It got a little too close for comfort at the end, but the Montana State Bobcats were able to fend off The Central Arkansas Bears this past Saturday. The Cats continued into the second week of their four game homestand against their first FCS foe of the season. The Bears belong to the ever-tough Southland Conference, and brought a tough, never-say-die attitude with them, allowing them to make it a game before finally falling 43-33.
The Bobcats continued their fast start from last week on Saturday, driving 79 yards in 14 plays after choosing to receive the opening kickoff. Budding star sophomore quarterback Dakota Prukop capped off the drive with a three yard touchdown run.
The Cats also scored three more times on their way to a 23-6 halftime lead, including a connection between Prukop and senior wideout Brian Flotkoetter. After standing tall in the pocket amongst heavy pressure, Prukop heaved a 46-yard strike to Flotkoetter who pulled the ball in despite interference.
The second half got off to a strong start for MSU as they extended their lead to 37-13 by the end of the third quarter thanks to a couple powerful runs by junior running back Anthony Knight, who punched in on runs of 10 and 5 yards a piece. Bobcats Head Coach Rob Ash praised the Nevada transfer: “[He] made a couple of touchdowns all on his own strength.”
The fourth quarter was somewhat of a different story. The Bears took advantage of some sluggish and unfocused Cats defense and a Prukop interception, scoring twice quickly to cut the lead to 37-25. On the ensuing kickoff after the second score, MSU senior kick returner Shawn Johnson fielded the ball while running backwards, and took a knee, appearing to think he was in the endzone for the catch. However, the referee disagreed and the play was ruled a safety, resulting in a quick two points and the ball for the Bears.
The next drive for the Bears ended with a turnover on downs. The Bobcats were able to chew some time off the clock and earn points on their next drive, capping off an all-but-game-winning drive with yet another Knight touchdown, this time from two yards out.
Central Arkansas wasn’t quite done as they recovered a Johnson fumble at their own 5 yard line and then drove the length of the field for a touchdown. However, down 10 points with 35 seconds left on the clock, there wasn’t anything more the Bears could do.
After weathering the Central Arkansas storm, senior linebacker Alex Singleton applauded the Bears efforts: “We just needed to close and execute more … They’re a good team — [they] never give up.” Senior linebacker Cole Moore added, “We’re happy with the win, but we’re definitely not satisfied.”
The Bears finished with 462 total yards, including 337 yards and five touchdowns from senior quarterback Ryan Howard. The Cats ended with 513 total yards, including 289 in the air and 90 on the ground from Prukop along with 1 TD and one interception while passing and another 2 TDs on the ground. Knight finished with 61 yards rushing on 12 carries along with his 3 TDs.
Coach Ash lauded his team’s production, saying, “I was really happy with our offense’s performance this week … [It was] a fabulous way to start the game.” He also commended the crowd participation. “I thought our crowd was terrific, they really helped us out in a couple of spots.”
The Cats now turn their attention to longtime foe Eastern Washington, but this time with a twist: The conference rivals will meet this season in non-conference play. “We didn’t have to play these guys; they didn’t have to play us,” Ash said. “It’s going to be a fabulous game.” The game will kickoff at 1:10 p.m. at Bobcat Stadium on Sept. 20.