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Frontier Notebook: Tech smashes multiple NAIA records in Butte

Frontier Conference Notebook

 

October 25, 2017

Havre Daily News/Coln Thompson

Montana Tech's Dion Williams is the leading receiver in the Frontier Conference. Last week, Williams and the Orediggers scored 93 points against MSU-Northern.

There isn't a lot of positives to take away from the Montana State University-Northern Lights' 93-19 loss at Montana Tech last Saturday in Butte. Unless you're the Orediggers.

For the second time in a month, Montana Tech set multiple offensive records against the Lights. On Sept. 9, the Orediggers scored a then school-record 70 points, and set another school record for total offense when they beat the Lights 70-27 at Blue pony Stadium.

Things got worse for the Lights however, or better for Tech, depending on which way it's looked at, last Saturday in Alumni Coliseum. Tech's 93 points was a new school record and so was its 932 yards of offense, as well as its 519 yards rushing. Interestingly, the Orediggers had one less first down in Saturday's affair than they did in their win last month in Havre. Tech's 932 yards of offense appears to have set a new NAIA single-game record. The previous high listed at NAIA.org was 914 by Lenoir-Rhyne in 1975 and Morningside in 2014. Tech also tied the record for most touchdowns scored in a game with 12.

What those numbers also did was garner attention from large media outlets, such as ESPN and Bleacher Report, as well as move Tech's season totals way up. Going into its home game with Rocky Mountain College this Saturday, Tech is now averaging 51 points per game, 610 yards of offense per outing and 367 yards passing. Tech is second in the NAIA in both passing and total offense, third in first downs and fifth in scoring offense.

And yet, the Orediggers, for all their offensive fireworks, are still looking up at Southern Oregon in the Frontier Conference standings. SOU, which has one of the top-rated defense in the NAIA, improved to 7-0 last Saturday with a shutdown win against College of Idaho, and the highly-anticipated matchup between the Diggers and Raiders is now a mere three weeks away.

Meanwhile, the Lights, have season left, too. They will come home and look to regroup this Saturday when they host 2-5 Carroll College, but they will do it without head coach Aaron Christensen, who resigned this morning. The Fighting Saints have struggled mightily offensively thus far, but they did knock off Rocky last Saturday in Helena, and they own a 34-3 win over the Lights last month in Helena. Still, Northern last Frontier Conference win came against the Saints just over a year ago, so Saturday's game at Blue Pony Stadium will be an intriguing one no doubt.

Playoff Update

For the fourth straight season, Carroll College isn't going to the NAIA playoffs. But, last Saturday, the Saints made sure a third Frontier team isn't getting in either. Rocky was the league's last hope at getting three Frontier squads into the playoffs, but that dream died on the new turf at Herb Klindt Field with Carroll's 16-3 victory.

The Fighting Saints absolutely shut down Rocky's vaunted running attack, and by game's end, the Bears had tallied just 260 yards of offense, including just 90 yards through the air, and all they managed on the scoreboard was one Griff Amies field goal. Carroll's defense was staunch throughout the contest, limiting the Bears to just 14 first downs and 167 yards on the ground. Just one week earlier, Rocky had rushed for nearly 400 yards against Northern.

Now, with RMC sitting at 4-4 overall, including a season-opening loss to Dickinson State, and UM-Western also at 4-4 overall, there is literally no chance the Frontier can get three teams into the playoffs. Western's playoff hopes are not completely dead however, as the Bulldogs could win out, which would include a win over Southern Oregon, and hope the Raiders lose all three of their remaining games, and that long-shot scenario would then be enough to possibly get the Dawgs into the playoffs over SOU. But a lot would have to happen, including the Dawgs beating the unbeaten Raiders this Saturday in Raider Stadium.

More likely, however, is with Rocky's loss to Carroll, the Frontier is down to a two-team horse race, and the rest of the league is just trying to win as many games as it can and finish the season on a positive note.

Defensive

After a slow start to the 2017 season, Carroll College's Alec Basterrechea is coming on strong. The senior has three sacks in his last three games, and is up to seven tackles for loss on the year.

A returning All-Conference performer, Basterrechea will be a handful for Northern's offensive line to deal with Saturday. But, he won't be the only defensive linemen making waves as of late on the field.

Northern freshman Josh Wright is starting to emerge as a standout. Despite the Lights' defensive struggles, Wright has two sacks on the season and is showing flashes of potential for the future. MSU-N's defense, which is led by senior Garet Fowler, who leads the Frontier with 89 tackles, is riddled with injuries right now, but Wright is becoming a force up front.

 

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