George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
There's perfect endings, and then there's perfect endings. If Friday night's Frontier Conference game was the last time the Montana State University-Northern Lights play this season, than the 35-3 thrashing the Lights put on rival Montana Tech under the lights of Blue Pony Stadium couldn't have been a more perfect way for MSU-N to go out. The win over Tech was jump-started by senior safety Ted Wells' first-quarter interception of Tech's Matt Komac. Wells jumped all over the Komac pass and raced 24 yards into the endzone to give Northern a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. And the Lights, playing in their first night game in four years, never looked back, cruising to an easy win over a good team in front of an electrified crowd inside Blue Pony Stadium. Northern finished the season with a 7-3 record, the second-best overall record the Lights have had since they reinstated football 10 years ago. MSU-N also finished second in the Frontier for the second time in the last three years, and sent its seniors out in style. "I saw on film this week that he (Komac) gives a signal away when he's going to throw that pass," Wells said. "And he threw it right to me. "Tonight was a perfect way to end things," he added. "It couldn't have been any more perfect." "Tonight was a great night for our program and for this team," MSU-N head coach Mark Samson added. "All week the guys were excited about playing this game. They were really looking forward to it and we had a great week of preparation. "Ted's interception set the tone for the night," he added. "And we went out and played a great game from start to finish. We proved ourselves tonight. We beat a very good football team tonight. I'm just really proud of these kids and this coaching staff right now." Northern didn't just beat Tech, the Lights dominated the game from start to finish. Wells' pick was one of four turnovers the Lights got on the night. Marc McBryan, another senior, had two INTs and Luke McKinley recovered a Tech fumble. On the offensive side of the ball, MSU-N's all-time leading rusher, Justin Moe, easily went over 1,000 yards with a 22-carry, 101-yard performance on what had been a dominant Tech defense. Moe scored three times, including two in the second quarter, which eventually gave MSU-N an insurmountable 28-3 halftime lead. Overall, Moe scored on runs of 2, 2 and 11 yards in the first half. His first TD put the Lights up 14-3 at the end of the first quarter. "We didn't really change anything we do," Moe, the senior from Florence said. "It was all about execution tonight. The offensive line opened up big holes, and I have to give all the credit to them. It's easy to do my job when I only have to beat safeties." Indeed, Tech's defense seemed helpless against an efficient and dominant Northern offense. And the Lights were equally as good on defense. The turnovers were critical, and the Lights wound up outgaining the Orediggers 342-224, thanks in large part to a stingy MSU-N defense that forced Komac into a miserable 8-for-20 night, throwing for just over 80 yards and two INTs. Tech's lone bright spots were the only three points the Orediggers managed when Sean Kelly answered Wells' touchdown with a 34-yard field goal late in the first quarter to make the score 7-3. The other was the play of third-string running back Cole Berg, who rumbled for 93 yards on the night. However, Kelly's field goal wasn't enough, as Moe dominated the first half and fullback Ty Cochrell put the final stamp on the game with a 44-yard TD run in the third quarter. "It was a pretty complete game," Samson said. "I'm really proud of our effort. Our defense played at a high level all night, the turnovers were huge. And our offense was very good. We didn't turn the ball over, I thought Nick (Petrino) did a lot of good things for us tonight. And what can I say, Justin Moe is simply the best running back in this league and he showed that again tonight. It was just a great night for our football team." The Lights were indeed complete on both sides of the ball. Aside from Moe's heroics, Northern got 60 yards from Cochrell and another 30 from Petrino on the ground on their way to 200 yards rushing. Petrino also completed 12 passes for 131 yards and no INTs, while Coda Tchida, Matt Stuart and Garren Hammons each had three catches. On defense, Stetson Koffman secured the league lead in tackles with his 13 against Tech. McBryan, Will Andrews and Landry See added six tackles each and Garrett Glasrud, yet another senior, went out with a sack. While Tech's (4-6, 4-7) season for sure ended on Friday night, the Lights will anxiously await the announcement of the NAIA playoff brackets next Sunday. Northern is aware it is a long shot to get in, but never-the-less, the Lights are certainly playing like a team deserving of an at-large bid right now. Either way, Moe commented that Friday night's win couldn't have been a better way to go out, if indeed it was the Lights final game of the year. "There couldn't have been a better way to end it," Moe said. "Playing under the lights, playing the way we did, it was just awesome."