Big Sky notebook: Hard-charging Moore leads Griz ground game

2012-09-10T23:00:00Z 2012-10-03T12:29:13Z Big Sky notebook: Hard-charging Moore leads Griz ground gameBy GREG RACHAC The Billings Gazette

After he rumbled, hurdled and darted his way to an 87-yard touchdown catch late in Montana’s non-conference showdown Saturday at Appalachian State, Dan Moore was mobbed by his teammates in celebration.

But when Griz kicker Chris Lider biffed the ensuing point-after attempt, Moore was seen slamming his helmet to the ground on the sideline in frustration. Lider’s kick would have tied the game. Instead, UM lost a measure of momentum.

Behind star quarterback Jamal Jackson, Appalachian State then marched 78 yards in 11 plays -- a drive that was capped by Steven Miller’s crucial 2-yard touchdown run with five minutes remaining -- and the Mountaineers were able to hold on for a 35-27 victory.

Despite the loss, Moore did everything he could to propel Montana. Check out these numbers: Moore had 15 rushing attempts for 93 yards, three catches for 145 yards and one touchdown. Moore got the ball 18 times, rolling up 238 total yards. He averaged 13.2 yards each time he touched it.

The performance was a continuation of a great start to Moore’s senior season. In a 35-24 victory over South Dakota in Week 1, the Tucson, Ariz., native had 148 rushing yards on 27 carries, both career highs. His 14-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter helped seal the win.

The 5-foot-11, 235-pound Moore has gradually become a favorite with Griz fans, primarily due to his short-but-hulking build and hard-running style.

Moore has been bothered by injuries in the past but is on pace for a career year. Entering Montana’s game against Liberty this week, Moore leads the Big Sky Conference in rushing with 241 yards while averaging 120.5 yards per game.

Clawing ahead

It’ll be Montana State’s turn to play a Top 25 opponent when the Bobcats welcome No. 23 Stephen F. Austin to Bozeman on Saturday.

The Bobcats used two fourth-quarter touchdowns -- a 30-yard scamper by Tray Robinson and a 2-yard pitch-and-catch from DeNarius McGhee to Tanner Bleskin -- to earn a 34-24 come-from-behind victory at Drake last week.

This is the first time the Bobcats have started 2-0 since 1999, which was Cliff Hysell’s final year as MSU’s coach.

Against Stephen F. Austin, the Bobcats look to solidify themselves more on offense. With new offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven implementing a diverse scheme, and with a young and inexperienced offensive line, the Bobcats have yet to find their offensive groove fans were so used to seeing the previous two years. The Cats currently rank eighth in the Big Sky Conference in total offense at 387.5 yards per game, and they’ve turned the ball over five times in the first two games.

Statistically, MSU’s defense has been one of the stingiest in the league. But its secondary was carved up by Drake quarterback Mike Piatkowski for 311 yards and a touchdown. The Bobcats’ defensive line, which has helped produce five sacks so far, may be without injured stalwarts Zach Minter (hamstring) and Brad Daly (ankle) this week. Both are listed as questionable to play against Stephen F. Austin.

Finally, a win

Jerome Souers, now in his 14th season as head coach at Northern Arizona, has never beaten Montana. Souers is 0-13 against the program he helped build in the late 1980s and ’90s as defensive coordinator.

Eight of those defeats came against former UM coach Bobby Hauck. But Souers finally broke through against Hauck last week when NAU stunned UNLV 17-14.

The Lumberjacks erased a 14-point deficit in the second half and won the game on an Andy Wilder field goal with 12 seconds remaining. It was NAU’s first win against a Bowl Subdivision opponent since a 24-20 victory over Tulsa in 1987.

NAU’s Chance Cartwright made his first-ever start at quarterback in place of injured starter Cary Grossart. Cartwright completed 17 of 40 passes for 197 yards without an interception.

Souers looks to end his 0-for-13 drought against Montana on Sept. 22 in Missoula.

Turning points

If Liberty has a chance to beat Montana with a two-point conversion late in their game Saturday, will Flames coach Turner Gill go for it?

Liberty is the third stop in Gill’s head coaching career -- he previously coached at Buffalo and Kansas -- but he is probably best remembered as an All-America quarterback at Nebraska in the early 1980s.

Gill went 28-2 as the Cornhuskers’ starter, including a perfect 20-0 mark and three league titles in the Big 8 Conference, but he could never cross the national championship threshold. The Huskers came up one-point shy of winning it all in the 1984 Orange Bowl when Gill’s two-point conversion pass to win the game fell incomplete with just seconds remaining.

Because there was no overtime yet in college football, an extra-point would have still likely given Nebraska a national championship with a 12-0-1 record. Instead, Huskers coach Tom Osborne made a controversial call to go for two and get the win -- and Miami took home the title.

Poll position

After its victory at Drake, Montana State (2-0) jumped up one spot to No. 3 in the latest FCS Top 25 poll released Monday by the Sports Network. Montana (1-1), after falling at Appalachian State, dropped two spots to No. 14.

Eastern Washington (1-1) dropped one spot to No. 10 after its upset bid against Washington State fell short. Noticeably absent from the poll is Sacramento State, which stunned Colorado on the road 30-28 with a last-second field goal. The Hornets received 149 votes, but weren’t ranked.

Defending national champion North Dakota State (2-0) leaped into the top ranking after a 22-7 victory at Colorado State. The Bison received 94 first-place votes. Previous No. 1 Sam Houston State (1-0), No. 4 James Madison (2-0) and No. 5 Youngstown State (2-0) rounded out the Top 5.

Around the league

Sac State QB Garrett Safron and North Dakota QB Marcus Hendrickson shared the Big Sky’s offensive player of the week award. Northern Arizona DL Jarret Bilbrey earned the league’s defensive honor, while Sac State K Edgar Castaneda and NAU’s Wilder shared the special teams nod. … Idaho State WR Derek Graves caught 15 passes for 140 yards and a TD in a 38-5 win over Black Hills State last week. Graves also caught 15 passes in ISU’s season opener against Air Force, making him the first player in league history to catch at least 15 passes in back-to-back games. … ISU’s win gave coach Mike Kramer his 80th career Big Sky victory, which ties him with Hauck for third-most all-time. … Northern Colorado coach Earnest Collins, Jr., got his first career win last week, a 40-3 triumph over Division II Colorado Mesa. The win is UNC’s first since a 35-30 victory at Portland State on Nov 13, 2010.

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