It was a classic game between the Montana State University-Northern Lights and the UM-Western Bulldogs at Blue Pony Stadium - a shootout, just like it has been for the last four years. And once again the Lights prevailed in a high-scoring contest as they outlasted Western 46-39 Saturday afternoon at Blue Pony Stadium in Havre.
The win was Northern's first of 2012, but its fourth straight over Western in Havre. And it came on a huge day from the MSU-N passing game as Derek Lear threw six touchdowns, including a go-ahead six-yard strike to Orin Johnson with 1:55 left in the game. Johnson's touchdown capped a wild three-quarter scoring barrage by both teams, and was also a great answer after Western had a tied it up at 39-39 with 6:34 to play.
The two teams combined for 11 touchdowns after the start of the second quarter. Northern led the Bulldogs 6-3 after 15 minutes, but Lear hooked up with Kyle Johnston, Brandt Montelius and Brandon O'Brien for scoring strikes in the second period to give MSU-N a 25-17 halftime lead. The Bulldogs had overtaken the Lights on big pass plays from Jeff logan to Rashad Peniston to lead 17-12 midway through the second, but the Lights' passing game was in control.
In a wild third quarter, Lear hit Johnston for a 19-yard score and O'Brien for a six-yarder, but Western stayed within seven at 39-32. The Bulldogs tied the game when Logan scrambled for an 8-yard TD run, after the Lights were stopped on a fourth-down play. However, Northern answered with a great final drive, which included two huge runs by Lear when the Lights were backed up on first and goal from the 23-yard-line after several penalties.
After three sluggish weeks in which Northern averaged just 13 points per game, the MSU-N offense racked up an astrounding 668 yards, including 448 passing by Lear. O'Brien finished with eight catches for a career-high 208 yards, while Johnston had eight grabs for 128 yards and Johnson finished with seven balls for 75 yards. Stephen Silva also ran for 70 yards on 20 carries, while the Bulldogs totaled 423 yards of offense.
The Lights improved to 1-3 on the season and will remain at home to face Rocky Mountain College next Saturday.
For full coverage, see Monday's Havre Daily News.