On an overcast and windy Saturday, Sept. 17, the Bobcats took on Division II opponent Western Oregon. With portions of the stands noticeably empty, the Cats were up against the Wolves (1-1), who beat fellow Big Sky Conference member Sacramento State 38-30 in the first week of the season. Signs pointed to a potential challenge for the Bobcat defense with Western’s high-powered offense. Western Oregon put up over 340 passing yards in both contests this year. The Bobcats looked to continue their success after beating Bryant University last week 27-24.
The first quarter was a feeling out process for both teams. The Bobcats received the ball first and started what would be the first of many three and outs for both squads. Tides began to turn the Bobcat’s direction at the end of the first with a blocked punt by sophomore John D’Agostino that was returned to the three-yard line.
“It was funny, it was almost like he called his shot,” said Montana State Head Coach Jeff Choate. “He looked at me and said ‘I’m gonna go for it,’ I think I’m going to let him do that again.”
Thanks to a personal foul penalty by MSU, the drive stalled, ending with only a field goal, but the seal had been broken. On the next drive, the Bobcat defense came up with a sack and recovered a forced fumble on the Wolves’ three-yard line.
Freshman quarterback Chris Murray rushed for the first touchdown of the game by taking an option to the left and outrunning the Wolves defense.
From there on, the onslaught had begun. After another punt by Western Oregon, the Bobcats drove 48 yards in five plays, resulting in another touchdown run by Murray. After two consecutive drives that resulted in a score, Murray and the Bobcat Offense were finally halted by the Wolves’ defense and forced to punt. Choate decided to put starter junior Tyler Bruggman back in the game, and he led the team in a three-play 50-yard drive that finished with a 13-yard strike to D’Agostino. Once the Bobcats got the ball back they didn’t let off the gas, scoring in five plays, going 55 yards and scoring on a 30-yard pass to junior Justin Paige. At the end of the half the Bobcats kicked a 37-yard field goal, making the score 34-0.
Unfortunately for the Wolves, it didn’t end there. The Cats kept piling it on, scoring three more times for a final score of 55-0.
The Bobcats finished with 428 total yards — 158 rushing yards with four rushing touchdowns and 270 passing yards with three touchdowns. Junior Mitch Herbert lead the Bobcats in receiving with six catches for 100 yards and one touchdown. The offense rolled while the defense also took care of business and pitched the shutout.
“For us to put a zero on the scoreboard is something special,” said Choate.
The shutout almost didn’t happen. During the third quarter Western Oregon ran a screen pass in which the runner was tackled and rolled over a bobcat defender. He was not called down and the Bobcats stopped pursuing and before they realized there was no whistle he was to far out of reach. The play was reviewed and overturned.
“That’s the difference between a shutout, that’s all it is. It’s a huge tribute to our defensive guys, our staff, our players — everyone.”
A big part of the success of the defense was due in part to graduate transfer John Walker coming up big with yet another interception, his third in the last two games, which total the entire teams from last year. He also dropped a potential fourth.
Walker wasn’t the only one looking for turnovers as the defense managed a total of five turnovers for the second week in a row. The defense looks to continue after this successful performance “We have a lot of confidence going into next week, we just have to complete the game plan and we will be in the game.”
The Cats face off against their first conference foe North Dakota Sept. 24 at 2:05 p.m. The Fighting Hawks come into the game 1-2, losing to Stony Brook and Bowling Green. Last week they fought back after being down 20 points to beat South Dakota in overtime. It will be homecoming for the Bobcats, so be sure to check which section you are sitting in. Bobcat fans are asked to wear alternating blue or gold depending on which section you are in.
Choate is looking for plenty of support. “This is a real good football team, we are going to need Bobcat Nation to be loud and proud and come back after halftime,” he said.