Around the Valley: Week one uneventful but SDSU/Montana State highlights intriguing second week

Sep. 5—SIOUX FALLS — Week one of the Missouri Valley Football Conference season was an uneventful one.

There were no upsets of FBS teams. There were several predictable blowouts.

Week two is different. While Murray State, Indiana State, Youngstown State and Southern Illinois all face FBS opponents this week, there are some interesting matchups, with none bigger than the showdown coming to Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium on Saturday night.

The top-ranked, defending national champion Jackrabbits will host No. 3 Montana State in what some are calling the FCS game of the year (the Bison-Jackrabbit game on Nov. 4 ought to be pretty big, too), a rematch of two teams that have faced off in the FCS semifinals in each of the last two seasons.

The Bobcats won in 2021 in Bozeman. The Jacks won last year in Brookings.

For a game this early in the season, the stakes are certainly high. Whoever loses could already find themselves out of the picture when it comes to locking down the No. 1 seed in the FCS playoffs. It's a chance for SDSU to reaffirm that last year's 39-18 whipping of the Bobcats was no fluke, weather-influenced or otherwise. For the Bobcats, who got blown out by NDSU in the 2021 national championship after beating SDSU, it's a chance to prove they're still a threat to SDSU and NDSU atop the FCS ranks.

But more on that game in the coming days.

Here's a closer look at the opening week and what else is in store for week two.


Beat Western Oregon 45-7

The Jacks got in and out without anyone getting hurt, though they were without linebacker Adam Bock, who was wearing a boot and seems unlikely to play against the Bobcats. The starters looked good, the reserves were a mixed bag, but there was little to complain about in a season-opening tune-up. The biggest challenge will be ramping up the intensity from a Division II opponent to a championship contender.

Next up: Montana State


Beat Eastern Washington 35-7 at US Bank Stadium

A crowd of over 22,000 showed up, mostly alleviating fears of a potentially embarrassing crowd for the Bison, and then NDSU went out and took care of business against an EWU squad that is no longer the FCS power it once was.

What stood out most about the Bison? How about 337 rushing yards, including 84 for starting quarterback Cam Miller and 104 for backup quarterback Cole Payton, including a 70-yard touchdown. TaMerik Williams also rushed for 93 yards including a 54-yard score.

Next up: Maine, a team that was 2-9 last year and hasn't been to the playoffs since 2018.


Lost 35-10 to Missouri

The Coyotes never threatened to win this game but they stayed within shouting distance most of the night and, as quarterback Aidan Bouman pointed out afterward, did not turn the ball over. Bouman was solid, going 15-of-25 for 156 yards and a touchdown, the Yotes just couldn't run the ball at all. That's disappointing but not necessarily surprising against an SEC team with a highly-regarded defensive line.

Next up: vs St. Thomas, a game the Yotes must win if they're going to contend this year.


Beat Drake 55-7

After a sluggish first half the Hawks put up 27 points in the third to put the non-scholarship Bulldogs away (which may give you an idea of what to expect at Target Field in a couple weeks). Tommy Schuster was extremely good, competing 22-of-26 throws for 262 yards and three touchdowns, and Gaven Ziebarth (great name, btw) rushed for 112 yards which included a 79-yard touchdown.

Next up: Northern Arizona, a Big Sky team that was 3-8 last year and opened their season with a 38-3 loss to Arizona.

Northern Iowa

Lost 30-9 to Iowa State

The 21st-ranked Panthers have been more competitive than this in the past against their in-state FBS brethren, as they trailed 30-0 against the Cyclones before sneaking in some late points. UNI actually outgained ISU 279-250 but the Cyclones only ran 45 offensive snaps, using a pick-six and short fields to make things easy on their offense. Theo Day was 16-of-34 for 164 yards with two interceptions. Against a Big 12 school, make of that what you will.

Next up: No. 12 Weber State, in another exciting Valley/Big Sky matchup that would be getting more attention were it not for the SDSU/Montana State showdown. This is another big one.

Illinois State

Beat Dayton 41-0

Took care of business against the non-scholarship Flyers, as their defense registered four sacks and Zack Annexstad went 23-of-30 for 255 yards and a touchdown.

Next up: at Western Illinois, kicking off conference play for both teams.

Youngstown State

Beat Valparaiso 52-10

Another non-scholarship sacrificial lamb, Valp hung with the Penguins for awhile, trailing just 17-10 before YSU went on a 35-0 run powered by a rushing attack that totaled 302 yards. The 'Guins are a team the league is watching closely — was last year's 7-win uprising for real? Not sure this one really tells us, nor will the next one, when YSU takes on the Buckeyes.

Next up: at Ohio State

Southern Illinois

Beat Austin Peay 49-23

The Governors are a pretty good team, or at least they were last year, going 7-4 with some good wins and quality losses. So count this as a solid non-con win for the Salukis, who are looking to get back to the playoffs after a 5-6 mark last year. Intriguing challenge for them in week two, as they take on Northern Illinois. The Huskies went just 3-9 last year but opened this season with a 27-24 win over Boston College. Valley teams can usually play with MAC teams. Keep an eye on this one.

Next up: at Northern Illinois

Missouri State

Lost 48-17 to Kansas

Remember last year when the Bears kinda-sorta threatened to beat Arkansas and they convinced themselves they were ready to win the Valley? Good times. They're starting over under a new coach this year, and to their credit the Bears were within a touchdown of the Jayhawks at halftime, trailing 17-10. They got outscored 31-7 in the second half.

Next up: at UT-Martin, which should be interesting, as the Skyhawks are receiving votes in the FCS poll.

Indiana State

Lost 27-0 to Eastern Illinois

An ugly loss for the Sycamores, coming at home against an Ohio Valley team that went 2-9 last year. The Trees turned it over six times and mustered just 217 yards of offense. Yuck.

Next up: at Indiana, which can't really go any worse than the opener did.

Murray State

Beat Presbyterian 41-10

Presbyterian went 1-10 last year in the Pioneer League. So for the Racers, the newest member of the Valley, it was important to win this handily to make a decent first impression. Mission accomplished, mostly.

Next up: at Louisville

Western Illinois

Lost 58-21 to New Mexico State

Myers Hendrickson still has not won a game as Leathernecks coach (0-12). They stayed with the Aggies for a half, at least, but now go straight into conference play against what should be a good Redbirds team. After that they have non-conference games against Jed Stugart's Lindenwood Lions and then Southern Utah. In case you're wondering, no, WIU does not play Murray State this year. Uh-oh.

Next up: Illinois State