GREELEY, Colo. – No Isaiah Ifanse, no Travis Jonsen, no problem for Montana State.
Missing two of their top playmakers, the No. 12 Bobcats racked up 564 yards of total offense, including 451 on the ground, in a 45-14 Big Sky Conference football drubbing of Northern Colorado on Saturday.
In total, 11 Bobcats recorded a rush and averaged 9.8 yards per carry, mostly on sweeps and plays designed around the defensive line.
“We talked about it during the week, we needed to soften up the edges with some outside runs,” said running back Lane Sumner. “We’re usually a straight forward downhill run team, but utilizing the edges kind of opened things up in the second half.”
But the creativity on offense wasn’t just limited to the ground game. Montana State opened scoring on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Troy Andersen to defensive lineman Jason Scrempos. Andersen jumped in the air at the line of scrimmage ala Tim Tebow and found his target.
“We’ve had that marinating for a while,” laughed Andersen. “He was wide open. I almost threw it out of the end zone. Luckily I didn’t and he came down with it.”
Andersen, a linebacker and offensive Swiss Army Knife, added a rushing touchdown later in the game. Fellow linebacker Callahan O’Reilly took a direct snap on a fake punt in the third quarter and took it 73 yards for a touchdown, making three defensive players finding the end zone for the Bobcats on Saturday.
“I think we do a good job of using out entire roster to benefit us,” said Bobcat head coach Jeff Choate. “Obviously Troy is the big part of that. Callahan on the fake punt, that was designed to get a first down, not a touchdown.
“I did call him out on his speed earlier in the week and I think he wanted to show that he had more than I might think he did.”
In total, six players scored touchdowns for the Bobcats who dominated on offense, defense, and special teams.
Leading 7-0, Bobcat quarterback Tucker Rovig had a pass tipped at the 10-yard line which was then intercepted by Bears lineman Brooks Talkington and returned for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 in the first quarter.
Rovig made up for his miscue in the second quarter, hitting tight end Derryk Snell over the middle for an 8-yard score to make it 14-7. A 44-yard field goal from Colorado native Tristan Bailey made it 17-7 and Andersen’s option touchdown later in the second gave the Cats a 24-7 lead at halftime.
Logan Jones, who had been hampered by injuries in recent weeks, led the Cats in rushing with 122 yards on eight carries, adding and a touchdown in the third quarter to make it 31-7. O’Reilly’s score was followed by a 16-yard touchdown from Sumner in the fourth quarter to put Montana State up 45-7.
Northern Colorado’s offense would add a late score, but the Bobcat defense limited quarterback Jason Knipp and the Bears offense to just 289 yards of total offense, most of which came in garbage time against MSU’s second string.
After taking care of business against Southern Utah (2-8 overall, 1-5 Big Sky Conference) last week and Northern Colorado (2-8, 2-4) this week, Montana State (7-3, 4-2) will close the season with two very tough games: on the road at UC Davis (5-5, 3-3) and home for the annual Cat-Griz showdown against No. 6 Montana (8-2, 5-1).
“It’s just a one-game-at-a-time mentality,” said Sumner. “Every game is our season. We’re coming out here laser focused and it’s win or go home. We just have to bring our best no matter who we play and that’s our mentality.”