By Kim Staudinger
The Montana State University-Northern football team scored early and often Saturday, but so did Dickinson State. In a back-and-forth game that saw a lot of scoring, the Lights edged Dickinson 35-33 to earn their first victory of the season.
The Lights took an early seven-point lead, but Dickinson answered just over two minutes later with a score of its own.
"You always like to get on the scoreboard first, as long as you don't forget you have to score more," Northern head coach Walt Currie said.
The see-saw battle continued until the third when Northern took a 28-14 lead on a short run by Ryan Utterback.
Dickinson refused to give up and scored a touchdown with 12:32 left in the game. The point after attempt failed, and Northern led by eight.
Dickinson got the ball back right away and scored once more, closing the gap to 28-26. The Blue Hawks decided to go for the two-point conversion, which the official first signaled good, then waved it off, as runningback Stuart Johnson caught the ball but dropped it as he fell out of bounds.
"If there's any doubt, it's incomplete," official Terry Albrecht said later in an interview.
Joe Merrick, who changed the call to no good, says a player has to "come down with the ball and have possession. If you don't, it's not a catch."
Northern's Kino Detrick may have forced quarterback Nick Walker to rush the throw as he broke through numerous blocks.
Both Northern and Dickinson each scored once more in the fourth, but Dickinson fell short, even though it outscored the Lights 19-7 in the final quarter.
"You have to look at the nature of the kid on the other side of the line," Currie said. "He (Walker) single-handedly willed them to those points to get them back into the ballgame. They got a tremendous effort out of him. You don't play against many better athletes than that kid."
The Lights compiled 252 yards on rushing and 181 yards passing, backed by Travis Crawford's 42 yards rushing and 68 yards receiving.
"Travis ran the ball well and caught the ball real well," Currie said. "The offense was spread out a bit where everyone contributed. We had a very balanced attack. I think the two guards and two tackles were the only ones on offense who didn't get to touch the ball."
Currie also said his team blocked and executed better than in the game against Carroll College and took advantage of some big penalties on third downs by Dickinson.
"That is the best we've ever been on fourth down conversions," Currie said. "It is the nature of football, you hope you make less mistakes and have less penalties than your opponent.
"Dickinson is a tough team. It was nice to get a win at home. I just wanted my guys to enjoy it with their family and friends at the game."
MSU-N: Chad Olsen 3 yard run (Tanner Smith kick)
Dickinson: Walker 17 yard pass to Brock Nelson (Danny Shorb kick)
MSU-N: Brandon Kerkes 36 yard pass to Andy Smith (Smith kick)
Dickinson: Joe Fennessey 82 yard interception (Shorb kick)
MSU-N: Kerkes 29 yard pass to Crawford (Smith kick)
MSU-N: Utterback 1 yard run (Smith kick)
Dickinson: Mike Luther 1 yard run (kick failed)
Dickinson: Jace Schillinger 1 yard run
(two-point conversion failed)
MSU-N: Kerkes 19 yard pass to Crawford (Smith kick)
Dickinson: Walker 26 yard pass to Justin Jung
RUSHING Dickinson: Johnson 6-29, Walker 10-16, Luther 10-16, Schillinger 8-10, Frank Renner 3-7. MSU-N: Utterback 13-87, Ramsey 7-55, Crawford 12-42, Olsen 5-34, Kerkes 7-22, Dan Yeager 2-17.
PASSING Dickinson: Walker 12-22-1 220. MSU-N: Kerkes 14-26-2 163, Chris Jackson 2-2-0 18.
RECEIVING Dickinson: Jung 3-89, Nelson 3-54, Sarronc Boyd 1-33, Luther 4-26, Hugo Anderson 1-18. MSU-N: Smith 7-70, Crawford 4-68, Woodward 3-26, Yeager 2-17.