Led by senior quarterback Clifton McDowell, the Montana Grizzlies went into the Kibbie Dome and knocked off No. 3 Idaho 23-21 in the biggest FCS game (and result) of the weekend. McDowell's performance wasn't overly dynamic, but it was extremely efficient and exactly what the Grizzlies needed to win.
On the other side of the ball, the defense was outstanding from start to finish. Coach Bobby Hauck's group forced multiple turnovers and held Idaho scoreless for the first half. When you're maximizing offensive drives and holding one of the best teams in the subdivision to 1.8 yards per carry on defense, you're going to end up on the positive side of the scoreboard.
This was the Grizzlies' best performance of the season because it was a total team effort. It's one that could help navigate Montana the rest of the way through what looks to be a gauntlet to end their season; Sacramento State, Portland State and Montana State are on deck in Montana's last three games.
While the Grizzlies do own the head-to-head matchup over the Vandals, it is hard to overlook how they've done over the course of the entirety of the season: Close wins over Ferris State (albeit the reigning Division II national champions), Idaho State and UC Davis, coupled with a loss to Northern Arizona.
The way Montana weathered the storm against the Vandals indicates those aforementioned "coin flips" may have prepared it for this moment. If this is a sign of things to come, the Grizzlies may usurp Idaho in the standings. For now, they've closed the gap significantly with their movement up this week's power rankings.
Let's get to this week's FCS Power Rankings.
|1. South Dakota State
|Another great team win for the Jackrabbits, who held Northern Iowa out of the end zone in a 41-6 thumping. Huge game this week against Southern Illinois, too.
|2. Montana State
|The Bobcats are averaging 48 points per game since their only loss, a Week 2 defeat to South Dakota State.
|3. Sacramento State
|Big matchup this weekend against Montana State. The Hornets need to bring their A-game; they've been flirting with defeat in their last two contests.
|4. Incarnate Word
|If you keep winning, you keep moving up the rankings. That's what the Cardinals have done. They look like the runaway favorite in the Southland.
|Thanks to a 128-yard effort from running back Dominic Roberto, the Paladins were able to keep a pesky Samford team at bay.
|Though they nearly made a miraculous comeback against Montana, the Vandals can't dig a 20-point hole vs. a good team and expect a winning result.
|The Blue Hens have won four straight games. Defensively, they look like the best in the Colonial.
|8. South Dakota
|The Coyotes jump eight spots from a week ago. They proved they can win close games, too, with a last-second field goal to squeak past Youngstown State 34-31.
|It's time to put some respect on the Grizzlies. Quarterback Clifton McDowell had an impressive and efficient performance in the upset over Idaho.
|10. William & Mary
|Coming off of a bye and two consecutive losses, the Tribe find themselves in a logjam in the Colonial. They need to tighten up the rest of the way.
|11. Holy Cross
|Huge game in the Patriot League for the Crusaders as they take on the surging Lafayette Leopards.
|12. North Carolina Central
|Conference play starts this week in the MEAC. The Eagles kick it off on Thursday night in Baltimore against Morgan State.
|13. Western Carolina
|The Catamounts are looking up at Furman in the SoCon, but the good news is that they get a chance to change that this weekend against the Paladins.
|14. North Dakota
|The Fighting Hawks straight up dominated North Dakota State 49-24. Consider a statement made at the Alerus Center last Saturday.
|15. Southern Illinois
|The Salukis get their chance to make some noise this weekend as they take on the juggernaut Jackrabbits at home.
|16. UT Martin
|Great defensive play at the end of the game on the 2-point conversion attempt to preserve the win against Eastern Illinois 28-27.
|17. North Dakota State
|It's weird to see the Bison this far down in the rankings, but two ugly losses puts them in a free fall.
|18. Florida A&M
|The Rattlers look like the frontrunners in the SWAC. We'll see if they can avoid a letdown on the road against Texas Southern.
|The Crimson dominated Howard last weekend, rushing for 341 yards and four touchdowns as an offense.
|20. Central Arkansas
|Winners of four straight games, Central Arkansas finds itself atop the United Athletic Conference heading into the bye week.
|Sometimes it's the offense that wins games. Sometimes it's the defense. Last weekend, it was kicker Clayton Crile's five field goals that helped the Mocs knock off Mercer.
|Credit the Wildcats defense for shutting out Elon last weekend. Nova has played excellent defense all season long.
|The Leopards can prove how far they've come this weekend against Holy Cross.
|24. Austin Peay
|Don't look now, but the Governors have won four in a row and conceivably control their own destiny with both Central Arkansas and Eastern Kentucky left on the schedule. They can't overlook Southern Utah this weekend, however.
|The Rams were able to knock off Stony Brook, giving them two weeks to prepare for a big game against Holy Cross.