Since day one, alot of the attention has seemed to fall onto Montana State University-Northern quarterback Derek Lear, and all of his receiving weapons. Just look at the stat line from last weekend’s record shattering performance, where Lear connected with eight different receivers for seven touchdowns and 535 yards through the air.
But if anybody out there was wondering if the Lights had a ground game, just ask senior running back Stephen Silva.
Silva has been a rising star on the field but has somewhat been missed from the offense this season. Not that he hasn't been doing his job, or not that he hasn’t been producing for the offense, it is just easy to get overshadowed by what Lear, and weapons like Brandon O’Brien, Kyle Johnston, Orin Johnson and Mick Miller have been able to accomplish this season. I mean just on Saturday, Lear and his receiving core combined for another 231 yards in the air and four touchdowns.
And as impressive as that was, Silva made sure he took full advantage of his touches against the Rocky Mountain Bears on Saturday at the Blue Pony Stadium in Havre.
On 19 carries, Silva managed to rack up an impressive 217 yards. Averaged out, he was able to chip off 11.4 yards per carry. To top it all off, Silva also found his way into the end zone on two separate occasions.
“The offensive line made the blocks so I have to give them credit,” Silva said. “But it was just one on one with the safety after that. And the coaches are always telling me that I just have to beat the safety, and I did that both times. It felt really good (scoring twice) and I almost got my personal goal of the game with three touchdowns. But hitting the open field with big runs felt great.”
Silva’s first scoring jaunt came with 11:22 left in the second quarter. Starting on their own 20-yard line, the Lights ran six total plays, including a stretch of three straight passing plays. But Silva got the call on a lead draw play, and broke free on 53-yard run and score to cap off the drive. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, Silva topped that big play with yet another big time run with 11:18 left in the third quarter. This time the lights were pinned on their own two-yard line and ran just two plays, utilizing Silva’s 11-yards per carry average. Silva grabbed seven yards the first play, but was a blur on his second carry. This time on a zone read Silva said, he was able to break free for a 91-yard score, almost untouched.
“This is exciting,” Silva said after the game. “The last couple of weeks I have really wanted to get that big running game and I finally did. I am happy I did, but it took the entire offense and offensive line for me to do that.
“We needed him to do that,” MSU-N head coach Mark Samson added. “And when you look at our rushing stats, we are ok, we just haven’t gotten those big plays this year. And we did that today, and we need that to make ourselves even better on offense. I still believe you need to rush the ball to be good, and we finally saw Stephen’s (Silva) speed.
The joy Silva had after the big game was undeniable, mainly because the gleaming smile on his face. But unlike many feature backs in leagues all across the country, Silva hasn’t a selfish bone in his body. He knew his time would come in the Lights’ high-powered offense, and he simply did his job until it paid off. He knows what he is capable of, but he also knows what this team is capable of. And without that passing game that strikes fear in the rest of the Frontier Conference, and without his offensive line, Silva knows he wouldn’t have the afternoons like he had on Saturday.
“It is good that we can do both,” Silva said. “We can pass and run the ball and get big plays out of both. We can be very dangerous. When everybody starts clicking, and everybody is on the same page and on a roll, we are very, very dangerous if you ask me.”
Silva and the Lights have a week off before hosting Southern Oregon on Oct. 13 at Blue Pony Stadium.