By Harvey Brock
The Montana Tech Orediggers literally stepped into a hornet's nest, then blocked a last-second Montana State University-Northern field goal attempt to escape with a 17-14 victory Saturday.
"Senior running back Justin Johnson stepped on a hornet's nest during pre-game warm-ups at Pony Field and was unavailable for most of the game," Tech head coach Bob Green said.
"Credit coach Walt Currie. He had his kids ready to play. Their defensive line played great. We couldn't block them. Their quarterback, (Brandon) Kerkes did a great job scrambling, particularly on that last drive. "
A late-game field goal by Chris Casne made the difference for Tech, he added.
Neither team could do anything with their opening possessions. On their second possession, Northern marched 73 yards on 10 plays to take the early lead. Junior tailback Travis Crawford scored on a six-yard sweep set up by a 44-yard Kerkes pass to wide receiver Tanner Woodward. The extra point was no good.
Tech got on the scoreboard as the first quarter closed. Following a 50-yard pass from quarterback Willard Skyler to receiver Renzy Kelly, Tech scored on a one-yard run by tailback Jay LeProwse. The extra point kick was good.
Lights linebacker Mark Nay recovered a Tech fumble one of four Tech turnovers on the day just inside midfield. MSU-N needed only two minutes to
retake the lead on a 10-yard Kerkes touchdown pass to wide receiver Andy Smith. Kerkes again found Smith in the corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion. MSU-N's final first half scoring opportunity failed when kicker Kris Marshall's 26-yard field goal attempt was wide left.
The third quarter was controlled by the defenses as neither team could score.
Tech scored next in the fourth quarter on a Chris Casne 41-yard field goal. The Orediggers retook the lead with 1:40 left in the game on an 11-yard fourth down run by Jay LeProwse. Leprowse led all rushers with 136 yards on 30 tries. The extra point was good.
Beginning on their own 20-yard line, the Lights, led by the scrambling and passing of Kerkes, moved the ball to the eight-yard line of Tech. Montana Tech blocked a last-second field goal attempt that would have put the game into overtime.
"To lose at the end of the game like that is really hard," Currie said. "We keep beating people up, and losing at the end. We can't seem to get over the hump. We must not have any lucky stars.
He added, "We have proved that we can play with the best. These guys are leading the conference and this is twice we should have beaten these guys. "