The Bobcats faced off against Bryant University of Rhode Island on Saturday Sept 10 at Bobcat Stadium. Gold filled the stands once the fans arrived in honor of the opening game gold rush. With the crowd roaring in anticipation of the Jeff Choate era to begin, it was time for football team to take the field. After a close loss against the Idaho Vandals on Sept. 1 (20-17), the Bobcats were eager to improve. However they still had to get past the last pomp and circumstance of opening day that included an entrance with the Spirit of the West MSU Marching Band. The Bulldogs won the coin-toss and deferred to the Bobcats who elected to return. And with that the 2016 Bobcats kicked off their first home game of the season.
Both teams struggled to maintain offensive consistency with stalled drives abundant. While Bryant managed to control the time of possession, the Bobcats were able to generate five turnovers. Despite turnovers, Bryant was able to stick around, which was what Choate expected. “This is a team that plays a lot of close games, they hang around and they make a play, and they never seem to go away,” Choate said.
The Bulldogs’ senior quarterback Dalton Easton completed 26 of 44 attempts for 368 yards and two touchdowns. Easton completed eight of those passes to senior Keenan Thompson for 161 yards and one touchdown. Bryant controlled the ball for 33 minutes and 35 seconds and ended up with 452 yards of total offense to the Bobcats’ 265. Potential scoring drives were ended with two of their five turnovers in the red zone. The Bulldogs were also hindered by 65 yards in penalties, one of which resulted in a player being ejected from the game, ruining any chances of pulling off the upset against MSU.
For the Bobcats junior Tyler Bruggman completed 14 of 28 passes throwing for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Never getting in rhythm with his wide receivers they relied on senior Gunnar Brekke’s 82 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown. While never producing big yardage, wide receivers John D’Agostino (So.) and Mitch Herbert (Jr.) did show signs of life in the second quarter scoring within a minute of each other. The rest of the Bobcat scoring came after big defensive plays to put MSU in the red zone.
Unlike years past, MSU was able to rely on their defense to make big plays, none bigger than two interceptions by John Walker (Gr.) both coming in the red zone. “We just try and get our hands on the ball as much as we can” Walker said. “It came down to experience, I used my experience and my knowledge to make the play.” Junior safety Bryson McCabe also had an interception that he returned to the one yard line. Junior Mac Bignell and senior Fletcher Collins both had 10 tackles.
In the end Choate remarked that two things stood out in the victory: turnovers and the “phenomenal fan support that I’ve heard about for a long time. It did not disappoint. It definitely made a difference in the game.” As they look forward to next week against Western Oregon, the Bobcats are going to need another strong performance from the defense, continuing to “make big time, timely plays,” as Choate stated. Catch the game at Bobcat Stadium Sept. 17 at 2:05 p.m.