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MAULED: Battlin' Bears 51, Lights 7

Dominant Rocky Mountain College spoils Northern's Frontier debut with a blowout win at Blue Pony Stadium


September 4, 2018

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern tight end Jordan Pugh is tackled by a Rocky Mountain College defender during Saturday's Frontier Conference game at Blue Pony Stadium. The nationally ranked Battlin' Bears roughed up the Lights, 51-7.

The Montana State University-Northern football team sent a message with its season-opening win over Mayville State and it was hoping to send another by upsetting nationally ranked Rocky Mountain College last Saturday at Blue Pony Stadium.

Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned for Northern as the 20th-ranked Battlin Bears proved to be the more talented team. Rocky also took advantage of a number of MSU-N mistakes en route to a 51-7 victory.

"We talk every day about starting fast and we didn't do that," Northern head coach Andrew Rolin said after the loss. "You have to execute in this game. We are a young team, but we need to grow up. We have to be able to move on and fight when we are down. The name of the game is execution. Rocky executed (Saturday) and we didn't. We need to get better as a football team but we will. I guarantee that. Our mindset of continuous improvement is not going to change. We are going to move on and be a better football team. I have no doubt about that."

Rolin said the Lights wanted to start fast, but the team that did it Saturday was Rocky. The Bears forced Northern into a quick three-and-out, then drove 58 yards in nine plays for a touchdown. The drive was capped on a two-yard run by Sam Sparks.

On the second drive, the Lights moved the ball deep into Rocky territory, partially thanks in part to a couple nice runs by Jett Robertson. However, Northern ending up facing a fourth-and-two at the Rocky 14 and on that run, Robertson was stopped short. It was the beginning of a day-long struggle in the red zone for MSU-N.

"We had chances," Rolin said. "We just imploded a bit. We have a good red-zone gameplan going in, we just didn't execute it. We have to be able to take advantage of those opportunities."

Following the stop, Rocky advanced the ball 86 yards in 10 plays. Cody McCombs finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown, making it 14-0 with 2:25 left in the first quarter.

While the offense and defense both got off to rough starts, the Lights special teams also had a blunder in the first quarter, as a punt was blocked and recovered in the end for a safety, giving the Bears a 16-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

"We want to be the team making game-changing plays on special teams," Rolin said. "Rocky did today and we didn't."

In the second quarter, the Bears got some stellar play from their quarterbacks. Jacob Bakken started the game and led two scoring drives in the second stanza that covered 36 and 63 yards. Yet, the first score in the second came via Drew Korf, who came off the bench to throw a 74-yard touchdown strike to Max Gray, giving the Bears a 24-0 edge.

Northern had a chance to get on the board after the Lights forced a takeaway and a 36-yard pass from Tommy Wilson to Jared Eisenbarth got them into the red zone. However, a fumble by Robertson was recovered by the Bears, leaving Northern nothing to show for its three red-zone trips in the first half. Bakken led a scoring drive right after that, finding Lucas Overton for a 19-yard score that made it 31-0. Bakken also hit Overton again from five yards out in the final seconds before half to make 38-0 at intermission.

"I don't want to take anything away from Coach Petrino and his team," Rolin said, "but we shot ourselves in the foot today. We had chances offensively and we didn't execute."

In the third quarter, the Lights continued to sputter offensively and failed to create any scoring opportunities, while on the other side, Bakken hit Josh Kraft on a 22-yard touchdown pass, his third of the game, pushing the lead to 45-0.

Rocky would get up by as much as 51-0 before Northern finally got on the scoreboard. After another missed opportunity in the red zone, which resulted in a turnover on downs, the fourth trip of the game without points for MSU-N, the Lights finally scored on the Bears, the first score in eight quarters of football against the Rocky defense this season. Robertson advanced the ball into Rocky territory with a 15-yard run and a few plays later, Wilson found Marvin Williams in the end zone from 21 yards out to make the final 51-7.

"It was good to be able to put up that last touchdown," Robertson said. "After putting so many points and yards last week, we didn't want to get blanked. We at least kept fighting and I was proud of that."

When it was all said and done, the Bears finished with 564 yards of total offense compared to just 227 for Northern. Northern was 6-of-16 on third downs and just 1-of-5 in the red zone. Northern had one turnover compared to three for the Bears. Bakken, who was not listed as the starting quarterback on the depth chart going in, was stellar, completing 19-of-25 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns. Korf was 3-of-6 for 60 yards and two scores. He also threw the only interception in the game. Sparks paced the Bears on the ground, rushing 10 times for 123 yards. Nathan Dick ran four times for 38 yards and McCombs carried it 10 times for 35 yards and a touchdown. Overton led Rocky's pass catchers with six catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns.

As far as the Lights were concerned, Wilson ended the game going 16-of-30 through the air for 125 yards and a touchdown. He had zero turnovers and was sacked only once. Robertson finished with over 100 total yards for the second straight game. He ran the ball 24 times for 96 yards and also caught one pass for 17, giving him 113 total yards. Eisenbarth hauled in three passes for 43 yards and Williams nabbed two for 22 and a touchdown. Defensively, Chase Gilbert notched an interception, while Morgan McCrary forced a fumble and recovered two others.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's. Jared Eisenbarth, right hauls in a pass during Saturday's Frontier Conference game between the Lights and Rocky Mountain College at Blue Pony Stadium.

Northern will be back in action Saturday night against Montana-Western in Dillon. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. MSU-N then hosts Carroll Sept. 15.

Bear Attacks

Lights are 1-1 overall, 0-1 in Frontier; Next Up: at Western

Saturday night

Lights Notes: Rocky has now won seven straight in the series against the Lights, and have won 10 straight games against Northern at Blue Pony Stadium. RMC's Ryder Rice already has five sacks on the season. Northern quarterbacks have now gone two straight games without thrown an INT, and Saturday was the first game that RMC's Keenan Fagan hadn't recorded in an INT is six starts dating back to the 2017 season. Despite RMC's stout defense, Jett Robertson is well on pace for a 1,000-yard season after a strong showing Saturday. Northern gets another shot at the Bears Oct. 13 in Billings.


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