Big Sky Notebook: Bobcats' Daly raises his game to next level

Adams named player of the week after performance vs. Grizzlies
2013-10-28T23:15:00Z 2013-10-30T17:37:06Z Big Sky Notebook: Bobcats' Daly raises his game to next levelBy GREG RACHAC grachac@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

In August, Brad Daly talked about the challenges of assuming the role held previously by graduated Buck Buchanan Award winner Caleb Schreibeis on Montana State’s defensive line.

“I’m going to do my best to keep the dropoff as low as I can,” Daly said during fall camp. “(Schreibeis) had an awesome year. I’d like to get to that (level) but I’m not going to put my standards that high.

“I’m just going to try to do the best I can and play like I play.”

Daly was a devastating pass-rush specialist the previous two seasons, but this was different. His responsibility this year was to slide into Schreibeis’ all-encompassing “Bandit” position at defensive end and produce with versatility.

Daly has more than passed the litmus test: To date, the senior from Helena Capital has out-produced his predecessor.

Looking back, Scbreibeis had 28 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, nine sacks and seven quarterback hurries through the first eight games of last year. In the same span this season, Daly has 41 tackles, 17½ TFLs, 12 sacks and six hurries.

Daly was again a monster in Montana State’s 34-17 victory over UC Davis on Saturday. He finished with five tackles (2½ for loss) and two sacks. Daly extended his FCS-lead in sacks, and is also still No. 1 in tackles for loss.

Daly now has 32 career sacks, which is good for fourth in MSU history, and 42 TFLs, just one shy of joining the top 10.

“Brad’s Mr. Consistent,” said Bobcats defensive tackle Taylor Dees. “Every practice, every (game), every day he’s the most consistent guy on the D-line. His technique is great, he plays hard, he has the experience. It’s just Brad Daly, you know? He’s always doing his thing.”

Schreibeis saved his best performance for last a year ago with a dominant 16-tackle performance in the Bobcats’ 16-7 victory at Montana in the regular season finale. It’s probably what sewed up his Buchanan Award -- along with his Division I-leading eight forced fumbles -- which was the first in MSU history.

Is Daly on track for a Buchanan of his own? Perhaps. Right now, he should at least be considered the frontrunner for the Big Sky Conference defensive player of the year award.

Big-play connection

Jordan Johnson and Ellis Henderson have built an unmistakable quarterback/receiver bond at Montana.

They hooked up three times for scores Saturday against Eastern Washington, and twice during the Grizzlies’ frantic second-half comeback attempt. Johnson’s second and third touchdowns to Henderson came in the fourth quarter -- one was a back-of-the-end zone throw-and-catch for a 7-yarder and the other was a 48-yard deep ball down the left sideline.

In all, Johnson found Henderson eight times for 147 yards. Despite the late rally, the Grizzlies lost, 42-37.

“He’s a playmaker,” Johnson said of Henderson after the game. “A couple of those I probably shouldn’t have thrown, and he went up there and made me right. He played really, really well.”

Johnson’s first TD pass to Henderson was a play-action rollout pass placed perfectly over the defense for a 42-yard score.

Henderson, a sophomore who transferred from Hawaii before last season, already has 11 touchdown catches through eight games, third-most in the FCS. He averages 20.5 yards per reception. Henderson caught just two TDs last season.

Adams aftermath

The dust has settled from Vernon Adams’ 457-yard, six-touchdown performance in Eastern Washington’s victory at Montana. As expected, Adams emerged as the Big Sky’s offensive player of the week.

The 457 passing yards are a career-high for Adams, a sophomore from Pasadena, Calif. The six touchdowns tied the school record he set last season during a playoff game versus Sam Houston State.

Adams ranks No. 1 in the nation in pass efficiency with a rating of 187.5. He is completing 67.3 percent of his throws and averages 330.8 passing yards per game. Adams has thrown 30 TDs and eight interceptions.

It is Adams’ second Big Sky player of the week nod this season and the fourth of his career.

Also, Eagles receiver Cooper Kupp earned a share of the freshman of the week award from The Sports Network. Kupp, a true freshman, led all pass-catchers with 11 receptions for 175 yards and two touchdowns against the Griz.

McGhee moves up

Bobcats quarterback DeNarius McGhee had 230 passing yards (and also threw two touchdowns) in the win over UC Davis.

It increased McGhee’s career total to 10,383 passing yards and moved him within 314 of tying Idaho’s John Friesz and Northern Arizona’s Greg Wyatt for ninth place on the conference's all-time list.

McGhee now has 11,453 career yards of total offense, which ranks seventh. He needs 61 more to surpass Montana’s Dave Dickenson.

Poll position

Eastern Washington (6-2, 4-0 Big Sky) remained No. 3 in the newest FCS Top 25 poll, which TSN released Monday. Montana State (6-2, 4-0) didn’t move either, remaining at No. 5.

Montana (6-2, 3-2) dropped two spots and out of the top 10 to No. 12. Northern Arizona (6-2, 4-1) slid ahead two spots to No. 14 after beating Cal Poly 17-13 on Saturday.

The top five remained intact, with North Dakota State (8-0) holding steady at No. 1 after a 56-10 destruction of Missouri Valley foe Indiana State. Coastal Carolina improved to 8-0 and remained at No. 6 after a 66-27 drubbing of Big South rival VMI.

Coastal Carolina’s unbeaten run is in jeopardy this week, though, as it travels to play FBS South Carolina.

Around the league

Portland State S David Edgerson was named the Big Sky’s defensive player of the week. Edgerson intercepted two passes in Portland State’s 14-10 win over North Dakota, the last of which sealed the win in the fourth quarter. … NAU KR Marcus Alford and Southern Utah K Colton Cook shared the special teams award. Alford returned a kickoff 96 yards for a TD late in the Lumberjacks’ win over Cal Poly. … NAU’s victory was its seventh in its past eight road games against Big Sky teams dating back to the start of the 2012 season. … PSU’s Michael Plummer blocked a punt in the fourth quarter against UND, which led to a touchdown. The Vikings have blocked three punts this season, which is tied for the FCS lead. PSU has blocked six kicks in all, which is also tied for the most in the nation.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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