George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
Bad luck has seemed to follow the Montana State University-Northern Lights all season long. And they ran into more of it as the final seconds ticked away in their game with Rocky Mountain College Saturday at Blue Pony Stadium. Having not played well on offense all game long, the Lights were in a position to force overtime, when instead, RMC quarterback Drew Hedrick threw a 49-yard "Hail Mary" pass towards the endzone and the ball was inexplicably tipped right into the hands of a wide open Jason Hagedone who wal tzed into the endzone untouched, giving the Bears a shocking 16-10 win their first in Havre since the 2003 season. “He just threw it up there,” RMC coach David Reeves said. “You hope something good came out of it for us. It did.” And something good did finally happen to the Bears, as they beat Northern for the first time since the 2004 campaign. On the flip side, the stunning loss was MSU-N’s fourth at home this season, after the Lights went unbeaten at Blue Pony Stadium last year. It also dropped Northern’s league record to 4-5 and the Lights (5-5 overall) now must beat Eastern Oregon this Saturday in LaGrande, Ore., in order to have a winning season. “It’s a hard way to lose a game and we’ve had some things like that happen to us this season. We have just had some really bad luck,” MSU-N head coach Mark Samson said. “But give Rocky the credit. They played very hard and they acted like they wanted it more than we did. They came into our place and wanted it more and that’s my fault. I didn’t do a good enough job of getting the team ready to go this week.” Northern did appear to be suffering from a slight emotional hangover after its game with Carroll College last Saturday in Helena. The Lights looked sluggish in the first quarter on both sides of the ball. Northern’s offense didn’t muster anything in the first 15 minutes, despite ge t t i n g two Hedrick interceptions. And on defense, MSU-N seemed helpless as the Bears marched the ball 47 yards on their first possession of the game to lead 7-0. The drive was capped off by a 3-yard Mike Thomas run. “We came out flat,” Samson said. “That’s for sure. We just didn’t make plays on offense, and they gave us chances. We got turnovers and we had pretty good field position all day. But we just didn’t make the plays on offense. I thought our defense settled in pretty well after that first drive, but we came out flat and it hurt us all day.” As flat as the Lights were on offense, they did put themselves in a position to make sure the Bears didn't escape Havre with a victory. The second quarter saw MSU-N get on the board via a 28-yard field goal by Luke McKinley. However, the Lights gave those three points back as Rocky went on a late drive, resulting in a 31- yard kick by Bjorn Nelson which gave the Bears a 10-3 halftime lead. The game stayed that way until Justin Moe finally got the Lights' offense rolling in the fourth quarter. Moe ripped off two big runs, as he rushed for 119 yards on the day, to end the third quarter. And just 36 seconds into the final period, Garren Hammons found Donny Saisbury in the endzone for the gametying touchdown. The drive, which appeared to put MSU-N right back in the game, was 13 plays covering 68 yards. "It felt like we got some momentum right there," Samson said. "We finally started to run the football well. I thought Justin Moe had another big game for us. But again, we needed to play well the whole game and we just didn't do that." And MSU-N didn't capitalize on any of Rocky's mistakes, especially late in the game. Hedrick, for all his lategame heroics, threw three picks two to Khalin Anderson and one to Marc Samson, who leads the Frontier Conference in INTs. Rocky also fumbled twice, and yet, MSU-N got no points out of five turnovers. And that allowed the Bears to do what they did at the end of regulation. Hedrick, even with the turnovers, led the Bears on a 1:20 second drive which covered 80 yards in just eight plays, and included key passes to Bryce Burton. And it all ended with Hagedone's miracle catch in the endzone. Hedrick's up-an-down day included a 20-of-41 passing performance with one touchdown. Despite throwing three INTs, the former University of Montana quarterback still managed 249 yards through the air, while Northern got just 59 pards passing and seven completions from Hammons. Despite giving up 195 yards rushing, the Bears outgained MSU-N in total offense, 352-254. Moe led all ball carriers, and Hammons chipped in with 49 yards on the ground, while Rocky got an effi- cient 65 yards on 15 carries from Cavan Cooney. With the win, the Bears raised their overall record to 4-6 on the season, the most the team has won in four years. Rocky is also 3-6 in league play, and will finish the season at home against UM-Western on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Lights, who continue to struggle on offense, committing three turnovers on Saturday, and producing just one offensive touchdown, will end their season on Saturday at EOU. "It's disappointing right now," Samson said. "Especially to lose four games at home. This season started with a lot of promise and things just haven't gone our way. "But we have got to pull it together and regroup this week," he added. "We need to have a solid week of practice and go down to Eastern Oregon and find a way to play well and finish our season on a positive note." Saturday's season finale between Northern and EOU will kickoff at noon in LaGrande, Ore. Last season, the Lights were stunned 10-7 at EOU.