September 6, 2006

Football Bears Play Inaugural Big Sky Game Against Vikings On Saturday

Sept. 6, 2006

Northern Colorado vs. Portland State Game Notes in PDF Format
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University of Northern Colorado Bears (0-1, 0-0 Big Sky) at No. 21 Portland State University Vikings (1-0, 0-0 Big Sky)

Game No. 2 * Saturday, Sept. 9, 2006 * 7:05 p.m. MT
Portland, Ore. * PGE Park (20,000)

• The University of Northern Colorado football team will try to rebound from a 38-7 loss to No. 19 UC Davis with its inaugural Big Sky Conference showdown with No. 21 Portland State. Northern Colorado head coach Scott Downing, with assistant coaching stints at Nebraska, Purdue and Wyoming, leads the Bears in his first season. Portland State is coached by Tim Walsh, who begins his 14th season. Both teams met last year in Portland, with the Vikings taking advantage of a dominating ground game en route to a 41-17 win. It will be the second consecutive week the Bears are facing the 21st-ranked team. The game will be broadcast live on 1310-AM KFKA in Greeley and 1510-AM KYOL in Denver. Troy Coverdale will serve as the play-by-play commentator and Chris Ott will handle color analysis. The broadcast on KFKA will begin with the pregame show at 6 p.m.

• Northern Colorado is 33-53-3 all-time in road openers. The Bears are 1-6 all-time in games on the West Coast. Northern Colorado had trouble keeping momentum in its corner in last Saturday's loss to UC Davis, as the Bears gave the ball away four times (two interceptions, two fumbles). UC Davis turned the giveaways into 35 points. The Bears got as close as 10-7 in the third quarter before the tables turned when Dominic Breazeale threw the first of two interceptions that resulted in an Aggie touchdown.

• Portland State enters the game ranked No. 21 by The Sports Network and No. 19 by The Vikings are coming off an impressive 17-6 win over I-A New Mexico last Saturday in Albuquerque. Portland State was able to hold the Lobos to just two first half field goals and had eight tacles for loss, including six sacks. It was the first time in Vikings history they held a I-A team without a touchdown.

• Saturday's game could be a defensive battle. While PSU's defense proved to be impressive in holding New Mexico to only six points, Northern Colorado's defense was able to hold UC Davis in check until turnovers flipped the boat in the third quarter. The Bears trailed 10-7 with 11:48 left in the third quarter before turnovers by the NC offense allowed UC Davis to seal the victory. Two of the Aggies' touchdowns were by their defense.

• Northern Colorado will meet Portland State for the fourth time in series history. The Vikings have won two straight in the series, with the most recent win coming last year in Portland. PSU ran for 367 yards in a 41-17 win against the Bears, and former Vikings running back Joe Rubin set a school record with 47 carries and five touchdowns. The Vikings defense proved to be equally as tough, holding the Bears to 307 total offensive yards. Northern Colorado was without starting quarterback Nick Hager, who left the game with a shoulder injury.

• The Bears have not beat Portland State since a 21-20 decision in 1979 at Jackson Field in Greeley. Before last year's PSU win, the Vikings defeated the Bears 28-24 in a 1991 Division II playoff game in Portland.

• The Bears dropped to 44-47-3 all-time in season openers. It was the first time since 1994 Northern Colorado had dropped its first game at home.

• Senior running back Andre Wilson was held to 54 yards on 16 carries (3.4 avg). His total offensive output was 82 yards, as he pulled in four catches for 28 yards.

• Sophomore running back Patrick Ealy led all receivers with nine catches for 106 yards, both career-highs. His long catch of the day was 29 yards, which helped sustain the only Bears' scoring drive of the day.

• Senior fullback Jahir Waterman recorded his first career touchdown catch in Northern Colorado's only scoring drive against UC Davis. Waterman caught a screen pass from Dominic Breazeale and rode a blanket of blocks for 29 yards into the end zone. The touchdown cut the score to 10-7 with 11:42 left in the third quarter.

• Junior transfer linebacker Asa Matthews made a smashing debut last Saturday, leading the Bears with seven tackles (five solo, two assists). Asa is the brother of former Bears running back Adam Matthews, who is second on the all-time Northern Colorado rushing list.

• Last week's 38-7 to UC Davis was the most lopsided Bears loss in Nottingham Field history.

• Despite being outmatched in the turnovers department, Northern Colorado had less penalties than UC Davis. The Aggies committed 10 for 90 yards, compared to the Bears' 9 for 85 yards.

