Cats come out strong at Gold Rush

Saturday was a beautiful night for a football game, but after nine minutes of play, it wasn’t much of one. The Montana State Bobcats scored early and often — 25 unanswered points to lead off the game — on their way to a 57-10 routing of the Division II Black Hills State Yellow Jackets. The Cats excelled at a bit of everything. They scored on long, sustained drives as well as quick strikes, covering the length of the field in as few as four plays.

Five different players scored for the Cats, who had the luxury of getting a number of second and third stringers some on-field action. Three different quarterbacks saw time, along with eight ballcarriers and quite a few substitutions on the defensive side of the ball. Senior linebacker and captain Na’a Moeakiola praised their efforts, stating, “Those guys [the backups] mean as much as I do, as much as anyone else out there.”

Perhaps the most impressive member of the Cats’ stellar offense was sophomore quarterback Dakota Prukop, making just his second ever start — his first-ever in Bobcat Stadium. Prukop threw for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns, while running for 176 yards and 3 TDs. He sparked the offense early, scampering for 60 yards and a score on the Cats first possession. From there neither he nor the rest of the Bobcats offense looked back. Prukop was quick to spread the praise for his good play: “The way the offensive line played made our offense look athletic … I’m most happy with how well the offense clicked.”

The Cats defense certainly came to play as well. After looking a bit suspect on the Jackets’ first drive, a Bryson Keeton interception on BHSU’s second drive jumpstarted the then-sluggish Bobcat squad. The junior cornerback — a transfer from University of Nevada — snagged the ball after it skipped off a defensive lineman’s hands nearly straight into Keeton’s open arms.

Just over 19,000 fans came to watch the blowout for the annual Gold Rush game under the lights. “It was a great atmosphere,” Keeton remarked. “The stands were packed, everyone was on their feet.”

Even though his team fired out to a 40-10 halftime lead and compiled an impressive 652 total yards, Cats’ head coach Rob Ash stressed the importance of keeping the game in perspective. “We need to be realistic about the crazy numbers,” MSU eighth-year skipper cautioned. “We had good balance on offense … [but] there’s a lot of things to work on; taking fewer hits, playing a bit smarter.”

The Bobcats have yet face a team from their own division, so the results of the first two games are hard to judge. The first real test of the 2014 campaign will come next Saturday when Central Arkansas rolls into Bozeman. The UCA Bears bring a strong team that should test the Cats and answer any remaining questions about this season’s Bobcats. The game is at 3:35 p.m. in Bobcat Stadium.