By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
Montana State University-Northern wasn't the first team to get drilled by the Carroll College Fighting Saints this season. Judging from the Saints' performance on Saturday, the Lights certainly won't be the last team.
The defending NAIA national champions looked to be tuning up for another title run with a decisive 58-17 win over the Lights at Blue Pony Stadium.
Carroll rolled up 458 yards of total offense, forced Northern into three turnovers and put the game out of reach almost as quickly as it started.
It was the third consecutive week that the Saints have put 50 points or more on the scoreboard. It's a trend that will probably continue.
"We had the ball an awful lot in the game," said Lights head coach Walt Currie. "It might be because it didn't take them very long to score. Their offense is just so potent."
Perhaps an even better word to describe the Saints' offense would be explosive.
Carroll needed a grand total of eight plays to score two touchdowns in a span of three minutes.
D.J. Dearcorn got Carroll on the board with a 24-yard touchdown run at the 12:31 mark, but he wasn't finished. On Carroll's ensuing possession, Dearcorn took a screen pass from quarterback Tyler Emmert and broke five Northern tackles, juked two defenders and spun away from another en route to a 55-yard touchdown scamper.
"They are just so quick," Currie said. "You can't simulate how fast they are in practice. We warned our guys, but they were all pretty shocked in that first quarter."
The Saints didn't slow down, adding a Rhett Crites field goal and a Jed Thomas 11-yard TD run to take a 24-0 lead after the first quarter. The Saints' offense wasn't just explosive, but also efficient in piling up yards and rarely making a mistake.
"We execute well during practice and we run the same things week after week," said head coach Mike Van Diest. "We're not making things up."
With the way his team was moving the ball, there was no need to make anything up.
If there was one thing that stood out for Northern, it was the Lights' ability to move the football against a speedy and stingy Carroll defense.
Late in the first quarter, the Lights started to piece together a drive. With quarterback Neill Crandell getting some time to throw, the Lights were able to connect on several short passes and running back Tanner Cochrell ground out some tough yards. Cochrell culminated the drive with a 2-yard touchdown plunge to give the Lights their first points of the game.
However, Carroll answered on the ensuing kickoff as Tim Bowman got a couple key blocks and returned it 95 yards down the Northern sideline for a touchdown.
Northern answered by driving the ball down to the 6-yard line on the strength of a 65-yard pass completion from Crandell to Herrera. But with first and goal from the 6, the Carroll defense held and the Lights had to settle for a 19-yard Chris Nagel field goal to cut the score to 31-10.
After being held off the field for almost eight minutes, the Carroll offense went back to work as back-up quarterback Robb Latrielle found Zach Zawacki from six yards out to give Carroll a 38-10 halftime lead.
Carroll opened the second half much the same way it had opened the first. Dearcorn uncorked another 55-yard touchdown run while Regan Mack returned a tipped Crandell pass 76 yards for a TD. With the game firmly in hand Carroll added another reminder about how explosive its offense is. Pinned back on his own 1-yard line, Emmert faked an inside screen to Mark Gallik and hit him on a seam route for a 99-yard touchdown.
The play was a nutshell of Carroll's combustible offense and the type of big play ability its players have.
To their credit, the Lights didn't quit. Northern put together a couple of solid drives as freshman Jeff Fischer took over for Crandell and used a variety of options and draws to rack up 63 yards rushing. Fischer also completed his first collegiate touchdown, connecting with Freddie Brown late in the game for a 14-yard TD pass.
"Jeff didn't hurt us a bit out there," Currie said. "He brings a little more quickness to the game. We can't run our entire offense with him, but he's effective on option and draws and throws a real nice ball."
But it wasn't just Fischer. Currie was happy with his team's effort as a whole.
"I saw plenty of positives," Currie said. "We were able to move the football against them and we haven't been able to before. And we spread it around and got contributions from a lot of players. We scored as much as any team has against them."
Crandell finished 18 of 45 for 230 yards and a pair of interceptions. Herrera had three catches for 128 yards while Kris Marshall had seven catches for 46 yards. Cochrell rushed for 82 yards on 21 carries.
"Neill showed a lot of poise," Currie said. "He never really got flustered and the one interception was a tipped pass that should have never been. Our running game was also solid again with Cochrell and Fischer."
Carroll was led by Dearcorn, who finished with 113 yards on four carries while scoring three touchdowns. Emmert completed 11 of 15 passes for 217 yards and two TD passes.
"It was tough for our defense because they are so young going against a veteran offense," Currie said. "But Carroll has scored a lot of points against some veteran offenses as well."
"I've felt much worse after other losses," Currie said. "We got beat by a great football team and we still had plenty of positives in the game. As long as the kids can stay positive, we should get better from this."
Northern will travel to Southern Oregon on Saturday for a nonconference matchup with the Raiders.
Carroll College 24 14 20 0- 58
MSU-Northern 0 10 0 7 - 17
Carroll - D.J. Dearcorn 24 run (Crites kick)
Carroll - Dearcorn 55 pass from Tyler Emmert (Crites kick) 9:21
Carroll -FG Rhett Crites 22 4:09
Carroll - Jed Thomas 11 run (Crites kick) 3:19
MSUN - Tanner Cochrell 1 run (Nagel kick) 13:26
Carroll - Tim Bowman 95 kickoff return (Crites kick) 13:26
MSUN - FG Chris Nagel 19 3:46
Carroll - Zach Zawacki 6 pass from Robb
Latrielle (Crites kick) 2:10
Carroll - Dearcorn 55 run (Crites kick) 14:43
Carroll - Regan Mack 76 interception return
(Crites kick) 12:45
Carroll - Mark Gallik 99 yard pass from Emmert (Crites kick) 10:22
MSUN - Freddie Brown 14 pass from Jeff
Fischer (Nagel kick) 3:18
Rushes yards 43-119 25-148
Passing yards 244 310
Passing attempts 19-47-2 19-30-0
Total yards 363 458
Fumbles lost 2/1 0/0
Penalties 5-36 12-143
Rushing - MSUN: Cochrell 21-82, Fischer 5-63, Crandell 8-20, Woodward 3-4. Carroll: Dearcorn 4-113, Thomas 8-24, Bowman 5-6, Gallik 1-5.
Passing - MSUN: Crandell 18-45-2 230,
Fischer 1-1-0 14. Carroll: Emmert 11-15-0 217, Latrielle 8-15-0 93.
Receiving - MSUN: Marshall 7-46, Woodward 5-46, Herrera 3-128, Brown 1-14; Carroll: Wigen 4-32; Gallik 3-127; McCutcheon 3-28; Zawacki 3-16; Dearcorn1-55.