Bears Look For First Big Sky Win On Saturday Against No. 23 Bobcats
Oct. 31, 2006
Northern Colorado (1-7, 0-5 Big Sky) at No. 23 Montana State (6-3, 5-1 Big Sky)
Game No. 9 * Saturday, Nov. 4 * 12:05 p.m. MT
Bozeman, Mont. * Bobcat Stadium (13,500)
• The University of Northern Colorado football team will try to rebound from a tough 14-9 loss to Sacramento State last week and get its first Big Sky Conference win against Montana State at 12:05 p.m. on Saturday in Bozeman, Mont. Northern Colorado is led by first-year head coach Scott Downing, who spent time as an assistant at Wyoming, Purdue and Nebraska. Montana State is coached by Mike Kramer, who is 38-41 in his seventh season. The Bobcats lead the series 12-9-1. The game will be broadcast live on 1310-AM KFKA in Greeley and 1510-AM KYOL in Denver. Troy Coverdale serves as the play-by-play commentator and Chris Ott handles color analysis. The broadcast on KFKA begins with the pregame show at 11:05 a.m.
• Northern Colorado is 1-7 overall and 0-5 in the Big Sky Conference this season. The Bears have struggled against BSC opponents this year, being outscored 160-46. Northern Colorado has been able to hold the ball longer, however, holding the time possession advantage by 20:18.
• Montana State is 6-3 overall and 5-1 in the Big Sky this season. The Bobcats began the season with a shocking 19-10 win over I-A foe Colorado, then shocked everyone equally the following in a 35-24 loss to Division II foe Chadron State. After beginning the season 1-3, MSU has reamed off five straight wins to climb back into the I-AA Top 25 polls at No. 23 and are in second place in the Big Sky.
GAME EIGHT RECAP
• Senior placekicker David Dyches had a breakthrough game as a Bear, going 3-for-3 on field goal attempts for Northern Colorado's only points of the game. Prior to the Sacramento State game, Dyches hadn't attempted a field goal since playing Texas State on Sept. 16.
• Senior running back Andre Wilson had his third 100-plus yard rushing game of the season with 141 yards on 37 carries, vaulting him into third place all-time in the Northern Colorado career record books ahead of Gaynor Blackmon with 3,256 yards.
• Senior defensive end Shawn Sopoaga had his best game of the season, racking up 1.5 sacks. Before the Sacramento State contest, Sopoaga didn't have a tackle or sack since Portland State on Sept. 2.
• Redshirt freshman linebacker Thomas Bauer had a monster game and arguably his best thus far in his career. Bauer racked up seven total tackles (three solo, four assists, one for loss), one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception and two pass breakups.
• The Bears held the ball far longer than the Hornets with a 39:11-20:49 advantage, but Sacramento State took advantage of two big plays on offense to win the game.
• The 14-9 loss was the second time this season the Bears have lost a Big Sky game by five points. Northern Colorado lost a heartbreaker to Weber State, 26-21, on Sept. 28.
• The Bears grabbed just their second lead of the season when David Dyches hit a 34-yard field goal with 6:42 remaining in the third quarter.
• Senior tight end Clint Wright pulled in his first catch of the season in the Bears' first drive of the game. He finished with three receptions for 38 yards.
• Sophomore running back Patrick Ealy pulled in eight catches for 50 yards to bump up his season total to 50 receptions. It was the third time this season Ealy had at least eight catches in a game.
• Northern Colorado dropped to 0-1 all-time against Sacramento State and 0-2 this year against teams from California.
• The Bears outgained their opponent for the second time this season. They have an 0-2 record when that occurs.
• Senior wide receiver Robert Long pulled in a career-high three receptions for 23 yards. Before the game against the Hornets, he had only one catch against Idaho State.
• The Bears extended their touchdown-less streak to nine quarters.
WILSON SETS NEW RECORD WHILE REACHING NEW MILESTONE
• Senior running back Andre Wilson set a new Northern Colorado record with 37 carries against Sacramento State. His 141 yards on the ground moved him past Gaynor Blackmon for No. 3 all-time in career rushing yards with 3,256. He needs just 70 yards to move past Adam Matthews for No. 2 on the list. In order to break the all-time record held by Billy Holmes, Wilson needs to average 88 yards in Northern Colorado's final three games. While 88 yards per game doesn't seem like much, two of the Bears final three opponents rank No. 1 (Montana) and 2 (Montana State) in rushing defense in the Big Sky, respectively. Northern Arizona is seventh in rushing defense.
