By Colter Nuanez EBS Contributor
BOZEMAN – The whipping wind won the day at Bobcat Stadium on Oct. 7.
Whether punting waywardly or throwing sporadically, any time the football went into the Bozeman air, something unexpected was bound to happen.
MSU scrapped its passing game and dominated the line of scrimmage against desperate, winless Portland State. Montana State ran an array of triple option elements out of a diverse collection of formations to the tune of 403 rushing yards on the way to a 30-22 win, its second Big Sky Conference and overall victory this season.
“The wind was a huge factor today,” Choate said after his team’s first home victory this season, in front of a third straight sellout crowd of nearly 19,000. “When you had the wind in your face, it was very difficult to throw the football and I think that played a role in our play-calling.”
The Bobcats won their second game with Chris Murray as the starter with two or less pass completions. Murray finished 2-of-9 for 9 yards—he completed just two passes in MSU’s 24-17 win over Montana last season as well.
During one portion of the third quarter, the Bobcats ran 25 consecutive run plays with the wind in their faces.
“With the wind going with you or the wind going toward you, you can definitely feel the difference and that obviously effected our play calling,” Murray said. “I just had poor passes today so we decided to go more run-heavy.”
The Bobcats ran the ball 57 times and averaged 7.1 yards per rush. Senior Nick LaSane returned to the fold after missing four games due to suspension, and ran for 63 yards.
Montana State’s defensive front owned the line of scrimmage all day, holding the Vikings to 2.8 yards per carry on 37 rushes and forcing PSU to throw the ball 52 times.
“The biggest thing was making sure we got our fits right, technique, making sure everyone was in the right places,” MSU junior defensive tackle Zach Wright said after notching one of Montana State’s eight tackles for loss. “That’s always the plan: stop the run, make them one dimensional and change the way the ball game goes.”
The Bobcats took a 10-7 lead into halftime after a sloppy first two quarters that included a Murray interception that turned into PSU’s lone touchdown of the first half.
Midway through the fourth quarter, MSU pounded in the final nail. Murray’s first pass attempt in 26 plays was a shot down the field to Justin Paige. He barely overthrew the senior speedster but loosened the coverage. Minutes later, MSU ran an end-around to Paige, Murray put a crucial diving block on PSU senior corner Donovan Olumba and Paige sprinted to his first touchdown of the season.
Montana State’s attention now turns to a showdown at defending Big Sky champion No. 8 Eastern Washington, on Saturday, Oct. 14.
Colter Nuanez is an independent journalist living in southwest Montana. He is the co-founder of Skyline Sports (skylinesportsmt.com), an online newsgathering organization that provides comprehensive coverage of Montana State and Big Sky Conference athletics. He is also the co-host of the Tootell & Tatonka Show on ESPN radio in Missoula. He can be reached at Colter.Nuanez@gmail.com.