Eagles outlast comeback Cats

It took Montana State 104 plays to score 50 points last Saturday, Sept. 19, against the Eastern Washington Eagles. The Eagles needed only 57 plays to score 55 points, and the Bobcats lost in a shootout to the Eastern Washington Eagles 55-50 in Cheney.

In a display of offensive excellence, the Bobcats and the Eagles gained a combined total of 1,385 yards as both teams used their signature styles of efficiency to move the ball downfield. Bobcat junior quarterback Dakota Prukop was 29 for 46 passing with 353 yards and 4 touchdowns, and led the team in rushing with 196 yards and a touchdown on 28 attempts. Bobcat junior running back Chad Newell led MSU running backs with 95 yards and 1 touchdown, and senior wide receiver Mitchell Herbert led the Cats in receiving with 83 yards and 2 touchdowns.

While the Cats typically made their scores on long, time-consuming drives, the Eagles put up points with their high explosive offense that relied on their core of athletic playmakers and missed tackles. Eagle QB Jordan West needed only 24 attempts to pass for 410 yards and 6 touchdowns, roughly 17 yards per attempt. RB Jabari Wilson led the team in rushing with 188 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP Cooper Kupp had a field day with 12 receptions, 201 yards, and 3 touchdowns.

The day started poorly for the Bobcats when on their first drive the Cats attempted a run on 4th and 2 from their own 33-yard line. The Cats were stuffed at the line of scrimmage and the Eagles took advantage with a 31-yard TD from Wilson. The next drive the Bobcats again went for it on fourth and short, this time on the Eagles 15-yard line, but were again denied and quickly gave up a West TD. Trailing 14-0 early, the Cats responded with sophomore Jayshawn Gates’ 28-yard touchdown run, but quickly gave up two consecutive TDs, going down 28-7 early in the second quarter.

From this point the Cats and the Eagles went about trading scores, with the Eagles holding the Cats at arm’s-length through the 3rd quarter, at the conclusion of which, the score was 48-31 in favor of the Eagles. The Cats started 4th quarter action with a two-yard Prukop rushing touchdown, cutting the lead to 10. The Eagles responded immediately with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Kupp, which brought the score to 55-38. The Cats cut the deficit with a Newell one-yard TD run, and after the failed two point conversion the score was 55-44.

The Eagles were driving down the field when Bobcat sophomore defensive end Mac Bignell forced a Malcolm Williams fumble, which was recovered by Marcus Tappan. The Cats wasted no time scoring when Mitch Herbert made arguably the play-of-the-year with a twisting, athletic one-handed grab in the endzone bringing the score to 55-50 after yet another failed two point conversion. After a missed field goal, the Cats regained possession with 33 seconds on their own 20, but the distance would prove to be too great as the game ended on Prukop’s interception to Eagle defender Nzuzi Webster.

The loss drops the Bobcats to 1-1. The Cats standing in the conference in unaffected due to this game’s non-conference status. However, should the Cats and the Eagles end the year in a tie the loss will be used as a tie-breaker when deciding the conference champion. Over the last three meetings with the Eagles, the Cats have allowed an average of 53 points per game. Rob Ash falls to 2-7 against the Eagles, and the Cats fall to 10-29 overall in their meetings with the Eagles.

The Bobcats look to rebound when Cal Poly visits Bobcat Stadium this Saturday to open conference play. Kickoff will be at 1:35 p.m., the Bobcats’ homecoming game.