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Lights try to stop Yotes in a Frontier finale

 

November 10, 2017

Colin Thompson

B.J. Peters and the Montana State University-Northern Lights play their final game of 2017 Saturday when they travel to the College of Idaho.

The final game of the season is always important, but when it comes to the Frontier Conference battle between Montana State University-Northern and the College of Idaho this Saturday, both teams have a lot on the line.

For the Yotes, who are 5-4 in the Frontier and 5-5 overall, a winning season is at stake as they would finish 6-4 in the Frontier and 6-5 overall with a victory. Northern, which is 1-9 overall and 0-9 in the Frontier, also has plenty at stake, as it looks to avoid its second winless season in conference play in the past three years. MSU-N can also surpass its win total from 2016 if it's successful. Kickoff between the Lights and Yotes is scheduled for noon. in Caldwell, Idaho.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Northern interim head coach Jake Eldridge said. “We are going down to play in a tough environment against a very good team. I think they lead the conference in attendance, so it’s an exciting place to play. It’s senior day for them and I think this is the first time they have had fourth- and fifth-year seniors in their program. So they are going be fired up and ready to go.”

While the Yotes have only been playing football for a few seasons in the Frontier, C of I has quickly established itself as one of the league’s up-and-coming programs. Just last weekend, the Yotes got arguably the biggest win school history, as they blew out Montana Tech 64-35. One reason for the Yotes' success this season, has been their ability to run the football. In fact, they do it better than any team in the Frontier, leading the conference with an average of 227 yards per game. They also have 28 rushing touchdowns, including 12 from Darius-James Peterson, who is their leading rusher with 1,011 yards and an average of 5.4 a carry. Yet, what makes Peterson so dangerous is that he’s the Yotes' quarterback. The dual-threat also has 1,820 yards passing, completes 55 percent of his throws and has eight touchdown passes, compared to 12 interceptions. In addition to Peterson, the Yotes also run the ball with Nick Calzaretta, Zach Garzoli and Mike Kirby, who have combined for close to 1,000 yards.

“They are a balanced team because they do throw the ball quite a bit,” Eldridge said, “but their run game is special. They like to do a lot of power stuff, but a lot of it starts with the quarterback. He’s a tremendous athlete and we know that stopping them is going to be a big challenge. Stopping the run hasn’t really been a strength of ours this season, but we have really focused on all the little things this week and we are looking forward to the opportunity.”

Even though the Yotes are more productive on the ground, they still averaged 201.5 yards per game through the air, which ranks sixth in the Frontier. Shayne Robinson, who has 30 receptions for 518 yards is the top target in the passing game.

College of Idaho also ranks fourth in the Frontier in points scored (27.7), but the Yotes are also getting it done defensively, too, ranking fourth in the conference in both yards allowed (410) and scoring defense (27.3). The Yotes are also among the most effective teams at pressuring the quarterback, as they come in with 27 sacks, which is second in the Frontier behind only Southern Oregon.

Leading the charge on defense for the College of Idaho will be All-American defensive back Nate Moore, who leads the Yotes with 91 tackles, five tackles for loss and two interceptions.

“(Moore) he is very good on the back end,” Eldridge said. “He’s a tremendous athlete. They always play with two guys hanging over the top and play a 4-2-5 look, so they really try to box you in and make you keep things inside. But you know, our offensive line has had a good week of practice and know the things they are doing, they understand the front. Now, we just need to go out and execute it.”

Moving the ball and scoring points has been an issue all season long for MSU-N. The Lights rank last in scoring offense (16.3) and in total offense (333.2). The running game has been solid with Trey Blanchard and B.J. Peters, while the passing game has been up and down, regardless of who is under center.

Bryce Missey has started the past two games for Northern, but in the season finale, the Lights will go with Tommy Wilson, who began the season at the starting quarterback. Yet, Eldridge said, like last week against Southern Oregon, all three quarterbacks will play. Dylan Cook will also get snaps again, as well.

For the season, Wilson is completing 53 percent of his passes and has thrown eight touchdowns. He also has 14 interceptions. Cook, who rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown last week, should see more carries but will also get some chances to throw. Marvin Williams, Beau Wilhelm, Caymus Thomas and Seth Roemmele will be the top targets of whoever is throwing the football.

Garret Fowler will lead the Northern defense into action as the team’s leading tackler with 105. He also has two interceptions.

While a win on the road against one the Frontier’s top teams seems like a tall order, Eldridge does have experience winning season-ending games as an interim head coach. He led the Lights to an upset victory on the road back in 2014 against Rocky Mountain College and would love nothing more than to see history repeat itself.

“It was two entirely different teams and two entirely different seasons,” Eldridge said. “But that team did find a way to win on a last-second field goal. We know it’s the last game and the last game for those seniors, so you want to go out on a positive note. Obviously, if we were able to win it would be huge, beating a really good team, on the road, whether it’s the first game or the last game, is a big deal.”

The Lights and Yotes will go head-to-head Saturday at noon.

One More

MSU-Northern Lights (0-9, 1-9) at College of Idaho Yotes (5-4, 5-5)

Saturday, 12 p.m.

Caldwell, Idaho

Streaming: www.msun.edu/athletics

Radio: 92.5 KPQX FM

Twitter: Twitter/Havredaily

 

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