It was the tale of two teams heading in different directions as the Bobcats took on the Thunderbirds of Southern Utah on Saturday Nove. 5 at Bobcat stadium. Southern Utah entered the contest tied for the lead of the Big Sky Conference with a record of 6-2 and 5-0 against Big Sky competition. While the Bobcats have had their playoff hopes eliminated with last week’s loss to North Dakota they took the field looking to gain some experience for their young players. Montana State Head Coach Rob Ash said of the scrap, “We were just looking to win a game.” It was a back-and-forth game as both teams used their individual strengths against each other.
The Cats started off the game with a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive. After a muffed punt by the Bobcats, the Thunderbirds drove 45 yards in 12 plays to tie the game up at seven apiece. With three minutes remaining in the first half the Bobcats kicked a 33-yard field goal to take the lead and head into the locker room with a 10-7 advantage.
Montana State put together a solid first half, putting up 165 total offensive yards. As expected the number-one ranked defense of Southern Utah limited the Bobcats number-one ranked offense in the Big Sky Conference to only ten points. MSU looked poised to come out strong in the second half, but Southern Utah had other plans.
Southern Utah started the second half with a quick touchdown, needing only five plays to cover 75 yards. The Bobcats responded with a drive of their own, finishing with a four-yard run by junior running back Chad Newell. In what turned out to be the key play of the game during the ensuing possession, on a fourth-and-seven Thunderbird quarterback Ammon Olsen flung the ball forward while he appeared to be down, but after a lengthy review by the officials, they determined that he was not down and that it was a first down for Southern Utah.
“That was a huge moment in the game,” Ash said. “It was a gigantic swing.” Instead of a turnover on downs it a first-and-ten and they scored two plays later.
It was all Thunderbirds from there with two more scores before Montana State responded in the fourth quarter.
The Bobcats put in a solid all around performance holding Southern Utah to only 395 of total yards while putting up 420 total yards themselves. But it was the well-rounded play of the first place Thunderbirds that eventually led to their 34-23 victory over the Bobcats.
“That’s a very good football team, they are big and strong,” Ash remarked. “That makes our performance even better in my mind.” MSU plays against next week at Idaho State and finish out the season against the University of Montana on Nov. 21.