The Montana State Bobcat offense seemed human this Saturday, but thanks to a much improved defense and a timely capitalization on special teams the Cats beat the Weber State Wildcats and head into the bye week undefeated in the Big Sky.
The Cats offense, led by sophomore quarterback Dakota Prukop, had scored over 60 points in their last two appearances but had a hard time finding a rhythm against a determined Wildcat defense. The often incomparable Prukop had an average day, passing for just 160 yards and one interception and rushing for 60 yards.
“They’re a good defense,” Prukop commented after the game, “But at the same time we shot ourselves in the foot. My hat’s off to them though.”
Montana State did not score until midway through the second quarter when sophomore running back Chad Newell found the endzone for a 1-yard touchdown run. However, the Cats had their scoring chances early. Freshman kicker Luke Daly missed field goals from both 50 and 40 yards out, leaving the Cats with a meager 7-3 lead heading into the half.
While the passing game struggled to find its footing, the Bobcat rushing attack was at full force. Senior Shawn Johnson led the backfield, totaling 153 yards on 14 carries. His most explosive rush of the afternoon just after halftime with a 63-yard touchdown trot to put the Cats up 14-3. Sophomore Gunnar Brekke, the third member of the Bobcat running back trio, added another score on a 5-yard run extending the lead to 20-3 after Daly missed the extra point attempt.
In what is quickly becoming a weekly tradition, the Cats allowed yet another close comeback attempt. The Bobcat defense forced the Wildcats to settle for a red zone field goal resulting in a 20-6 lead, it was the offense that was the letdown. The Cats managed to go three and out and handed the ball right back to a rolling Weber State offense. Worn down from the last drive, the Bobcat defense was unable to deny the Wildcats a second time. With just six minutes left on the clock, the Bobcat lead was only a touchdown.
When the Cats were forced to punt once again, things looked like they might take a turn for the worse. However, thanks to a poor decision by the Weber State punt returner and a heads up play by Newell, the Bobcats recovered the muffed punt at the Wildcat 13. The third time was the charm for Daly when he kicked a game sealing field goal with two minutes left on the clock.
Junior Odin Coe and the rest of the Bobcat defense put the exclamation point on the win when Coe recovered a forced fumble, thwarting the slim threat of a miraculous Weber comeback. “We felt like [as a defense] we had something to prove,” Coe said, “All we care about is getting a win, that’s what’s really important.”
Montana State skipper Rob Ash agreed with his defensive end’s winning over everything mindset. “I think it’s good for our team to know that we can win a low scoring game, to know that we can beat teams a lot of different ways.”
The win puts the Cats at 6-2 overall and 4-0 in conference play during the 2014 campaign. The Bobcat have a bye Oct. 25 and will look to become healthier and get some rest as they prepare to travel to California once again to face the Cal Poly Mustangs in two weeks.