HELENA — For just the second time since the College of Idaho reinstated its football program, the Yotes earned a home victory against Carroll College over the weekend. The 28-7 win joins the 35-21 victory from November 2015 as the only two wins COI has captured against the Fighting Saints in Caldwell.
Carroll head coach Mike Van Diest says it was easy to see where the Saints lost their way.
“We started off wrong. The first drive they took it down and scored, but we had them at 3rd-and-5, 3rd-and-8 or something and we gave up a scramble at midfield, and we just got out of our rush lanes and the quarterback scrambled to keep the drive alive. He was the leading rusher against us last year, same thing this year. We just didn’t contain him. I didn’t have a good enough game plan with our pass rush,” Van Diest said of College of Idaho QB Darius Peterson.
“We get him 3rd-and-13 on a big play from Beaugh Meyer and Nate McGree, a tackle-for-loss. Then we get a pass interference in the end zone, now it’s 1st-and-goal and they do a play-action pass and got us. Then they took another drive down and we get stalled on our 2-yard line and have a 27-yard punt. We get them 4th-and-5 and they convert, so suddenly it’s 21-0.”
Van Diest’s defense settled in during the final two quarters, as Carroll played evenly against the Yotes, with each team adding seven points in the fourth quarter.
“The first three possessions they scored. They had eight possessions after that and 32 plays. We really clamped down on defense, got the turnovers, a couple lucky breaks, but the guys made plays,” said Van Diest. “They had one long run, a 62-yard run where we lost our gap control up front, but in spite of that I felt good about it after because I saw Drew Melton, Ryan Beaulieu and Tony Madsen busting their tails to save a touchdown. Drew made a tackle on the 2-yard line. They take a penalty and fumble on the next play. Just to see that effort when we’re down 21-0, the guys still playing hard, it was tremendous. It was fun.”
“The guys played like it was 7-0 or 3-0. The defensive guys just didn’t let up,” Van Diest continued. “Offensively we had a young quarterback (freshman Hunter Bledsoe) go in and I think he was 20-38. But he had a touchdown called back on a holding penalty, he had a touchdown dropped in the end zone, so you think of what he did, he would have had 350 yards his first time out and about a 60-percent completion average. That’s pretty good for a freshman just thrown in who hadn’t played for a couple years because of injuries in high school.”
Despite the early hole against COI, Carroll’s defense remains near the top of the Frontier Conference in most statistical categories. In fact, Carroll leads the league in passing defense, giving up only 199.5 yards per game through the air. The Saints are No. 2 in total defense (317.3 yards per game), third in scoring defense (19.7 points per game) and fourth in rushing defense at 117.8 yards per game.
While Carroll’s defense has found success in conference play, the offense seeks consistency and Van Diest is challenging his front line to lead the charge.
“I think the spark has to come from our offensive line. (Bledsoe) can throw, Kolby (Killoy) had some good throws when he was in the last couple games, Major (Ali) and Ryan (Arntson) are doing a good job running, Eric Dawson, too, but our offensive line has to provide the spark and provide the toughness up front, and they can,” said Van Diest. “They’re good players. Sure, they had a rough day Saturday, but they’re the ones that I think have to take the game under command and they have to dominate the line of scrimmage.
Carroll remains on the road this weekend for a rematch against No. 19 Montana Western, one of the surprise teams in the NAIA. The Bulldogs are 4-1 with wins over Rocky Mountain College and Montana Tech, while also defeating Carroll 16-10 in Helena back in early September.
“Against a team like Western, which is so good defensively, you look at a guy like (Jason) Ferris at linebacker, I think he and (Carroll College’s Chase) Bowen are the two best linebackers in the league by far, it’s going to be a battle of wills and (the offensive line is) where the spark is going to come from,” said Van Diest.
Carroll and Western kick off at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Dillon.