EALY BREAKS RUNNING BACK RECORD
• Sophomore running back Patrick Ealy currently leads the team in receptions with 37, which breaks a Northern Colorado record for most catches by a running back in a season. The last time a running back finished the season leading the team in receptions was 1996, when Billy Holmes pulled in 34 catches.
BALL CONTROL OFFENSE
• Although they are 1-7 this season, Northern Colorado has held the ball longer than its opponents in four games this season. In those four games (Texas State, Western Illinois and Weber State), 36:50 longer.
WINNING THE PENALTY BATTLE
• Northern Colorado has been down some statistical categories this season, but penalties is not one of the them. The Bears have committed 48 penalties for 308 yards, while their opponents have had 75 penalties for 623 yards.
MENDOZA MAKES HIS VALIANT RETURN
• Junior punter Rafael Mendoza made his return to the playing field just two weeks after encountering a stab wound to his kicking leg. Mendoza had a season-long 58-yard punt against Western Illinois and finished with a 38.9 average and one inside the 20.
WILSON MOVES TO FOURTH PLACE ON NC RUSHING LIST
• After rushing for 62 yards against Texas State, senior running back Andre Wilson moved to fourth place all-time on the Northern Colorado career rushing list. Wilson's 49 yards against Idaho State moved him to within 141 yards of third place.
WEST GRABS FIRST BIG SKY PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONOR
• Senior defensive Matt West was named the Big Sky Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday, Sept. 18, for his performance against Texas State last Saturday. West scored Northern Colorado's game-winning touchdown when he scooped up a blocked punt and returned it five yards to the end zone. It was the Bears' first conference player of the week honors in the Big Sky.
• The Bears' game against Texas State on Sept. 16 marked the first time Northern Colorado has not committed any turnovers this season. In the Bears' previous two games, they had turned the ball over nine times, resulting in 59 points for their opponents. Northern Colorado forced two turnovers against Texas State, marking the first time this season they had a positive turnover margin.
NOT IN BAD COMPANY
• Although head coach Scott Downing lost his first game at the helm of the Bears, he's not in bad company. Legendary coach Bob Blasi, who has the most victories in Northern Colorado history with 107, lost his very first game as head coach of the Bears in 1966 in a 27-12 loss to South Dakota. Blasi, a member of the Northern Colorado Athletics Hall of Fame, led the Bears to six conference championships in his 19 years.
BIG SKY'S NEW BEAR
• Northern Colorado officially joins the I-AA powerhouse Big Sky Conference this year and in 2007 will be eligible for the conference title and postseason play. The move makes the Big Sky a nine-team league. It is the first time since 1996 that the Big Sky has had nine teams. That year, Boise State and Idaho left for the Western Athletic Conference, while Portland State, Sacramento State and Cal State-Northridge joined. Cal State-Northridge left in 2001 after dropping its football program.
BEARS ON THE TUBE
• Northern Colorado will be featured on television five times this season. The first occasion will be against Weber State in Ogden, Utah, on Thursday, Sept. 28 in a marquee ESPNU matchup. The game will kickoff at 6:35 p.m. On Oct. 7 at 1:35 p.m., the Bears will be featured on Altitude in a home game against Idaho State. The following weekend at 1:35 p.m. on Oct. 14 against Eastern Washington on Homecoming Weekend will also air on Altitude. The final game televised will be the Hall of Fame Game against Montana at 12:05 p.m. on Nov. 11 at Nottingham Field. It will be aired by Montana station K-PAX.
• All home and conference games will be featured on BigSkyTV.org, which is a web site that streams video for football, men's basketball, women's basketball and volleyball. All games taking place in a Big Sky venue will be available. For $59, fans can watch all Northern Colorado events for the year. To watch all conference events for the year, it costs $99.
HOW NC FARED IN BIG SKY POLLS
• The Bears were chosen by both the media and coaches to finish ninth in the Big Sky Conference. Montana was chosen by both the media and coaches to win the conference.
• Head coach Scott Downing has instilled many new traditions this season, and one of them is playing maestro. After every home victory, the Bears will go directly to the band and lead the playing of the fight song.
