Tributes to alumni, great teams, and even a statue honoring Sonny Holland were all part of this year’s homecoming tradition. Montana State took on the Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota on Saturday, Sept. 24. The Bobcats faced off against the Hawks who, last weekend against South Dakota, came back from a 21-point deficit to win 47-44. The Bobcats returned to action after trouncing Western Oregon 55-0. Most impressive so far for the Bobcats is their ability to produce turnovers.
To start the game, the turnover machine continued for the Bobcats. Senior Fletcher Collins ripped the ball out, forcing a fumble, on North Dakota’s first drive. Montana State was unable to put the ball in the end zone resulting in freshman Gabe Peppenger kicking a field goal to take an early 3-0 lead. The Cats added another field goal and gained a 6-0 lead with about three minutes left in the first quarter when Senior Chad Newell, back from a hand injury, lost the ball and North Dakota recovered it on the 27-yard line.
North Dakota’s offense took full advantage, resulting in sophomore Brady Oliveira running three yards for the touchdown and a 7-6 lead into halftime.
During the third quarter the teams traded field goals, making the score going into the fourth 10-9 with the Hawks leading.
For most of the fourth quarter, both teams had ineffective offensive performances and failed to produce points. With 2:27 left in the game and North Dakota leading 10-9, the Hawks looked to put the game away by running out the clock. However, Oliveira ran 60 yards for the quick strike. On the following MSU drive, junior Tyler Bruggman connected with freshman Kevin Kassis for 55 yards, setting up a three-yard run by Newell for the score. The Bobcats went for two points but could not convert.
Since MSU was unable to tie the game, they went for the onside kick. Peppenger did not kick the ball past the required 10 yards, however a UND kick returner touched the ball and MSU senior Jessie Clark recovered the fumble.
Following the onside kick, two plays into the drive, Bruggman’s pass was intercepted by senior Zach Arnell. After halting the Hawks one final time, the Bobcats had one last shot with 49 seconds left but could not drive the 86 yards to score.
UND had 348 yards of offense with 227 on the ground. Oliveira had 22 carries for 171 yards and two touchdowns. The Fighting Hawks’ defense produced three interceptions and two forced fumbles.
For MSU, Bruggman completed 15 out of 36 passing attempts for 259 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. Newell took the majority of carries with 18 for 100 yards and one touchdown. On defense junior Mac Bignell led the team in tackles with 11 and right behind him was Collins with ten.
“They had 68 plays, we had 68 plays. They had 348 yards of total offense, we had 375… The difference is the turnovers. Period,” Head Coach Jeff Choate said. “This is a young, growing team on our side that couldn’t get out of our own way.” The Bobcats will look to turn things around on the road next weekend against Sacramento State. Catch the Bobcats Oct. 1 on TV. The game starts at 7:05 p.m. Mountain Time.