BROOKINGS, S.D. — Through two defensive drives on Saturday night, the outlook was bright for the Montana State defense. Five plays into the third drive, something changed inside Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.
South Dakota State scored on the fifth play of that drive, a Taryn Christion pass to Cade Johnson, one of four touchdowns between the duo on the day, as the Jackrabbits took a 7-0 lead near the end of the first quarter. It was only a 7-0 deficit, but the realization of a potentially long night had already sunk in.
“That first touchdown in the corner, I mean, I think that got them rolling,” said MSU safety Brayden Konkol. “That got (Christion’s) confidence up. It was a good throw and he’s a good player.”
The Bobcats appeared to settle in on defense during South Dakota State’s next drive, forcing the Jackrabbits into a 3rd-and-15 situation near midfield, but Christion found Marquise Lewis for a gain of 17, then rushed for nine yards on a key 4th-and-1 from the MSU 33.
Konkol pointed to that sequence as the largest disappointment in the loss.
“Anytime you get them in 3rd-and-long and they get the first down, that’s demoralizing as a defense, especially when they go on to get points from it,” said Konkol. “It was super demoralizing.”
Montana State’s offense seemingly lacked confidence early on, with starting quarterback Troy Andersen on the sideline, albeit dressed, with a large cast on his broken left hand. Choate said the staff planned “12 to 15 plays” for the linebacker-turned-running back-turned quarterback Andersen, who finished the game with a pair of rushes and a sack-fumble which was recovered by SDSU near the end of the half.
The Bobcats opened the game with five consecutive three-and-out possessions before earning a first down midway through the second quarter, though Tucker Rovig, who was starting at quarterback in place of Andersen, was intercepted on the ensuing play. Montana State finished the first half with seven three-and-outs and the turnover, earning only 44 yards to SDSU’s 267.
“We just didn’t execute the play calls correctly,” said Rovig. “It was comfortable. Kevin (Kassis), Willie (Patterson) and all those guys were trying to make plays for me, and honestly, that offensive line, they did great (Saturday). I had all the time in the world, I mean, I probably could have dropped back for eight seconds. They did a great job.”
Despite the lopsided defeat, Rovig, Konkol and head coach Jeff Choate were, despite the visible disappointment, encouraged by various plays during the game, while claiming facing a team as impressive as the Jackrabbits could be beneficial leading into Big Sky Conference play later this month.
“Super beneficial. I mean, Eastern Washington, they have a really good quarterback and a good offense. Northern Arizona does. I mean, the Big Sky Conference has a lot of firepower on offense, a lot of the teams do,” said Konkol. “To play a team like (South Dakota State), that’s going to help us going forward.”
“Preparation. Just keep on improving,” added Rovig. “We’ll find out the game plan on Sunday for Wagner, look at it, execute it and study more film.”
Silver linings in a 45-14 defeat are difficult to find, but Montana State went back to work on Sunday, recapping game film and opening the prep for Wagner College (1-1), which enters Bobcat Stadium for a 1 p.m. kickoff on Saturday.