Cats handle Stephen F. Austin in barnburner

Cody Kirk (#25) spins into the endzone for a touchdown. photo by Matt Williams

In front of more than 17,000 fans sporting blue and gold on Saturday, the Bobcats (#3, 3-0) defeated the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (#23, 1-2), 43-35. In a see-saw of a game, bringing their record to 3-0 for the first time since 1976, a championship year for the Cats. The high score was due to the fast offense of SFA and stellar performances by MSU running back Cody Kirk and wide receiver Tanner Bleskin.

“I thought our crowd was fantastic today,” Head Coach Rob Ash said after the game.  “They really changed the course of the game.”

SFA struck first with a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brady Attaway to Mike Brooks, but MSU and Kirk answered with a one-yard touchdown run to tie it. After a 33-yard field goal by SFA’s Jordan Wiggs, MSU quarterback DeNarius McGhee responded with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Tray Robinson to close the first quarter with a 14-10 lead.

SFA pulled within one point on another Wiggs field goal from 27 yards out and the second quarter ended in a frenzy of scoring with a fake punt to extend a drive for MSU, ending with McGhee’s run for an 11-yard touchdown with just 31 seconds until halftime.

Ash said of the fake punt, “Well, obviously there wasn’t enough time left for them to score — and then, of course, they did — but it was Olson’s first career catch, by the way.”  SFA answered by covering 77 yards in 27 seconds.  Attaway hit De’Vante Lacy for a 49-yard touchdown with four seconds left in the half to pull within one point, 21-20.

The second half started slowly for both teams, but MSU wide receiver Bleskin started the scoring with a 35-yard touchdown reception to cap a 98-yard drive. SFA’s Wiggs hit a 32-yard field goal to make it 28-23 at the end of the third quarter. To start the scoring in the fourth quarter, SFA’s Johnson ran it in from four yards out to take the lead, but Kirk brought the Cats back, with a one-yard touchdown run to take a 34-29 lead.

SFA’s Attaway answered with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Corde Roberson to take the lead, 35-34. MSU responded with a touchdown by Kirk, who carried the ball 30 times for 105 yards and three touchdowns. “Cody loved it,” said Ash. “Running backs want the ball — and he’s like that. He’s tough.”

SFA did not recover, as Steven Bethley intercepted Attaway on the next play. Perez hit a 45-yard field goal to put the Cats up, 43-35. Bleskin finished with 10 receptions for 180 yards Ash even commended Bleskin for his blocking ability.  “Usually when we get a decent run, Tanner’s out there blocking, too.”

When asked what Ash thought about being 3-0 for the first time since 1976, he said, “Every game is important and — I’m really, really proud of my team.  They had to play really hard today.”

The Cats host Northern Colorado for Homecoming to open Big Sky Conference play at Bobcat Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 2:05 p.m.