BOZEMAN – Coming into the North Dakota game, pounding the rock was not the plan for the Montana State Bobcats. The Bobcats were averaging 165 rushing yards in the past two games and were fresh off a 311-yard passing effort by quarterback Chris Murray.
With the steady hands of Mitchell Herbert, the dominant physicality of the newly emerged Jabarri Johnson and the elusiveness of Kevin Kassis, the game plan was to throw.
“We have all those weapons that can catch so well, so we were like, ‘We are going to pound the rock a little bit and soften them up and then go for the shots a little bit,'” said starting running back Logan Jones.
But the strategy switched quickly. The Bobcat backs started gaining chunks of yards on each play and Jones capped off their second drive with an 11-yard touchdown for the game’s first score. Montana State then realized going to the ground was the weakness for the Fighting Hawks.
“When you have big bodies like Troy (Andersen) and Eddie Vander, they can just power and keep punching dudes,” said Jones. “You know the kind of day you are going to have and you know the game plan and what it’s going to be when you’re running that good that early in the game. We were like, ‘Yeah, we’re probably just going to run the ball down these guys’ throats. Inflict our will.'”
Smash-mouth football paid off for the Cats. They ran for 341 yards and four touchdowns against UND. Those big bodies, Andersen and Vander, ran for 131 yards and 61 yards, respectively.
The running back corps was a big question in fall camp, and some doubted the potency of the group. But MSU knew what it had in a special backfield.
“(Running backs coach Michael) Pitre was saying all fall camp, ‘We have a very talented running back room,’ the most talented he’s seen in a while,” said Jones. “On Saturday we were able to prove Coach P. right”
Pitre refers to the RBs as “young pups,” because they don’t have an active senior among their ranks.
Now the run has become a big identity of Montana State and opponents better be ready to try and stop it.
“After what I saw with the run game, I think we’re going to be able to do a lot more things than just pass and I think team’s are going to have to be ready for every phase of the game,” said Jones.