It’s already been two weeks since the Montana State University-Northern Lights and Carroll College Fighting Saints kicked off the 2012 football season at Blue Pony Stadium in Havre.
But what a two weeks it has been.
Carroll followed up its 31-6 win over Northern with a great showing at Football Championship Subdivision and Big Sky Conference power Portland State last Saturday night. The Saints led the Vikings 6-0 in the first quarter, before eventually losing 38-20 at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland.
But the rare Carroll loss wasn’t the story, it was more so how well the Saints played against a PSU team picked to contend for the Big Sky title. Carroll gained one more first down than the Vikings did and the Saints were nearly even in total offense and rushing yards. And Carroll lost star back Chance Demarais to a slight knee injury after he gained an early 78 yards and one score. So it was a great showing by the Saints’ offense.
Meanwhile, the Saints aren’t the only team to impress thus far.
The Rocky Mountain College Battlin’ Bears are off to a 2-0 start to their season with wins over Jamestown College and Dickinson State. The Bears are getting great production from sophomore quarterback Bryce Baker, who’s completing a stellar 78 percent of his passes.
And what debut’s for the two Oregon schools.
Southern Oregon won their first-ever Frontier game by thumping UM-Western in Ashland, Ore., last Saturday, while Eastern Oregon went on the road and beat Montana Tech 26-24 at Alumni Coliseum in Butte. What’s so impressive about EOU’s win, is that the Mounties were starting nine new players on offense, and were playing without three-time all-american quarterback Chris Ware for the first time since 2009.
Eastern Oregon looking impressive on Saturday night in Butte certainly has MSU-Northern’s attention. The Lights are the Mounties’ home opener this Saturday in LaGrande, Ore.
But Northern is starting over after its Aug. 24 loss at Carroll. By the time the Lights kickoff in LaGrande Saturday, they will have not played for 16 days, so it’s almost like Northern is playing a second season opener.
MSU-N has been practicing hard the last two weeks, but has also used the bye week to rest some and get healthy as as many as four different Northern starters left the Carroll game at one point or another with minor injuries.
MSU-N did not conduct a live scrimmage during its time off, but the Lights certainly got in plenty of work and will now head to LaGrande in search of their first win at Community Stadium since the Mounties joined the Frontier Conference.
Some Frontier players are putting up some gaudy, and interesting numbers so far in 2012. Demarais is leading the league in rushing, again, but Tech’s Pat Hansen, who was second in the Frontier in rushing in 2011, leads the league in receiving with nine catches in last week’s loss to EOU. After one game, EOU linebacker Howard McDonald might be tough to catch in total tackles this season. He racked up an astounding 21 stops last week, and he also had two QB sacks. SOU QB Austin Dodge was equally as impressive, throwing for 359 yards last week against Western.
With the new Frontier schedule, this week will feature some one-time rivalry games. Carroll is on the road for the third straight week, facing arch rival Montana Tech. This will be the only meeting between the Saints and Orediggers this season, while the same goes for the matchup between the Lights and Mounties.
There’s also two more inter-division matchups, as unbeaten Rocky hosts SOU for the first and only time, and Dickinson makes its first-ever trip to Dillon to take on Western.