IN A NEW SKIN
• The Bears showed off their new uniforms designed by New Balance on Media Day, Aug. 19. The home uniforms will be blue with big, white number and gold and white sleeve stripes. They will also have the traditional gold pants. The road uniforms will have blue numbers and blue and gold sleeve stripes. The Bears will also be wearing blue pants, which is believed to be the first time they have done so in the program's history.
Andy Birkel OUT FOR SEASON
• Andy Birkel has been out of practice since encountered season-ending knee injury in a scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 19. Birkel had surgery on Wednesday, Sept. 6 to fix the damage and will begin rehabilitation soon. He is hoping to be back in time for spring practice.
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
• This year's Bears team will be stacked with youth. There are 54 underclassmen compared to 27 upperclassmen.
• 22 True Freshmen
• 15 Redshirt Freshmen
• 17 Sophomores
• 11 Juniors
• 16 Seniors
• Many of the seniors on this season's squad have seen every level of Northern Colorado transition to Division I. For the fifth-year seniors, it is the fourth conference situation they have been in. In 2002, the Bears were in the Division II North Central Conference. In 2003, the Bears were a I-AA Independent. In 2004 and 2005, Northern Colorado was in the Great West Football Conference. And this year, the Bears are in the Big Sky.
DYCHES DECLARED ELIGIBLE BY THE NCAA
• Senior placekicker David Dyches was declared eligible to compete in 2006 by the NCAA on Friday, Aug. 25. He had encountered transfer roadblocks after enrolling at Nebraska last spring and transferring to Northern Colorado this fall. The Northern Colorado Administration filed a waiver, and it was approved. Dyches was a Freshman All-American at Nebraska, tying the Huskers freshman record on field goals with 14 in 2003. It tied current Seattle Seahawks kicker Josh Brown. Dyches is currently listed as No. 1 on the depth chart.
2006 SCHEDULE TOUGHEST IN BEARS' I-AA HISTORY
• This season's schedule could prove to be the toughest in Bears' I-AA history. Four of the teams (No. 21 UC Davis, No. 18 Texas State, No. 22 Montana State, No. 3 Montana) were ranked in the preseason by The Sports Network. Eight of the teams received votes or are ranked in various preseason publications and web sites, including Portland State (No. 25 in Lindy's), Weber State, Idaho State (No. 23 by the SportsNetwork.com) and Eastern Washington (No. 23 by AnyGivenSaturday.com).
THE NOTTINGHAM SHERIFFS
• Northern Colorado has been close to unstoppable at Nottingham Field in its 11-year history, compiling a 56-14 overall record and a 37-8 conference record. The Bears went 4-1 at home last season, with the only downfall being a 31-14 to 2005 I-AA semifinalist Cal Poly. The Bears' only sub-.500 season at Nottingham came in 2004, when they went 2-4.
• Built in 1995 for a cost of $4 million, the field is named after Vic Nottingham, who is a local businessman, alum and longtime booster. He was the co-chair of the committee that successfully raised funds for the stadium.
DOWNING TO BE FEATURED ON NEW CALL-IN RADIO SHOW
• Every Wednesday at 7 p.m. during the football season, head coach Scott Downing will be featured on the Coors Light Northern Colorado Coaches Show on 1310-AM KFKA. This season, the format has been changed to a live, in-studio call-in show and will run for an hour. Fans can call in at (970) 353-1310 or 1-888-353-1310. They can also e-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
DOWNING NAMES 2006 CAPTAINS
• Head coach Scott Downing named the 2006 captains on Saturday, Aug. 26. Senior safety Matt Thomas and senior running back Andre Wilson will lead the Bears through the tunnel.
BEARS ADD I-A TRANSFER Robert Long FROM ARIZONA
• Senior transfer wide receiver Robert Long joined the Bears last week after clearing up transfer requirements. Long was on the scout team at the University of Arizona and also played at De Anza Community College in Cupertino, Calif.
SCOUTING MONTANA STATE
• The Bobcats are currently on a five-game winning streak and are 6-3 overall and 5-1 in the Big Sky. Montana State began the season with a monumental 19-10 victory of Division I-A foe Colorado, then had a letdown a week later with a 35-24 loss to Chadron State. The week after that, MSU was blown out at home 45-0 against then-No. 16 UC Davis. Eastern Washington took down the Bobcats a week later, 19-10. In their first four games, MSU averaged 13 points. Since then, Montana State has reamed off five straight wins and has averaged 28 points.