The Montana State University Bobcat football team suffered their second straight conference loss Saturday, falling to the Thunderbirds of Southern Utah University (SUU.) The Bobcats struggled to find any sort of rhythm in the first 30 minutes, and they found themselves in a 0-15 hole starting the fourth quarter. Halfway through it, it seemed MSU was going to hear the final whistle without seeing a point scored. They had only gained 38 yards on their first 32 play attempts.
Finally, the Bobcats’ Chad Newell broke through SUU’s defense and and ran 13 yards to find the endzone and put Montana State on the board. The Thunderbirds answered back less than four minutes later when SUU QB, Aaron Cantu, pushed forward for a one-yard touchdown putting MSU back down to 7-22. Suddenly, the Bobcats’ offense came alive. In the final 10 minutes of the game, the Bobcats piled up 245 of their 283 total yards.
MSU found themselves on the 10-yard line with no timeouts remaining and 11 seconds left to play. Two possible throws into the endzone and, assuming a touchdown would be scored, a two-point conversion would follow to tie the game. As the ball was snapped, DeNarius waited patiently for the designated target, Senior WR Tanner Bleskin, to open up and instead threw a check down pass to Newell who was tackled in the middle of the field. Unable to call a time out or get to the line of scrimmage to spike the ball, time expired and the Bobcats fell with a score of 22-14. Fans remained in the stands with their hands on their heads and jaws open in disbelief after the final whistle blew.
“What we wanted to do is we wanted to throw it up to Tanner Bleskin and give him a shot to make a play. There was some miscommunication about what we wanted to do,” MSU head coach Rob Ash said. “I’m not blaming anybody, but we really wanted to get the ball to Tanner.”
Southern Utah came into Saturday’s game unranked, but matching MSU’s record of 7-3. “In no way did we underestimate Southern Utah. Every team is good,” Tanner Bleskin remarked. “The Big Sky is a great conference. Things just didn’t work out today. Considering the situation we were in, we could have scored and went to overtime. Looking at that, from that perspective, we were close. We didn’t execute as a group like we normally do. In the end, it didn’t work out.”
The Bobcats are now 7-4 and their chances of a playoff spot are quickly diminishing. Clutching a fourth consecutive playoff berth has now been put into the hands of the team that beat them — Southern Utah. If SUU can beat Northern Arizona and MSU can beat UM in their last home game of the season, the Bobcats may have a chance at having another home game. That is assuming they can lock down Montana’s high-powered offense of the double Jordans; senior quarterback, Jordan Johnson and junior running back Jordan Canada. Cat/Griz is always an important game, but it has never been so important as this weekend when they take the Grizzlies on at home in Bozeman. Will the Cats step up their game and defeat the Griz, or will Montana take control and repeat 2011? Find out Saturday at 12:05 p.m.