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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

THIS WEEK in the BIG SKY

October 24, 1998

Weber State (5-2, 3-1) at Portland State (3-3, 3-2)

Morgan Welch vs. Charles Dunn is the marquee matchup in this one. Welch's streak of 100-yard rushing games ended at six with a 64-yard effort in Weber State's 24-13 loss at Boise State last week, but he ranks second in Division I-AA and in the Big Sky Conference in rushing at 174.9 yards per game. Dunn had 143 yards rushing in Portland State's 34-31 upset of Montana State, reaching the 100-yard mark for the 10th time in 16 games with the Vikings. Dunn ranks seventh in I-AA and third in the Big Sky in rushing at 152.2 yards per game. Welch is facing the conference's worst defense at 459.8 yards allowed per game and Dunn is going against the Big Sky's best at 233.9 yards yielded per game. Portland State picked up 1,314 yards the last two weeks and is averaging 34 points, tops in the conference, but quarterback Jimmy Blanchard is doubtful tonight because of a shoulder injury sustained at Montana State. Blanchard is the passing efficiency leader in I-AA with 169.67 points. Tyson Parsons, who passed for 313 yards last week, replaces Blanchard. Weber State is ranked No. 17 in both polls.

Montana (4-3, 2-2) at Eastern Washington (3-3, 2-2)

Eastern Washington is the hottest team in the conference with a three-game winning streak. The Eagles pounded Idaho State, 44-13, last week to sneak into the Big Sky race. Today they face a team fighting for survival in the conference. Montana has been up and down. Last week the Grizzlies were up, riding the return of injured quarterback Brian Ah Yat to a 33-20 victory over Northern Arizona. Ah Yat completed 33 of 50 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns. Eastern Washington, defending Big Sky champion, and Montana, winner the previous two years, meet at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane for the first time since 1989. The Eagles last season were 3-1 at Albi Stadium, their home field from 1984-88. Eastern Washington had kicking problems early this season but apparently found someone reliable. Freshman Nick Reynolds kicked field goals of 37, 41, and 48 yards--a school best in the last 10 years--at Idaho State.

Cal State Sacramento (3-4, 1-3) at Northern Arizona (4-3, 1-3)

It's Northern Arizona's turn to try to stop Charles Roberts. And never mind the artificial turf at Walkup Skydome. Sacramento has played only once on turf this season, at Portland State two weeks ago, when Roberts rushed for 185 yards and three touchdowns. Roberts last week blasted past Northridge with 231 yards and three touchdowns in Sacramento's 35-21 conference upset. He leads Division I-AA in rushing at 189.6 yards per game. Northern Arizona ranks second in the Big Sky in rushing defense, allowing 119.3 yards per game, but the Lumberjacks have not faced a running back of Roberts' caliber. Senior Gibbons St. Paul last week made 10 catches for 110 yards in Northern Arizona's 33-20 loss to Montana, becoming the fourth Lumberjack with 2,000 yards receiving in a career. Sacramento, coming off its second Big Sky victory ever, is 0-10 in conference road games. Northern Arizona is 14-3 at home the last three seasons.

Nonconference

Southern Utah (3-3) at Idaho State (1-5)

Anyone can grind it out against Idaho State, which allows 237.7 yards rushing per game, so Southern Utah's option attack shouldn't have problems. Mike MacKenzie last week rushed for 116 yards and three touchdowns in Eastern Washington's 44-13 victory over Idaho State and the Bengals gave up 254 yards rushing to Morgan Welch of Weber State on Sept. 19, the single-game high for a Big Sky back this season. Southern Utah ranks second in I-AA in rushing at 346.0 yards per game.

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