MACOMB, IL -- Montana State running back Logan Jones had a good idea he would start in place of the injured Isaiah Ifanse on Saturday against Western Illinois.
"I didn't really change anything. I just kept practicing as hard as I could because practice makes permanent," the senior tailback said. "And then it came in (Saturday) and I was feeling good. My energy was right, I was feeling excited."
And it showed on the field in Montana State's 23-14 win over Western Illinois.
The Kalispell Glacier product rushed 21 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns, all career highs. His biggest moment came in the third quarter when he broke up the middle on a power run and scampered 87 yards for a touchdown, the third longest scoring run in program history.
It was the needed spark in an ugly game that saw MSU and WIU struggle to just 283 yards of total offense combined in the first half. The teams went into the locker room tied at seven. The game featured 21 total penalties for 197 yards.
“It was not an attractive football game,” Bobcats coach Jeff Choate said. “I think we penalized ourselves three or four different times on special teams (Saturday). Very uncharacteristic. There were a lot of holding calls that we had to overcome and we put our defense in some bad situations. But they rose to the challenge.
“I had this thing circled as a trap game from day one. I knew it was going to be a tough trip. Travel wasn’t going to be easy, environment was going to be tough. Coming off an emotional win (over Southeast Missouri), I’m very pleased to walk out of here with a win.”
Tristan Bailey, who missed a field goal in each of Montana State's first two games this season, was pefect on Saturday, hitting all three of his attempts.
In the fourth quarter with Montana State leading 20-14 with 2:40 left, Bailey hit a 47 yarder to put his team up 23-14 and effectively ice the game.
"I knew I had a responsibility to do and I was ready to take the opportunity to make it," Bailey said. "I couldn't do it without my offensive line, the snapper and our whole coaching staff believing in me."
Choate didn't hestitate.
"If the wind had been like it was in the first half, that probably would've been a punt situation and try to make them drive the field," Choate said. "But obviously to go up two scores, the risk was worth the reward, so we went ahead and rolled it."
Casey Bauman, making his third start under center for MSU, had an up-and-down game, throwing 16-for-30 for just 149 yards.
On defense Bryce Sterk notched a team-high seven tackles, including two tackles for loss and a sack. Damien Washington recorded his first career interception and returned it for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but a holding call negated the return and MSU took over on its own 30.
Montana State (2-1) returns home to face Norfolk State (1-2) next Saturday to close out their non-conference schedule before beginning Big Sky Conference play.