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Frontier Notebook: Lights set records in coveted win

Frontier Conference Notebook

 

October 5, 2017

Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Trey Blanchard not only helped the Lights beat Mayville State last Saturday, but he also helped his team set a new single-game MSU-N rushing record. For his efforts, Blanchard was named Frontier Conference Offensive Player of the Week.

There’s no denying, wins have been hard to come by for the Montana State University-Northern Lights the last four years. But, the Lights got another big monkey off their back last Saturday at Mayville State.

Not only was Northern’s 43-29 win over the Comets the first of the Lights’ 2017 campaign, and just the second in the last 2-plus seasons, it was also Northern’s first road win in a full three years. Before beating Mayville State, the Lights hadn’t won a road game, of any kind, since they beat the Rocky Mountain College Battlin’ Bears 44-41 Nov. 14, 2014. That’s a long, long time to go without winning on the road, but now, Northern has that streak snapped, just as it snapped a lengthy overall losing streak when it beat Carroll College in September of last year.

And the Lights beat the Comets, on their own turf, in ways that were unfamiliar so far this season.

Prior to the game against Mayville, Northern was averaging a mere 113 yards per game rushing, which was seventh in the Frontier Conference. But against the Comets, the Lights exploded for a school-record 376 yards on 55 carries. The previous record for team rushing in a single game was set all the way back in 2007. Trey Blanchard also had a breakout performance against Mayville, rushing for 179 yards on 26 carries.

Northern’s rush defense was the other major key to victory, and they too set a single-game school record. Including sacks, the Lights held Mayville to -2 yards rushing for the entire game. The previous record for lowest rushing yards against a Northern a team was 21 yards, set in 2006. Coming into last Saturday’s game, the Lights had been allowing over 200 rushing yards per contest, so Saturday’s effort against the Comets was a big, big accomplishment for the young Lights’ defense.

But setting records was never the goal for the Lights. Instead, they were, and continue to be, after wins. That’s the goal, and it remains the goal every week for the Lights going forward. And last week, they accomplished that goal.

Night Lights

For the second straight season, Northern and Eastern Oregon will play a night game. Last year, the Lights hosted the Mounties for a night game at Blue Pony Stadium, and on Saturday, the two teams will do it again, meeting under the lights of Community Stadium in LaGrande, Oregon.

The game will kick off at 7 p.m. P.D.T., and will be another big test for the Lights. Northern hasn’t beaten EOU in four years, and the task will be tall again Saturday night. However, EOU has had its share of struggles so far this season, a season which followed the greatest in Mountie history when they reached the 2016 NAIA semifinals.

So far in 2017 though, EOU has cracked the win column just once, and offensive production has been a key contributor. A year ago, the Mounties averaged over 40 points per game, but this season, they average a mere 21 per contest. They are also dead last in the Frontier in passing offense, which is understandable considering they graduated NAIA All-American quarterback Zach Bartlow. EOU is also seventh in the Frontier in scoring defense, and last in the league in passing defense, which bodes well for the Lights, who, even after setting rushing records last week at Mayville State, are still a past-first offense.

Still, even with EOU struggling this season, the trip will be a tough one for the Lights. The trip out to Mayville was just over 10 hours, and, less than a week later, the Lights will make a 12-hour bus ride to play yet another out-of-state road game.

Halfway Home

This week marks the halfway point in the Frontier season. And two more teams will have byes, as Southern Oregon, which is in first place by a half of a game over Montana Tech, has the week off. Rocky Mountain College also has the week off, and will return to action Oct. 14 when the Battlin’ Bears come to Havre to battle the Lights.

Last week saw Montana Tech, the second unbeaten in the Frontier, as well as UM-Western, Carroll College, EOU and College of Idaho all have bye weeks. They all return to action this weekend, while the Lights do not have an in-season bye this year.

Frontier Honors

The Montana State University-Northern Lights got their first win of the season last Saturday when they beat Mayville State in Mayville, North Dakota. And junior running back Trey Blanchard was a big reason why.

For his efforts against Mayville, Blanchard, a 5-10, 200-pound back from Bloomington, Minnesota, was named Frontier Conference Offensive Player of the Week. Blanchard rushed for 179 yards and a touchdown in the Lights’ 43-29. Blanchard helped MSU-N set a new school record, as Northern rushed for 376 yards as a team. Blanchard now has 419 yards on 73 carries this season.

Southern Oregon linebacker Keegan Lawrence was named the Frontier Defensive Player of the Week. He had 11 tackles and an interception in the Raiders’ win over Rocky Mountain College. MSU-Northern linebacker Garet Fowler was nominated for the defensive award. SOU teammate Marcus Motana was named Special Teams Player of the Week.

 

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