BUTTE -- Chuck Morrell knew his defense had potential. That defense was on full display Saturday night at Bob Green Field.
Montana Tech's defense didn't allow a single point from the Montana Western offense, taking Bulldogs quarterback Jon Jund and the offense out of rhythm in a 35-12 win. It was the fourth consecutive win for the Orediggers.
"Our guys were working so hard over the course of the last two weeks to get ready for this game," Morrell said. "Western is a heck of a ball club, and we knew we were going to have to come out and play our A-game and I think we're finding out right now that we're firing on all cylinders -- offense, defense, special teams -- and we have a great football team."
Tech had only two miscues Saturday night, really, with a fumble on a first-quarter punt return that led to a Western field goal and an interception early in the third quarter that was returned for a Bulldogs touchdown. Everything else seemingly went Tech's way.
After the Bulldogs' field goal opened the scoring at 3-0, Tech offensive coordinator Kyle Samson wasted little time opening the play book on the ensuing drive, as quarterback Jet Campbell fired a pair of perfectly thrown passes to receiver Trevor Hoffman that landed the Orediggers in the red zone. Campbell capped the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run to give Tech a lead it would never relinquish.
Hoffman finished with a game-high five receptions for 120 yards, hauling in all but three of Campbell's completions and 33 of Tech's passing yards.
"I think Trevor is one of the elite receivers in the league. There's no doubt he's right at the top," said Morrell. "We have a pretty good secondary and we can't cover him in practice, so I think everybody else is going to have trouble covering him, too. He does a great job for us."
If Hoffman's flexing toward the crowd of 3,776 was the image of the game for Tech's offense, linebacker Carter Myers' fist pumps, ala Tiger Woods, certainly said it all for the Orediggers' defense. Tech shut out the league's No. 2 scoring offense and held the conference's No. 1 passing offense well below its season average.
Western entered Saturday averaging 324.5 yards through the air, third-best in the NAIA, but Morrell's defense limited Jund to only 87 yards on 13 completions. The Bulldogs mustered only 150 offensive yards, while Tech tallied 451. Jund was also sacked three times, twice by linebacker Myers who finished as the game's MVP with 10 total tackles, four tackles-for-loss, two sacks and a pass break-up.
"He's a fifth-year senior, and I'm really blessed to have three fifth-year senior starting linebackers right now. That doesn't happen very often where kids make it all the way through our program, and we lean on those guys," said Morrell. "Jake Clark, Ike Schweikert and Carter, they're our heartbeat on defense, and it's just so nice when you have that veteran presence in there."
"We just have really good team chemistry. We all have each others' back, the defensive backs, linebackers and the defensive line. We all love playing together, getting rowdy, having fun and hitting people, so when you're all clicking together and everyone is doing their job, that's when good stuff like that happens," said Myers.
Western appeared to steal momentum when its defense forced Campbell into an intentional grounding call in his own end zone, crediting the Bulldogs with a safety that made the score 7-5. But Tech answered before halftime with a Tyler Folkes 4-yard score that gave the Orediggers a 14-5 lead at halftime.
Folkes rushed 30 times for 190 net yards and the score, while Blake Counts added 20 carries for 83 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Carson Hritsco gave Western life barely one minute into the second half, intercepting Campbell and returning it 47 yards for a touchdown to bring the score to 14-12. But Tech cruised downfield in less than three minutes, with Campbell again finding Hoffman in stride, this time for a 43-yard touchdown, a scoring play that essentially burst the Bulldogs' hopes.
"We knew they were going to make some plays, and I told our guys, 'Don't ride the roller coaster.' That was our theme all week," Morrell said. "We've been in that situation with these guys the last two years, up and down, up and down all the time, so we said, 'Hey, if they make a play, dust if off,' and I was really proud of the way the guys handled that situation. You wouldn't even have known they had a pick-6 on us, we just bounced right back and went down and scored."
Counts' touchdowns, the first an 8-yard run and his final score from 1 yard out, ended the scoring and pushed the Orediggers to 4-1 overall and 4-1 in Frontier Conference play. Western fell to the same with its first loss of the season.
"I think we're on a good path. Keep climbing as we go, and that's what we want," said Myers. "We started out (the season) a little rough, but we've gotten better every game, and we have to keep getting better every game. Keep playing good defense, keep playing good team football and we'll be all right."
Tech looks for a second-consecutive top-25 victory when it travels to No. 8 College of Idaho (5-0, 5-0) next weekend. The Yotes blasted Carroll College 47-14 on Saturday afternoon in Helena.
Western hosts Carroll at Vigilante Field in Dillon next Saturday.