In the last five seasons, the Montana State University-Northern Lights and Montana Tech Orediggers have played some memorable games against each other.
But none like this one.
The two teams combined for an astounding 11 turnovers in a defensive tussle which Tech won 17-13 Saturday afternoon at Blue Pony Stadium.
The Orediggers, who jumped out to a 14-0 lead, forced MSU-N into seven miscues before holding off a last MSU-N stand to spoil the Lights’ home opener.
“There’s no such thing as an ugly win,” Montana Tech head coach Bob Green said. “It’s like a marriage in a way, there’s no such thing as an ugly bride. So we’ll take this win. When you’re 1-0, the only place you want to be is 2-0, and that’s what we are in the league now, so we’ll take it and be happy about it.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Northern head coach Mark Samson added. “The turnovers and penalties, you just can’t do what we did today and expect to overcome all of that. It’s frustrating because we still had chances to win the game in the fourth quarter, so credit our kids for really hanging in there today. But there were just too many mistakes.”
The mistakes came early and often for both teams, but Northern’s seemed to be at the most inopportune times. The Lights were flagged 15 times for 126 yards, and key calls kept coming as MSU-N was putting drives together — like when the Lights were trying to drive for the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter and a miraculous first-down catch by Kyle Kercher was called back on a holding penalty.
And if the penalties didn’t hurt the Lights enough, they also committed seven turnovers on offense. Tech intercepted MSU-N quarterback Derek Lear four times, and the Lights lost three fumbles.
That seemed overshadow a herculean effort by the MSU-N defense, which rose to the occasion most of the day.
“Our defense played great today, they showed a lot of charachter and heart,” Samson said. “They gave us chances the whole second half with the way they played. I thought they really got back up after those two scoring drives Tech had in the first half. I’m proud of them today.”
The Orediggers put together long scoring drives in the first and second quarters, respectively. They opened the scoring on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Matt Komac to JT McIntyre, and they led 14-0 after Skylar Knuchel bowled his way in from nine yards out in the second stanza.