By Ryan Ballard, Idaho State Journal Sports
POCATELLO True to the predictions of Idaho State football players and coaches, their only opponent on Saturday night at Holt Arena was themselves.
Well, Montana State-Northern did put players on the field, but they did little to impede the Bengals' progress as ISU rolled to a 55-0 victory.
For the first two drives of the game, the Bengals (2-1 overall, 0-1 in the Big Sky) beat themselves. An interception in the end zone ended drive No. 1, while an offensive pass interference call stalled the second drive, forcing ISU to punt.
"A lot of things went really well," said ISU head coach Larry Lewis. "The only thing I was really disappointed with was that I didn't feel like we were really hitting on all cylinders when we came out at the beginning.
"Although, we did score and move the ball and do the things we needed to win, which I guess is the mark of a team that's coming together, that you can still do those things and put points on the board."
A textbook run fake and bootleg by Doug Baughman finally got ISU on the board as he found Charles James in the end zone. Jason Girley, who was dangerous all night returning kicks, took a punt back a career-best 63 yards for the second ISU tally of the game.
"I just saw the opening, my guys blocked for me, which I have to thank them for and when I saw the end zone, my eyes got real big," said Girley of his punt return, the eighth longest for a touchdown in school history.
Javier Garcia hit two field goals in the first half, including a career-long 47 yarder.
The Bengals were dominant on defense as well. MSU-N had 12 yards of total offense in the first quarter (84 for the half) and didn't make a first down until four minutes remained in the half. That first down was part of a drive that set up a field goal attempt with 52 seconds left in the half, but a big block by Donell McNeal left the Northern Lights with a goose egg.
Baughman moved the team efficiently in the time remaining, heaving a 38-yard pass to Jermaine Anderson streaking into the end zone as the half ended, with ISU leading 27-0.
Things didn't get much better for the Lights in the second half. On their first drive, Bart Brooks jarred the ball loose from a receiver and LaDerick Daniels recovered for the Bengals. On the next play Baughman threw a 53-yard strike to James as he sped downfield for the score. On the following drive MSU-N moved deep into Bengal territory before quarterback Brandon Kerkes put the pigskin on the turf following a shot to the back by Mark Weivoda. Matt Proffitt was there for the recovery.
All told the Bengal defense forced four turnovers, including a Cantrell Hayes 42-yard interception return for a touchdown. Wide receiver Charles James, who had three catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns, was appreciative of the Bengal defense, which recorded its first shutout since Sept. 21, 1996.
"The defense that we have here can go against any big-time D-IA teams," James said. "We've got a big, big D-line, we've got good corners, good safeties, good linebackers. I'm happy and grateful that they can take care of business when we're slacking. They can hold it down when the offense is struggling."
The Bengals, who limited MSU-N to 204 total yards, while grinding out 429 yards of offense will look to continue Saturday night's success next weekend when they travel to Flagstaff to play Northern Arizona.
"Momentum is a big thing," Lewis said. "Teams that win build momentum. That was what we wanted to do in this game was build momentum going into NAU."
Montana St.-Northern 0 0 0 0 0
Idaho St. 14 13 14 14 55
ISUJames 24 pass from Baughman (Garcia kick)
ISUGirley 63 punt return (Garcia kick)
ISUFG Garcia 22
ISUFG Garcia 47
ISUAnderson 38 pass from Baughman (Garcia kick)
ISUJames 53 pass from Baughman (Garcia kick)
ISUBell 2 yd run (Garcia kick)
ISUHayes 42 interception return (Garcia kick)
ISUMitchell 4 run (Garcia kick)
RUSHING Montana St.-Northern, Ryan Utterback 11-39, Travis Crawford 9-34, Chad Olsen 3-15, Dan Yeager 2-5, Chris Hess 2-3, Scott Ramsey 2-2, Bobby Vanek 1-minus 2, Brandon Kerkes 7-minus 24. Idaho St., Mike Jones 14-75, Troy Bell 16-63, Caleb Eastman 3-32, Isaac Mitchell 4-23, Brett Fowler 1-5, Jason Girley 1-2, Team 3-minus 7.
PASSING Montana St.-Northern, Brandon Kerkes 9-23-1-132, Chris Hess 0-1-1-0. Idaho St., Doug Baughman 13-23-1-214, Caleb Eastman 4-7-0-22.
RECEIVING Montana St.-Northern, Andy Smith 5-45, Tanner Woodward 2-30, Dan Yeager 1-40, Ryan Utterback 1-17. Idaho St., Brett Fowler 6-71, Charles James 3-83, Jermain Anderson 2-47, J. Wilkerson 2-14, Jerry Troyer 1-10, Mike Golightly 1-9, Sale' Key 1-4, Mike Clark 1-minus 2.