big difference between Weber State last year and this year is the play of their quarterback. They're not as efficient at passing the ball this year,' Kragthorpe added.
But Weber State coach Mike Price says, 'We're still not a bad team, despite our record. Our main problem is to keep self-doubt from creeping in. We have to keep the players' confidence and enthusiasm up, or we won't have a chance.'
Price says his players 'may not be great, but they're good. They're not quiters. We're taking the realistic approach that we're out of the Big Sky race. And, now if the players will take out their frustrations on the opponents instead of on themselves, weacan win our last four games.'
He says Weber State's biggest problem this yearas been mistakes on offense. 'Last weekend we had identical yardage with Boise State, but we had five turnovers inside our 30 and that broke our back.'
The Montana-Montana State series goes all the way back to 1897, when the Grizzlies won 18-6. Over the years, Montana leads 47-29-5. But Montana State has won eight of the last 10 meetings.
And, this year the MSU Bobcats have rebounded from a 3-7 season and are leading the Big Sky with a 4-1 conference record. They're No. 2 in the league in scoring, behind Idaho. And that's been the Grizzly's problem, they're averaging 24 points per game but giving up 25.
Idaho is in second place in the Big Sky standingsawith a 2-1 record, following the Vandals' 36-20 upset of Montana State last weekend. And, this Saturday Idaho has a chance to eliminate preseason favorite Boise State from the conference title race.
Another loss for the Broncos would drop their Big Sky record to 3-3, and none of the coaches believe a team with three league loses this fall can tie for the conference crown.
The wildest outcome this weekend would be for Boise State to beat Idaho, Montana to defeat Montana State and Idaho State to win at Weber State. That would leave six teamsawith two loses in Big Sky play this year. Nevada-Reno would be 1-3 and Weber State 0-4.