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Digging Machine: No. 6 Orediggers 70, Lights 27

Nationally ranked Tech smashes records in Lights' home debut


September 11, 2017

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern defensive backs Jarrod Lucas, left, and Dylan Kelley, right, hit Montana Tech's Jed Fike during Saturday's Frontier Conference game at Blue Pony Stadium. The No. 6 Orediggers outscored the Lights 70-27.

The Montana State University-Northern Lights knew exactly what they were up against in their home opener against the Montana Tech Orediggers. And that's why the start to Saturday's Frontier Conference game inside a sweltering and smoky Blue Pony Stadium was so exciting.

On just Northern's second play from scrimmage, junior quarterback Tommy Wilson found freshman Marvin Williams streaking up the right sideline, and with the catch in hand Williams turned the play into an 82-yard touchdown and a 6-0 Northern lead just :40 into the contest.

And while the play ignited the Northern faithful into a frenzy, in the end, it did nothing to deter the Orediggers as they scored 28 unanswered points in the first half on their way to a rousing 70-27 win.

"We saw it on film, and we saw it out here today," Northern head coach Aaron Christensen said. "They (Orediggers) are a very good football team and they got it rolling. They played really well in all phases of the game.

"But at the same time, we didn't play good enough," he added. "We did some good things throughout the game, but we know we have to play better."

The Lights did plenty of good things. In a game dominated by offense, Northern rolled up 529 yards on what figures to be a dominant Tech defense. And on the other side of the ball, Northern forced four Tech turnovers.

But, the Lights also surrendered an incredible, 70 points, 818 yards and 39 first downs to the Diggers, all Montana Tech school records.

"You have to tip your hat to Montana Tech," Christensen said. "They played really well, especially offensively. They have a great quarterback and he hurt us in a lot of different ways today. They're the No. 6 team in the country for a reason and they showed it today.

"For us, we just gave up way too many big plays," he continued. "Defensively, we struggled giving up those huge chunks and we just couldn't get off the field nearly enough to slow them down."

Especially after the Lights' dazzling start, which seemed only to lend a spark to Tech stars Quinn McQueary and Jed Fike.

Following Northern's opening score, McQueary quickly answered with two big passes and a one-yard touchdown run. Northern then made a great stand when Dylan Kelley intercepted McQueary in the endzone on Tech's next possession. But, with 3:01 left in the first quarter McQueary struck again with a 3-yard TD run. Then he closed the first stanza with a four-play drive resulting in a touchdown pass to Chris Kelly, giving Tech a 21-6 lead - a lead that would balloon to 28-6 when McQueary hit Dion Williams for a score early in the second period.

The Lights finally stopped the barrage when Wilson led a quick-strike drive that needed just three plays to reach pay dirt, ending with Williams' second TD catch of the day. The drive was keyed by a spectacular one-handed grab by senior Beau Wilhelm one play before the touchdown. Wilson would add a touchdown pass to Seth Roemmele just before the close of the half, but the Lights still trailed 42-20 at intermission.

"Offensively, I thought we did some good things in the first half, and defensively, too. We moved the ball and created a couple of turnovers," Christensen said. "But we didn't come out and play with the same consistency in the second half. Offensively, we stopped finishing drives and that's where the game really got away from us. So, we've got to do a much better job of keeping the momentum that we are able to build offensively. We've just got to be more consistent."

Indeed. Any notion of a Northern comeback was put to rest as the Orediggers scored four times in the third quarter, with Fike and Braxton Porter each scoring on TD runs and McQueary throwing a scoring strike to Chris Lachance. By the time the period ended, the Lights were trailing 63-20, and a late touchdown pass by freshman Bryce Missey to Roemmele wasn't nearly enough to counter Tech's record-setting day, which included a 23-for-31, 394-yard, four touchdown passing performance by McQueary, as well as 215 yards on the ground from Fike. Overall, Tech rushed for 381 yards on just 44 totes.

"That's pretty impressive," Montana Tech coach Chuck Morrell said. "Our guys basically put that together in three quarters."

But as good as the Orediggers were offensively, and they were spectacular, there were bright spots for the Lights, and plenty of them. Tech has national championship aspirations, and yet, the Lights tallied 529 yards of offense, 27 first downs and ran 92 plays. Wilson threw for 354 yards and three scores, while Trey Blanchard rushed for 82 more. Northern quarterbacks completed passes to 15 different MSU-N receivers, led by Williams' 107 yards on six grabs. Fotios Jordanoglou, Roemmele and B.J. Peters each had three catches.

"You saw that we can move the ball offensively," Christensen said. "I was pleased with the way we did that in the first half. Tech has a very good defense, and we were able to do some things there. Tommy had a pretty good game. It's just that consistency. We've got to be able to do that for four quarters."

On the other side, in terms of the scoreboard and stats, it was a long afternoon for a young MSU-N defense. But still, the Lights had their moments. They forced several punts in the first half, while Kelley and Dequincy Bergen each had interceptions. Steven Fernandez and Alec Wagner also forced fumbles. Garet Fowler paced the MSU-N defense with 13 tackles, while Devariej Criss had 12 and Bergen added nine. However, Tech had too much firepower on offense, like McQueary also rushing for 83 yards and Sean Sullivan catching eight balls for 119 as the Diggers improved to 2-0 in the Frontier Conference, while Northern slipped to 0-2.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Trey Blanchard breaks off a long run during Saturday's Frontier Conference game between the Lights and Montana Tech at Blue Pony Stadium. Blanchard rushed for 82 yards and the Lights offense tallied more than 500 yards in the 70-27 loss.

"It's tough because we played pretty well in parts, against a really good football team," Christensen said. "But at the end of the day, we didn't play good enough. We know we have to get better going forward. The effort was there. Our guys played hard and never gave in. We just have to be more consistent in every phase of the game."

The Lights will return to the road this Saturday when they head to Helena to take on the 0-2 Carroll College Fighting Saints. Kickoff in Nelson Stadium is set for 1 p.m. Northern returns home to host UM-Western Sept. 23.

Lights are 0-2 in

Frontier, 0-2 overall; Next Up: at Carroll, Saturday

Lights Notes: Saturday's win was Tech's seventh straight over the Lights. In just two games this season, the Northern defense already has six takeaways, compared to just nine all of last season. In two starts this year, McQueary (Tech) and Wilson (MSU-N) have combined to throw for over 1,000 yards already. The two teams combined to run an astounding 185 plays in a game that took 3:47 to complete. Former CJI standout Justin May had an interception and nine tackles in Saturday's game. Northern plays the Orediggers again Oct. 21 at Alumni Coliseum in Butte.


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