The Montana State University-Northern football team certainly stood up to plenty of challenges against the defending NAIA national champion Carroll College Fighting Saints.
But a third quarter filled with turnovers and penalties stopped the Lights’ upset bid right in its tracks. Fourth-ranked Carroll took advantage of three second-half Northern turnovers and wound up beating the No. 22 Lights 37-21 Saturday afternoon at Nelson Stadium in Helena.
In a game that saw the Saints lead just 13-7 at halftime, the Lights saw chances to really get going slip away in the third quarter.
“We played a really good first half and a pretty good fourth quarter,” Northern head coach mark Samson said. “But for about 8 to 10 minutes in the third quarter, any mistake and dumb penalty we could make we did. We just made a bunch of really bad mistakes in that stretch and they (Saints) jumped on us.
“I thought we did some really good things on Saturday,” he continued. “We moved the ball really well offensively, we did a good job of sustaining drives like we wanted and defensively, we did a pretty good job of limiting them. We shut down their running back for most part. But turnovers and really dumb penalties cost us and those are things you can’t do against Carroll. They played pretty well and we made way too many mistakes. You’re just not going to be successful under those circumstances.”
The Saints did jump out to a 13-0 lead behind a pair of touchdown passes from Dane Broadhead to Matt Ritter. The second score came with just over nine minutes left in the first half. But Northern showed some moxie late in the half as Derek Lear led the Lights on a march which resulted in a 26-yard TD pass to Brandon O’Brien – and a manageable 13-7 halftime deficit.
“We get that score right before the half, and it was a really nice pass by Derek (Lear) and a great catch by Brandon (O’Brien), and we feel pretty good about things in the locker room,” Samson said. “We had moved the ball, got some first downs and limited them to 13 points. All we were looking to do is come out and stop them and keep our momentum going into the second half. But that didn’t happen at all unfortunately.”
Indeed. Carroll’s Dustin Rinker, who had a big game on the ground, ripped off a 56-yard TD scamper early in the third quarter to put the Saints ahead 20-7. Northern then committed bad turnovers on its next two possessions, both of which resulted in points for the Saints, and a 30-7 lead with 5:42 left in the period.
MSU-N did put a solid drive together, capped by a seven-yard scoring catch by Orin Johnson to make the score 30-14 at the end of three quarter. But a Lear interception set up Rinker’s second TD of the day and ended any real chance of a Lights’ comeback. Johnson got into the end zone with :08 left in the game to make the final margin 16 points.
“It’s frustrating because in a lot of areas, when you look at it, you wouldn’t think we got beat by 16 points,” Samson said. “I thought we did a lot of good things in the game, but the mistakes and penalties were just too much for us to overcome.
“We played on our heels for most of the third quarter, even offensively and by the time we kind of settled back into the game, it was a little too late,” he added.
The final numbers were close. Carroll gained only one more first down than the Lights, while MSU-N out gained the Saints 295-282 in total offense. The Northern defense also held the nation’s leading rusher, Chance Demarias to 62 yards on 19 carries. Demarias had been averaging almost 168 yards per outing. But the big differences were turnovers and penalties at inopportune times. Carroll scored 17 points off of Lights’ giveaways, and Northern was flagged 10 times for 114 yards.
Lear, the Frontier Conference’s leading passer, went 24-of-42 for 206 yards, one INT and three touchdowns. O’Brien caught a season-high eight balls for 91 yards, while Johnson had two scores and six grabs for 63 yards. The Lights were thwarted on the ground by Carroll’s rush defense. Northern picked up just 89 yards on the day with junior Stephen Silva earning 51 of them. Carroll got 93 yards on 10 carries by Rinker, while Ritter hauled in six catches for 102 yards. Broadhead threw for two scores and was picked off by MSU-N’s Jordan Van Voast.
With the loss in Helena, the Lights fell to 3-2 at the halfway point of the season. Carroll improved to 4-1. Northern sits tied with Rocky Mountain College for second in the Frontier while Carroll is tied atop the league standings with EOU. Northern has a bye this week before traveling to UM-Western on Oct. 15. The Saints will trip to Dickinson State this Saturday.
“One big consolation is, Rocky kind of did everybody a favor by beating Eastern Oregon on Saturday,” Samson said. “This loss was disappointing because we felt like we really played pretty well. But being at 3-2 going into the bye week, we’re still in it. We can still accomplish the things we’re trying to. We just have to get ready to get back on another roll, and that starts at Western.”
Saints 37, Lights 21
MSU-Northern 0 7 7 7 — 21
Carroll College 6 7 17 7 — 37
CC — Matt Ritter 31 pass from Dane Broadhead (run failed), 0:45
CC — Ritter 13 pass from Broadhead (Tom Yaremko kick), 9:53
MSU-N — Brandon O’Brien 26 pass from Derek Lear (Juan Garcia kick), 0:53
CC — Dustin Rinker 56 run (Yaremko kick), 13:07
CC — Chance Demarais 2 run (Yaremko kick), 10:48
CC — Tom Yaremko 39 field goal, 5:42
MSU-N — Orin Johnson 7 pass from Lear (Garcia kick), 1:08
CC — Rinker 4 run (Yaremko kick), 9:15
MSU-N — Johnson 14 pass from Lear (Garcia kick), 0:08
First downs 18 19
Rushes-yards 89 152
Comp-att-int 24-42-1 12-18-1
Passing yards 206 130
Total yards 295 282
Punts-avg 5-36.2 5-40.4
Penalties-yards 10-114 5-39
RUSHING — MSU-N, Stephen Silva 13-51, Derek Lear 9-18, Justin Montelius 2-10, Brandon O’Brien 1-9, Orin Johnson 1-3, James Chandless 2-0. CC, Dustin Rinker 10-93, Chance Demarais 19-62, Dakota Stonehouse 3-9, Anthony Clarke 1-2, Drew Clausen 1-(-1), Dane Broadhead 4-(-11).
PASSING — MSU-N, Lear 24-42-1-206. CC, Broadhead 12-18-1-130.
RECEIVING — MSU-N, O’Brien 8-91, Johnson 6-63, Kyle Johnston 6-28, Mick Miller 3-18, Silva 1-6. CC, Matt Ritter 6-102, Clausen 2-35, Lat Wipplinger 2-25, Demarais 1-5, Clarke 1-0, Zach Zosel 1-(-6).