In each week since the Oct. 9 bye, the Montana State University-Northern football team has gotten off to a solid first-half start.
Saturday’s Frontier Conference game against Rocky Mountain College in Billings was no different. When MSU-N quarterback Derek Lear hit Orin Johnson on a nine-yard touchdown strike early in the second quarter, the Lights led 10-7. But what ensued was tough for Northern to handle.
RMC ripped off 42 unanswered points Saturday to beat the Lights 49-17 at Herb Klindt Field. With the win, RMC reached several milestones, including sweeping the Lights for the first time in seven years. The Bears (5-4, 5-5) are also assured of at least a .500 season and will go for their first winning season since 1999 this Saturday at Eastern Oregon.
Rocky did to Northern somewhat what it did to the Lights back in September in Havre, only the Bears added a few more scores to the board. RMC racked up 536 yards of offense on the day, and second-quarter TD runs of one and eight yards by Michael Thomas, along with a 21-yard scamper by Kasey Peters and a three-yard TD pass to Nathan Barnett put the Bears in front 35-10 at intermission.
RMC put two more scores on the board in the second half, while MSU-N struggled to mount a comeback charge. Northern’s only other score of the day came on another Lear-to-Johnson connection with :50 left in a game that was out of reach at that point. Northern got on the board in the first quarter with a 26-yard Kyle Kercher field goal, but the Lights’ didn’t have an answer for Peters, who threw for 317 yards on a near-perfect 25-of-31 performance, which included no interceptions.
MSU-N did get two Rocky fumbles, but the Lights also turned the ball over three times on offense, as Lear threw picks to Paul Palu, J.T. Fitzgerald and Ridge Fuentes. Lear finished the day with 168 yards passing, two TD’s and three INT’s, while rushing for 42 yards. Johnson had 11 catches for 92 yards, while Stephen Silva rushed 13 times for 63 yards and had a strong day returning kicks.
On defense, MSU-N's Landry See and Will Andrews were both busy. See totaled 18 tackles for the second straight week and also had a sack and a fumble recovery. Andrews racked up 10 tackles and a sack, while Tanner Varner had Northern's other fumble recovery.
But the day belonged to the Bears, who have now beaten the Lights in three of their last four meetings.
MSU-N fell to 3-6 in league play and 3-6 overall, and will wrap up its season this Saturday at No. 2 Carroll College.
Lights are 3-6
Up Next: at Carroll College
MSU-N quick kicks: Since their last-second win in Billings back in 2008, the Lights have lost to the Bears at Herb Klindt Field by an average margin of 29 points in the last two games. Peters has thrown for over 300 yards in every game he's played against Northern in his RMC career. The Bears haven't had a three-game winning streak since 2002 or a winning season since 2009. With his 18 tackles, Landry See all but locked up the league lead for the season in that category. The junior linebacker has 107 tackles for the year. Andrews now has 5.5 sacks for the season, while Kercher remained perfect on field goal tries for 2010.
Bears 49, Lights 17
MSU-Northern 3 7 0 7 — 17
Rocky Mountain 7 28 7 7 — 49
RMC — AJ Tolbert 54 pass from Kasey Peters (Derek Carothers kick), 13:26
MSU-N — Kyle Kercher 26 FG, 8:02
MSU-N — Orin Johnson 9 pass from Derek Lear (Kercher kick), 14:54
RMC — Michael Thomas 8 run (Carothers kick), 13:07
RMC — Nathan Barnett 3 pass from Kasey Peters (Carothers kick), 9:04
RMC — Thomas 1 run (Carothers kick), 5:00
RMC — Peters 21 run (Carothers kick), 0:58
RMC — Levi Sutton 6 pass from Peters (Carothers kick), 7:00
RMC — Weston Merrill 2 pass from Peters (Carothers kick), 8:33
MSUN — Johnson 8 pass from Lear (Kercher kick), 0:50.
First downs 16 28
Rushes-yards 31-140 45-219
Comp-Att-Int 16-36-3 25-31-0
Passing yards 168 317
Total yards 308 536
Punts 6-34 3-39
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 3-2
Penalties-Yards 12-68 5-37
Rushing — Northern: Derek Lear 7-42, Stephen Silva 13-63, James Chandless 4-19, Orin Johnson 4-12, John Wilson 2-6, Justin Montelius 1-(-2). Rocky: Michael Thomas 19-116, Kasey Peters 10-47, Nate Ray 6-32, Sean Coleman 4-5, Mark Desin 1-0, Nathan Barnett 1-10, Paul Palu 1-5, Paxton Paynter 1-2, Perry Martinez 2-2.
Passing — Northern: Derek Lear 16-36-3, 168 yards. Rocky: Kasey Peters 25-31-0, 317 yards.
Receiving — Northern: Matt Stuart 4-37, Orin Johnson 11-92, Brandon O'Brien 1-39. Rocky: AJ Tolbert 3-99, Nathan Barnett 5-65, Levi Sutton 6-78, Mark Desin 1-8, Sean Coleman 2-14, Matt Concienne 3-20, Nate Ray 2-9, Tyler Miller 1-19, Weston Merrill 1-2, Jacob St. John 1-3.