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MSU-N Notebook: Lights show unity in tough defeat

MSU-Northern Game Day Notebook

 

October 30, 2017

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

The Montana State University-Northern defense tries to bring down Carroll College running back Ryan Walsh during Saturday's game at Blue Pony Stadium. The Fighting Saints rushed for over 500 yards in their 59-7 win, while the Lights are thin on defense, and many starters are out with injuries.

Late in the first quarter of Saturday's Frontier Conference game between the Montana State University-Northern Lights and Carroll College Fighting Saints it was clear, the Lights were not going to repeat last September's magical win over the Saints inside Blue Pony Stadium.

But something else was pretty clear, too - for all that the Lights have went through in the last seven days, they weren't going to lay down either. No, from the time Northern came out of the tunnel, and when Steven Fernandez forced a Ryan Walsh fumble before he scored on Carroll's opening possession, it was obvious, the Lights were engaged, mentally, spiritually and physically.

In end, effort and desire wasn't enough, as Carroll rushed for over 500 yards, and beat the Lights 59-7. But Northern showed something internally, it's not giving up on football, this season, and beyond.

"We actually had a great week of practice," senior Garet Fowler said. "It didn't show on the scoreboard and that does matter. But I think we showed today that we're sticking together through all of this. That this is about we and not I. I thought every guy who was one the field today played as hard as they could."

Indeed. Fowler finished with 11 tackles, and while Carroll seemed to run the ball at will, some of that was due to so many injuries on an already young Northern defense. But MSU-N still had moments where it showed flashes of what could be, on both sides of the ball. Freshman Josh Wright had another big game up front, as did freshman Joe Fehr. Fowler, Fernandez and Alec Wagner were all their usual selves at linebacker, and red-shirt freshman Dylan Cook showed off his unique skill set at quarterback, while also registering a tackle on punt return. Cook isn't just a QB for the Lights, and possibly the one for Northern's future, but he's also MSU-N's long snapper.

No, there's no denying Carroll dominated Saturday's contest. After all, the Saints rang up more than 600 yards of offense and surrendered just 97 to the Lights. But Northern, a team that has every reason imaginable to phone in the rest of the season, did anything but that against the Saints.

"Everybody is on board," Fowler said. "Having coach resign was a shock at first, but pretty quickly, everybody came together and said, we just need to step up and keep playing, keep fighting. And coach Eldridge did a great job all week of bringing us together, of motivating us and getting us ready to get back out there."

Dual Threat

Everybody is used to seeing Carroll run the football. It's been a trademark of Fighting Saints' football for years. But Saturday, Carroll did a lot of damage on the ground in an un-Carroll-like fashion.

Freshman QB Reese Hiibel, starting for injured senior Tanner Gustavsen, showed off his wheels with over 140 yards and a touchdown on the ground, while throwing for two more. But Carroll got even more creative, using WR Troy Arntson has a wildcat quarterback, and all Arntson did was throw a touchdown pass and rush for 40 more yards on just three carries. Brother Ryan Arntson also rushed 14 times for 128 yards, while starting tailback Major Ali and Ryan Walsh combined for over 140 more.

Yes, Carroll's running game was on full display Saturday, and while it may not have been the type of running attack the Saints used to win six national championships under head coach Mike Van Diest, it certainly got the job done against the Lights.

Pressure

While Northern's battered and bruised defense had no answer for Carroll's offense, the Lights' offensive line was also beat up Saturday, and that led to too much pressure on MSU-N's three quarterbacks.

Freshman Bryce Missey got the start and was sacked twice, while completing just five passes on the day. Dylan Cook played well in reserve but was also sacked or was tackled for a loss four different times, and late in the game Tommy Wilson didn't fare much better, as he went just 1-for-3, while throwing an interception to McBride Galt.

Carroll's defensive pressure wasn't limited to the quarterback either. Northern starting tailback Trey Blanchard was held to just 12 yards on eight carries, while B.J. Peters was stuffed for -2 yards on three carries. Cook was the Lights' leading rusher with 33 yards, but against Carroll's massive defensive line, led by Alec Basterrechea, the Lights averaged fewer than two yards per play, and less than one yard per carry for the entire game.

The Fighting Saints have now allowed just 10 points and just shy of 400 tards of offense in the their last two games, both wins. One of those games included a win over Rocky Mountain College, which just beat Montana Tech on a last-second field goal Saturday.

 

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