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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

This Week in the Big Sky

October 03, 1998

Weber State (4-0, 2-0) at Cal State Sacramento (2-2, 0-1)

The top two running backs in Division I-AA, at least statistically, meet in this one. Morgan Welch of Weber State, a 5-foot-8 junior from Canada, leads the division at 198.3 yards rushing per game. Charles Roberts of Sacramento, a 5-6 sophomore, is second at 190.0. Welch last week rushed for 217 yards and one touchdown to help the Wildcats upset Montana, 27-20. It was his second consecutive 200-yard game. Roberts is coming off a career-high 251 yards in Sacramento's 37-30 loss at Montana State. It was the second-best total in school history behind Rob Harrison's 268 yards against Southern Utah in 1986. Welch probably has the edge because Roberts has to work against I-AA's top defense against the run. Weber State is allowing 49.3 yards per game on the ground. The Wildcats rank fourth in I-AA in passing defense with an 81.7 rating. Weber State, ranked 12th in one poll, has allowed only three points in the fourth quarter.

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Portland State (1-2, 1-1) at Montana (2-2, 0-1)

Since neither team can play defense, the showdown is between running back Chip Dunn of Portland State and quarterback Brian Ah Yat of Montana. Dunn, a sophomore from Muir High, is seventh in I-AA rushing at 146.7 yards per game. He rushed for 176 yards and four touchdowns last week in Portland State's 43-41 loss at home to Idaho State. Ah Yat, a senior, has 1,418 yards passing with 11 touchdowns and leads I-AA in offense at 363.5 yards per game. Last week he couldn't rescue the Grizzlies, who gave up 478 yards and lost at Weber State, 27-20. Montana ranks last in the Big Sky in rushing defense, yielding 291.3 yards per game. Portland State is last in total defense, allowing 455.3 yards per game, and in defending third-down conversions with a 37.8% success rate. Montana leads the Big Sky in third-down conversions at 41.3%. Montana has a three-game winning streak against the Vikings and leads the series, 16-9, dating to 1965.

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Northern Arizona (3-1, 0-1) at Eastern Washington (0-3, 0-2)

The Big Sky can be a free for all, allowing teams to remain in the hunt most of the year, but neither team can afford another conference slip. Eastern Washington is turning into the Big Sky's Florida Marlins, sinking from champ to chump after one season. Eastern Washington last week lost at Northridge, 38-35, and continues to struggle in passing defense, allowing 246.7 yards per game, worst in the conference. That's trouble in the pass-happy Big Sky, where guys such as Travis Brown of Northern Arizona slice and dice secondaries. Brown, out the last two weeks because of an injured elbow, is expected back to pad his statistics. He has 7,149 yards passing, third on the Lumberjack career list. Northern Arizona, ranked 20th in one poll, is coming off a 28-9 victory over Western State, a Division II school. The Lumberjacks have won three of THE LAST four against Eastern Washington, including twice at Cheney, Wash.

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Nonconference

Idaho State (1-2) at Idaho (2-2)

Here it is, the Spud Bowl. The schools have played off and on since World War I. Idaho State snapped a six-game road losing streak last week, defeating Portland State, 43-41. The Bengals can thank Deronn Finley for helping pull off the victory. The 5-8 junior had 131 yards on two kickoff returns, including a 97-yard scoring runback in the fourth quarter. Kennedy Nkeyasen finished with a career-high 179 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns. Idaho opened with victories against Eastern Washington and San Jose State, but lost to Washington State and last week at LSU, 53-20. Idaho has won six in a row against the Bengals in Moscow and leads the series, 24-11.

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