BUTTE — The Orediggers came oh so close to knocking off a Top 25 team.
Montana Tech's Mark Estes returned a last-minute kickoff 76 yards for a touchdown to trim No. 18 Eastern Oregon's lead to 26-24 on Saturday. But the Mountaineers recovered the ensuing onside kick, denying the Orediggers the upset in their first game since 2019.
Kyle Samson, who finally made his collegiate coaching debut after being hired in January 2020, will have to wait at least one more week to earn his first win at the college level.
Blaine Shaw's onside kick recover iced the game for EOU, but it was the performance of running back Jordan Eggers that put the Mountaineers in position to win. The redshirt sophomore churned out 148 yards and two touchdowns -- his first was a 37-yard touchdown run that gave EOU the first score of the game and his seond was a 6-yard score that gave the Mountaineers a 17-7 lead heading into the half.
That 10-point advantage was just enough to keep Tech from retaking the lead.
Tech kicker Jared Griffith tacked on a 27-yard field goal to make it a one-possession game at 17-10 early in the third quarter.
EOU's Zachary Cahill then drilled a pair of field goals (37 and 35 yards) to put the Mountaineers up 23-10 early in the fourth quarter.
Tech running back Blake Counts, who piled up 92 yards in the game, found the endzone for a 1-yard score with just over seven minutes remaining to against cut EOU's lead to one possession at 23-17.
Cahill then knocked through his fourth field goal of the game (42 yards) to cap off an 11-play drive that chewed up nearly six minutes of clock to put the Mountaineers up 26-17.
Then Estes, who had 138 yards of kickoff returns in the game, scored on the last-minute kickoff to give Tech one last gasp at mounting a comeback but the Orediggers couldn't corral the onside kick.
Tech quarterback Jet completed 14-of-23 passes for 153 yards and a 10-yard touchdown to Logan Kenney. Trevor Hoffman led all receivers with 63 yards, including a long reception of 32 yards.
Eastern Oregon hosts Montana Western (1-0) next Saturday while Tech travels to Carroll College (0-1).