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George Ferguson Column: Even in football, don't judge a book by its cover

From the Fringe...


September 11, 2017

The title of this column says it all. And when it comes to the Montana State University-Northern Lights, and the rest of their 2017 season, it rings true.

You can’t judge these Lights based on what you Saturday afternoon inside Blue Pony Stadium – at least not when looking at the scoreboard.

I know the numbers, I was there. The Montana Tech Orediggers smashed a bunch of offensive school records against the Lights. They put up astronomical offensive numbers and all day, they seemingly raced up and down the field.

But, the Orediggers are also not an ordinary Frontier Conference team right now. The team you saw in Havre Saturday has every single component needed to win the NAIA national championship this fall. And, if Tech stays healthy, it may not even be close come December. I really believe that.

And as good as tech is, the Lights still racked up over 500 yards of offense, first-year quarterback Tommy Wilson threw for over 300 yards and the Lights, in their first home game without Zach McKinley in four years, rushed for nearly 150 more.

No, the Diggers might have dominated on the scoreboard, but, a closer look reveals the game was a far cry from a massacre.

Instead, you have to look deeper at what these Lights have. They have a passing game that is dangerous and explosive, unlike anything they’ve had in many years. They have an offensive line that is big and strong and will continue to help the running game, which is understandably in rebuild mode after the McKinley years, help find its footing. The Lights have an offense that can strike quick, and can sustain drives.

On defense, Northern has talent, but is playing with a lot of youth and inexperience. Graduating your entire starting defensive line will cause that. And that’s what games are for. You can’t simulate game experience, and this Northern defense, will get better and will get stingier as the season goes along.

You also have to look at the landscape of the Frontier itself, because things have certainly changed. Yes, Tech looks almost unbeatable right now, but, nobody else does. And in fact, the Lights were already just mere seconds away from beating a Rocky Mountain College team that just blew out Carroll College in Helena.

So at the end of the day, I don’t care what the scoreboard said in Blue Pony Stadium Saturday. I know the Lights, and head coach Aaron Christensen did, and they should, because, they play to win every game.

But for me, I already know how good this Lights’ team is, and how good they will be going forward. I’ve seen it in practice, I saw it at the near-miss against Rocky, and I saw it yesterday.

Yes, it’s true, wins are all that matter in college football. And, no matter how good I think the Lights are, I can’t predict how many wins they’ll have at the end of this season. But through a fall camp, and two Frontier Conference games this season, I already know these Lights are a good football team and they’re only going to get better.

And just like you can’t always judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge the Lights based solely off what Montana Tech did Saturday either. Instead, just wait and see. These Lights are going to shine bright this season, and into the future. That, I have no doubt about.


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