BOZEMAN -- With 14 seconds left, up by a score and the Montana Grizzlies at the 1-yard line, Tucker Yates and the Montana State defensive line made one of the most memorable plays in Cat-Griz football history. Yates forced Adam Eastwood to fumble at the goal-line, sealing Montana State’s third consecutive Cat-Griz victory.
But a lot has changed for the MSU defensive line since the "Miracle in Missoula."
“We had a good group of guys last year and I got to play with those guys for two or three solid years. They were great leaders, they set a good standard for us, but I think we want to take it to the next level. We don’t want to take a step back because they are gone," said senior defensive lineman Derek Marks.
The Montana State defensive line lost three starting seniors: Yates, Tyrone Fa’anono and Zach Wright. The three former Bobcats contributed to almost 20 percent of the defense’s total tackles last year.
“It was weird without them in the room at first, but we’ve definitively adjusted," said senior defensive lineman Marcus Ferriter. "They set the bar and we do miss them, especially in fall camp, they are fun guys to be around. But they definitely set the bar and we know how to practice now because they showed us how to practice. So now we are setting the bar for the younger guys.”
But new Bobcats -- like Marks, a Belgrade native, and Butte-native Ferriter -- are ready to emerge into starting roles.
“I think my role is kind of, I’m an older guy, a senior, just kind of be a leader for the younger guys. I’ll try to get like 30 snaps a game, something like that, and just kind of knowing my role. So it’s kind of just being a vocal leader,” Ferriter said.
Ferriter and Marks will be accompanied by one of the most explosive defensive ends in the FCS, senior Bryce Sterk, who had more than one-third of MSU’s total sacks last year. The Montana State defensive line may have lost three seniors this year, but three more are stepping up to make this unit just as dangerous as the last.
“We work together, we communicate together, we don’t have guys that are selfish," said Marks, "so that’s helpful having guys that are communicating with one another and want to see the other guys succeed, because working together as a unit is what’s going to help us take the next step.”