• When junior quarterback Dominic Breazeale wasn't throwing passes, he was catching them. In the fourth quarter, Breazeale's pass was tipped up straight into the air and he came down with the catch. In an attempt to make a play, Breazeale tried to lateral the ball to a closeby teammate, but unformately it was ruled an illegal forward pass, resulting in a loss of 17 yards.

• Junior punter Rafael Mendoza's performance against UC Davis showed improvement over his first game last year against Colorado Mines, where he averaged 31 yards per punt. Against the Aggies last Saturday, Mendoza punted the ball five times for 183 yards (36.6 avg) with a long of 40. He also pinned UC Davis inside the 20-yard line twice.

• Sophomore T.J. Swanson made his collegiate debut at wide receiver last Saturday with considerable results. Swanson, who was in a dead-heat with Dominic Breazeale for starting quarterback, pulled in three catches for 32 yards against UC Davis. Swanson was moved to wide receiver in the last part of fall camp to take advantage of his size and athleticism.

• After the release of this week's Sports Network rankings, it would appear as if things could get tougher for Northern Colorado. Except for Sacramento State, every team on the Bears' schedule is ranked or has received votes.

• 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.

• The road has not been kind to the Bears over the past two seasons, as they have gone 0-11. The last Northern Colorado road victory came against UC Davis in 2003.

• 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.

• Northern Colorado will be featured on television five times this season. The first occasion will be at No. 18 Texas State on Sept. 16 at 5 p.m. MT, which will air on Fox Sports Net-Southwest. Northern Colorado will then take on 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, 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.

• 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.

• Senior running back Andre Wilson will look to become the No. 1 rusher in Northern Colorado history this season. He needs only 932 yards to pass Billy Holmes' mark of 3,519.

• Wilson can make a case for being arguably the most underrated running back in the nation. Despite finishing last season with 1,034 yards on 206 carries (5.0 avg.) with six rushing touchdowns in nine games (eight full games), Wilson was tabbed as the 23rd-best back by The Sports Network in June. He was also left off the Walter Payton Award Watch List. Consider this: Wilson's 114.8 rushing yards yards per game last season was higher than Harvard's Clifton Dawson, Hampton's Alonzo Coleman, Delaware's Omar Cuff, Appalachian State's Kevin Richardson and Furman's Jerome Felton -- all named to the 2006 Walter Payton Award Watch List. Wilson's yards per game mark was also higher than Montana's Lex Hilliard, who was named preseason third-team All-American and first-team All-Big Sky before encountering a season-ending injury in fall camp.

• Along with senior safety Matt Thomas, Wilson was named a team captain for the 2006 season.

• Andy Birkel has been out of practice since encountering a knee injury in a scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 19. He is not listed on the travel roster for Portland State and is currently being medically evaluated. Birkel was a preseason first-team All-Big Sky selection.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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) are currently ranked by The Sports Network. Eight of the teams have 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 and Eastern Washington (No. 23 by

• Northern Colorado has been close to unstoppable at Nottingham Field in its 11-year history, compiling a 56-10 overall record and a 37-6 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.

• 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

• 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.

• Sophomore quarterback T.J. Swanson has seen time at wide receiver and is listed as No. 1 on the depth chart heading in to Saturday's game. Swanson is the only returning quarterback on the roster with game experience, but with his athletic ability and large target, he has a shot to make a big impact among the Bears' suddenly thin receiver corps.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• The Vikings finished last season with a 6-5 record and tied for fourth in the Big Sky. Their schedule this season could be coined as brutal with three I-A teams on the schedule, but PSU has already found success. The Vikings are coming off an impressive 17-6 win over the Mountain West's New Mexico. Portland State forced two Lobo turnovers and held UNM to only two first half field goals. PSU was led offensively by senior quarterback Sawyer Smith, who recorded 173 yards and two touchdowns. On the defensive side, three Vikings had double-digit tackles. Portland State was led by Adam Hayward's 11 tackles.

• Vikings head coach Tim Walsh is in his 14th season at the helm of Portland State. He has a career record of 84-64 and has led four teams to the playoffs. He has an overall record of 111-78 in 18 seasons as a collegiate head coach. He holds the Portland State record for most wins, most games coached and most seasons coached.

• Walsh has coached Portland State at both the I-AA and Division II level. He was 25-11 in Division II and is 59-53 in I-AA.

• Walsh's most prolific season came in 1999, when he led the Vikings to an 8-3 record and second place conference finish en route to being named an Eddie Robinson Award finalist.

• Walsh previously coached at Sonoma State in California, leading them to a 27-14 record in four seasons. Before that, Walsh spent two years as the Sonoma State offensive coordinator and was the defensive coordinator at Santa Clara.

• Walsh graduated from UC Riverside in 1977 with a bachelor's degree in history.