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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

This Week in the Big Sky

November 14, 1998

Montana (6-3, 4-2) at Cal State Sacramento (5-5, 3-4)

This is not, as in previous years, a done deal for Montana. Sacramento, behind sophomore Charles Roberts, is looking to win six games for the first time since finishing 7-3 in 1992 in Division II. Roberts had 242 yards rushing last week in Sacramento's 36-13 victory at Idaho State and has 2,084 yards, best single-season total in Big Sky Conference history. Archie Amerson had 2,079 with Northern Arizona in 1996. Roberts needs 172 yards today to break the Division I-AA record of 2,255 yards rushing set by Arnold Mickens of Butler in 1994. Montana ranks sixth in the conference in rushing defense, allowing 181.4 yards per game. But the Grizzlies, ranked No. 20 in one poll and No. 22 in the other, have the Big Sky's second-best offense at 418.4 yards per game and plenty of motivation. The Grizzlies must defeat Sacramento to remain in the conference title chase. They are 3-0 against the Hornets. Montana is coming off an open date but has won four of five, including three in a row. Sacramento limited Idaho State to 292 yards, the third consecutive time the Hornets held an opponent under 300 yards. But Idaho State didn't have Brian Ah Yat, Montana's senior quarterback, who ranks third in I-AA in offense at 308.6 yards per game.

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Idaho State (2-7, 1-5) at Montana State (6-3, 4-2)

The Bobcats, ranked No. 21 in one poll and No. 22 in the other, can't slip today if they hope to face Montana next week with the Big Sky championship at stake. Montana State stumbled last week at Eastern Washington, 31-24, and has not exactly dominated Idaho State the last few years. Montana State won, 14-13, last year and only two games between the teams since 1989 have been decided by nine points or more. The rivalry dates to 1923, one of the oldest between Big Sky teams. It will continue next season in Pocatello, but without Idaho State Coach Tom Walsh, who was fired last week and is leaving after the team's final game next week. Walsh coached the Bengals for two seasons.

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Northern Arizona (5-5, 2-5) at Portland State (5-4, 4-3)

Tough for either team to be motivated for this game. Portland State last week lost to Cal State Northridge, 32-28, and was eliminated from the Big Sky title race. The Vikings wrap up the conference season against Northern Arizona and travel to Northeast Louisiana for a nonconference matchup next week. The Vikings play a soft defense, which explains the 421.7 yards they allow per game. Quarterback Travis Brown, sidelined earlier this season with an elbow injury, no doubt is anxious to throw against the Vikings. Brown passed for 249 yards and two touchdowns in Northern Arizona's 20-17 victory over Weber State last week. Junior linebacker Afa Faraimo had 15 tackles against Weber State and was selected Big Sky defensive player of the week. He is a finalist for the Buck Buchanan award as I-AA defensive player of the year. Charles Dunn of Portland State has rushed for 100 or more yards in five consecutive games. Northern Arizona, which is 5-0 against Portland State, needs a victory for its sixth consecutive winning season.

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Eastern Washington (5-4, 4-3) at Weber State (5-5, 3-4)

Whether returning kicks or playing wide receiver, Bashir Levingston of Eastern Washington is a scoring machine. He scored on pass plays of 58 and 43 yards to help the Eagles defeat Montana State, 31-24, last week. Levingston set several I-AA return records two weeks ago against Cal State Sacramento, when he had three kickoff returns for touchdowns. He has touched the ball 57 times and scored 12 touchdowns. The Eagles have won five of six, thanks partly to Levingston and the resurgence of running back Mike MacKenzie, who last week finished with 226 yards, the third-best single-game rushing total in Eastern Washington history. After a slow start, MacKenzie is averaging 117 yards rushing. Weber State is on a five-game losing skid.

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