In a Homecoming rout the second-ranked Bobcats (4-0, 1-0) blew out the Northern Colorado Bears (1-3, 0-1) to open Big Sky play. Before some of the sellout crowd of 18,637 could settle into Bobcat Stadium, the Cats had scored on three consecutive possessions in the first quarter.
Cody Kirk and Tanner Bleskin both had big days, but DeNarius McGhee stole the show, completing 34 of 44 passes for 387 yards and two touchdowns, one a 9 yard touchdown pass to Tray Robinson for the first score of the game. Running back Cody Kirk followed with two touchdowns on the next two possessions from 14 and two yards out to make it 21-0 in the first quarter.
The Cats didn’t look back. After the game McGhee spoke of the importance of scoring early and often, saying, “We’re…adamant about finishing drives…I think we came out and did exactly that.”
The Bears finally got on the board in the second quarter after a 40-yard field goal by Dave Eden. He went on to hit field goals from 42 and 38 yards later in the game, but the Bobcat defense made it difficult for Northern Colorado to get in the endzone. After a 10-yard touchdown pass by Bears’ quarterback Seth Lobato made it 21-10, McGhee answered with a 7-yard touchdown run to push it to an 18-point lead. The drive covered 90 yards in 13 plays and shortened the game, taking over five minutes off the clock. MSU kicker Rory Perez hit a 45-yard field goal to make it 31-13 at halftime.
With all the scoring in the first half, head coach Rob Ash put the ball in the capable hands of Cody Kirk, who finished with 89 yards on 19 carries and two TDs. The Cats possessed the ball for over 40 minutes, twice as long as the Bears, and converted 9 of 15 opportunities on third down.
When asked what makes the Cats so effective on third down, McGhee pointed to Kirk and said, laughing, “This guy over here…and our receivers catch the ball on third down.” Tanner Bleskin was certainly one of those receivers, amassing 116 yards on 10 catches, his second straight game of at least 100 yards receiving.
Coach Ash was pleased with the performance of his offense, but stressed the importance of defense. “I thought the defense was great…because I really respect Northern Colorado’s offensive personnel…but our defense was up to the task, and I thought it was a tremendous performance.” Ash specifically appreciated the return of senior Brian Bignell who had two sacks in his season debut.
“We really worked all week on trying to make sure we came out of the blocks fast,” Ash said, “that we would be perfect in everything we did.” On Saturday the Cats looked as close to perfect as they have all year.
The Cats visit Southern Utah this Saturday and UC Davis next Saturday, Oct. 6. They’ll play host to Eastern Washington for Parent/Family Weekend on Saturday, Oct. 13, at 1:35 p.m.