Lights hope rough weather slows down top-ranked Carroll College
While many people aren't pleased with the early brushing of snow that hit the state, Montana State University-Northern football coach Walt Currie loves it. In fact, he'd like about six to 10 inches more on Saturday just before kickoff.
No, Currie isn't a recreational dog sledder, rather he is hoping the rough weather forecasted for this weekend might slow down the top-ranked Carroll College Fighting Saints when the Lights meet them in Helena.
In a comparison of overall speed, Carroll is a Corvette and Northern more of a snowplow, so Currie hopes a little bit of snow might slow the Carroll wheels down.
"It kind of sounds like it might be nasty," Currie said referring to the weather. "It would be perfect for us. It might slow them down a little and give us a boost."
A boost of any sort would definitely help against the Saints because they are simply dominating teams. In its last four games, Carroll has outscored its opponents 203-44 including a 58-17 win over the Lights on Oct. 4 in Havre.
"It's not like we're the only team in the league to have the crap kicked out of them by Carroll," Currie said. "They've pretty much done it to everyone."
Indeed, Carroll has only played in two really close games this season and that was early in the season. Currie is hoping to make them a little uncomfortable by keeping things close into the fourth quarter.
"We want to make the game ugly, especially if the weather is bad," Currie said. "We want to get into the fourth quarter and be in the ball game. Hopefully, it will force them to do things they haven't done all season."
What the Saints haven't done much all season is play from behind. Carroll has never trailed by more than a touchdown at any time this season. The Saints' offense is so potent that it always seems to answer an opposing team's scores.
"They just keep coming at you on every play," Currie said.
Carroll has the No. 2 scoring offense in NAIA at 42.6 points per game and also second in total offense per game with 492 yards per game.
And the offense all start's with quarterback Tyler Emmert. The sophomore quarterback is in the midst of a fine season, completing 151 of 204 passes (74%) for 2,035 yards and 18 touchdowns while being intercepted only twice.
"He's a stud," Currie said. "He's a dangerous passer, but he is also so agile, sometimes you tend to forget how quick he is until he scrambles for a bunch of yards."
But the Carroll offense hardly stops there, Emmert has perhaps the Frontier Conference's best receiver in senior Mark Gallik.
Gallik has 47 catches for 923 yards which averages out to a gaudy 19.6 yards per catch plus eight touchdown catches on the season. He is joined by Zack Zawacki, Kevin McCutcheon and Matt Gareffa.
Carroll also has an efficient runner in D.J. Dearcorn, who rushed for 117 yards and scored three touchdowns in the previous meeting against the Lights.
Most people believe you never completely stop the Carroll offense, instead you hope to slow it down, which is what Currie is hoping to do.
"Our defense has been shored up a little with some of our players returning," Currie said. "I think we're better defensively than a month ago. Hopefully, it gives us a better chance."
If Northern is to have a better chance, its offense must also play well in the rough conditions. The Lights were out of sync and out of rhythm offensively in last week's 29-22 loss to Montana Tech. They did generate 335 yards of total offense, but much of that came on three possessions.
"We're hoping to run the ball against them, especially if the weather is bad," Currie said. "The weather will place a premium on possessions, so we must take care of the football and not turn it over."
In the previous matchup with Carroll, Northern did score 17 points, the most ever the program scored against the Saints.
"We moved the ball better than we ever have against them," Currie said. "We got some touchdowns and made some things happen on some busted plays.
Another area where Carroll hurt Northern was in special teams. The Saints ran back a kickoff for a touchdown and had several long punt returns for good field position.
"They were so much better than us on special teams," Currie said. "We couldn't catch them on punts or kickoff. They kept themselves in outstanding field position. We certainly don't need to help them out any. We need to make them earn their points from a long way out."
The cold weather has hindered Northern's preparation a little this week, but Currie didn't think it was a major setback.
"It shouldn't affect us too badly preparation-wise," he said. "It's not like we're putting in new things and Carroll isn't going to change everything. We'll spend a little more time in the film room and reinforce the things we need to do and try to do it on the field in some miserable weather."
The last sentence brought a smile to Currie's face as he said it.
"The worse the better," Currie said. "We'll take a little snow and cold and rough weather."
You could almost hear him singing, "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."
Northern and Carroll will kick off at 1 p.m. and the came can be heard on 92.5 KPQX-FM.