GRAND FORKS, N.D. – The No. 9 Montana State Bobcats fell to North Dakota 16-12 Saturday at the Alerus Center on Saturday.
The Bobcats struggled to move the ball against the Fighting Hawk defense all game outside of a few chunk plays on their first and last scoring drives.
Montana State scored first on a 21-yard field goal in the first quarter before North Dakota answered with a trick-play double-pass for 36 yards and a touchdown to make it 7-3.
The defenses traded big stops and turnovers for the next two quarters, allowing only field goals until Montana State found a spark in the fourth quarter.
Troy Andersen stepped in at quarterback and broke loose for a 49-yard run to the 1-yard line. He would score on the next play to give Montana State a 12-10 lead with 8:06 to play.
But a blocked punt in the end zone led to a North Dakota touchdown to put the Fighting Hawks up 16-12. The UND defense and crowd noise did its job on the ensuing MSU possession, forcing two delay of game penalties and a false start. The Bobcats turned it over on downs, and North Dakota went into victory formation for the win.
TURNING POINT: With Montana State leading 12-10 with 4:12 remaining, the Cats were pinned deep in their own territory and had to punt in the shadow of their own goal post. Jered Padmos' kick was blocked and Jayson Coley recovered for a North Dakota touchdown, putting the Fighting Hawks up 16-12 and taking the wind out of the Bobcats' sails after a scoring drive on their previous possession.
STAT OF THE GAME: Montana State managed only 97 yards passing. Tucker Rovig had a rough day under center, completing just 13 of 26 passes for 77 yards. Travis Jonsen dropped what would have been a sure touchdown in the first half, which would have changed the complexion of the game. But instead, it’s another game where the Bobcat rushing attack, while potent, can only carry the team so far without a passing game to complement the offense.
GAME BALLS: North Dakota special teams. The Fighting Hawks' unit delivered the win in the fourth quarter. A punt pinned Montana State inside its own 1-yard line, and the Bobcat offense couldn’t get manage to create breathing room on three straight runs. Padmos punted the ball deep in the end zone, which led to the block and North Dakota touchdown.
WHAT’S NEXT: Montana State (5-3 overall, 2-2 Big Sky Conference) returns home to face Southern Utah (1-7, 0-4), the last-place team in the Big Sky Conference, next Saturday at noon. North Dakota (5-3) continues its final run through the Big Sky with an open week before heading to Utah to face No. 4 Weber State (5-2, 3-0). The Fighting Hawks are bound to jump into the FCS Top 25 after this win, while Montana State will suffer sharp drop.