Bobcats unable to overcome early deficit to Eastern Washington

The Bobcats football team traveled to Cheney, Washington to take on nationally ranked opponent Eastern Washington. It was an offensive battle, between Bobcats’ dominant running game and the Eagles’ relentless passing game.

Eastern Washington received the opening kickoff and marched down the field until an impressive strip-sack by Bobcat junior defensive lineman Zach Wright forced a fumble, which was recovered by sophomore defensive lineman Marcus Ferriter on MSU’s 47-yard line. The Bobcat offense took over and drove into Eastern Washington territory, until the Eagles forced a turnover on downs. This stop lead to a nine-play, 64-yard drive by Eastern Washington, capped off with a two-yard rushing touchdown, putting them ahead 7-0 halfway through the first quarter.

After a poor kickoff by the Eagles, the Bobcats received great field position. MSU put together a sound drive, including a 21-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Chris Murray to sophomore wide receiver Kevin Kassis, until a fumble by freshman running back Troy Andersen inside the redzone. The Eagles turned the fumble recovery into a field goal to lead by 10. On the next drive, Murray ran for a huge touchdown on a third down play from MSU’s own 46-yard line, closing the gap to three points. The Eagles responded again with a touchdown of their own, putting them back ahead by 17-10 going into halftime.

The Cats received the second-half kickoff, and put together a great drive until it was interrupted by another fumble in the redzone, this time by Murray. The Eagles once again capitalized on the costly turnover. Eastern Washington moved the ball 60 yards in 10 plays and finished the drive with a notable 23-yard touchdown pass, putting the Eagles up 24-7.

Montana State put together a much needed 17-play, 80-yard drive, ending in a nine-yard receiving touchdown on third and goal by junior running back Logan Jones. The Cats lined up to go for two, but failed after a controversial incomplete pass call by the referee. Nonetheless, MSU crept closer, bringing the score to 13-24 . Only two plays into the Eastern Washington’s drive, junior cornerback Braelen Evans sacked Eastern’s quarterback, causing him to lose the football, and sophomore defensive lineman Derek Marks was able to pounce on it. The Bobcats, now with great field position, scored a touchdown with a five-yard rushing play by senior running back Nick LaSane. The following two-point conversion attempt failed again, but the Cats were now only down five points with nine minutes and 30 seconds left in the game. The ensuing kickoff resulted in another fumble by Eastern Washington at the 25-yard line, recovered by Cats’ sophomore safety Ben Folsom, but a devastating fumble occurred two plays later by Murray, giving the Eagles possession again.

Eastern Washington started to push the ball down the field, but the Cats were able to force a third and 26 situation. On third down, Gubrud completed a 22-yard pass to make it a manageable fourth down situation. The Eagles converted and eventually scored a decisive touchdown with only three minutes left in the game. The Cats frantically tried to push the ball down the field but a pass by Murray was intercepted, and the Eagles were then able to run out the clock, winning their 13th straight conference game at home 31-19.

After the game MSU’s Head Coach, Jeff Choate, told reporters, “The tail of the tape was the redzone turnovers,” later adding, “What you can’t do is give [Eastern Washington] momentum.”

Despite the loss, Choate praised his team by saying he was “proud of the way they fought.” Montana State definitely had their chances against the strong Eastern Washington team, but were not able to convert. Hopefully the Bobcats can turn around next week and get a win on the road again, playing University of Northern Colorado on Oct. 21 at 12:30 p.m. in Greeley, Colorado.