HELENA -- "Kyle [Pierce] came in earlier this week and said, 'Hey coach, I want a shot. I want a shot,'" said Carroll College head coach Troy Purcell with a smile on his face in the post-game press conference.
That discussion paid off.
"I was just excited that we called the play at first," said Pierce. "I don't get my number called a ton. It was really exciting to have a chance like that. I'm just glad I caught it and I'm glad that we got the win."
Pierce caught a game-winning touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter to seal the Fighting Saints' 33-29 victory over the Montana Western Bulldogs. Though Carroll came out with the victory, it did not come easy, as it only recorded six points in the first half on two Stephen Powell field goals.
Down 14-6 after the first half, Carroll received the kickoff and Devan Bridgewater was intercepted by Carson Hritsco on the very next play. One play later, Jon Jund hit Trey Mounts for a 25-yard touchdown pass to make it 20-6 early in the third quarter. Jund finished the game with 161 passing yards, two touchdown passes and a pair of rushing touchdowns.
"That was a crucial moment right there. Everybody was down a little bit, but let's go, let's play, let's win this rep" said Purcell. "Then all of a sudden, the next play went for 75 yards."
That 75-yard play was a touchdown run by Carroll College freshman Matthew Burgess, who had one thought on his mind when he found some room to run.
"I was just thinking don't slow down, I said keep going," Burgess, who recorded 183 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, said with a chuckle.
After battling back into the game, the Fighting Saints found themselves within three points, down 29-26 to the Bulldogs with 11:02 left in the game after Jund scored his second rushing touchdown. Burgess received the kick off at the 2-yard line but was only able to make it out to the 6-yard line. After traversing 65 yards, Carroll College found itself at an impasse. On fourth and nine Purcell elected to send out Powell for a 46-yard field goal that would tie up the game at 29-29 with a little under five minutes left to play. Powell's kick came up short, and it was on the Fighting Saints defense to ward off the Bulldogs.
"I feel like we've had that energy all year, but we were finally making the plays that we had to make to get off the field and win games," said junior linebacker Nate McGree.
The Fighting Saints forced the Bulldogs to a three-and-out drive. The offense took possession of the punt on the 20-yard line and drove the ball 80 yards to win the game, capped off by Bridgewater's touchdown pass to Pierce to put Carroll up 33-29 with only 30 seconds left on the clock.
The Bulldogs, however, refused to go down with out a fight.
After two 15-yard penalties, Carroll College tried for an onside kick on the Montana Western 35-yard line, one the Bulldogs were able to grab. Jund completed two passes and ran for a total of 39 yards in the Bulldogs final drive of the game, but with two seconds left on the clock, Jund rolled to his right and heaved one final pass into a crowd of players. Zach Spiroff and Tony Collins batted the ball away from Western receivers, sealing Carroll College's third victory of the season, 33-29.
The Fighting Saints will now spend the next two weeks on the road, their first test will come on Oct. 26 when they take on the Rocky Mountain College Battlin' Bears in Billings. After spending the last two weeks on the road, the Montana Western Bulldogs will play their next two games at home, playing host to the Montana State University-Northern Lights on Oct. 26 and Rocky on Nov. 2.