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Northern Notebook: Takeaways a key factor for Lights

MSU-Northern Game Day Notebook

 

September 4, 2018

Colin Thompson

MSU-Northern's Jett Robertson runs the ball during Saturday's Frontier Conference game against Rocky Mountain College in Havre. Rocky's defense was as advertised but, Robertson still rumbled for nearly 100 yards on the day.

By the time the clock struck triple zero at Blue Pony Stadium last Saturday it was clear that Rocky Mountain College was simply a better football team than Montana State University-Northern.

However, that doesn't change the fact that the Lights missed a bunch of opportunities to make the game much more competitive and one of the biggest missed opportunities for MSU-N came in the red zone. After being highly productive in the red area against Mayville State in the season opener, the Lights went 0-for-4 against Rocky and that was a huge part of why the final score ending up so lopsided.

"It just came down to execution," Lights quarterback Tommy Wilson said. "We would get ourselves down there and then weren't able to take advantage because of fumbles or penalties. We just didn't execute down there (red zone). That was something we did in the first game, so we need to watch the film and evaluate it and try to be better next week."

Northern made a slew of mistakes once it did get the ball into scoring position and two of the most costly came in the second quarter. MSU-N already turned it over on downs in the red zone in the first quarter and after getting pushed to fourth down by the Rocky defense on the Lights second attempt, head coach Andrew Rolin sent out the field-goal team. Yet, instead of getting three points, the Bears blocked the kick and sent them away without any points. The Lights also came up empty down 24-0, as Jett Robertson fumbled. A fumbled snap by Wilson also led a turnover on downs early in the fourth quarter, on the fourth-trip inside the 20 for MSU-N that didn't result in points.

Opportunistic Defense

Coming into the game, there was no question that Rocky had one of the top defenses in the NAIA and Saturday against the Lights, they proved it all over again. After shutting out Carroll College in the season opener, the Bears held Northern scoreless for three more quarters before the Lights finally hit paydirt. That means Rocky went 118 minutes of game time and seven full quarters without giving up a single point this season. No matter how you look at it, that's impressive.

Yet, the Northern defense, even though it allowed 564 total yards, still made some impact plays. Defensive back Morgan McCrary forced a fumble and recovered two others, while freshman linebacker Chase Gilbert intercepted a pass in the third quarter. Obviously, allowing 51 points isn't the goal of any defense but forcing three turnovers is a solid trend MSU-N hopes to continue, although next time, Rolin hopes his team can cash in.

"We took the ball away on defense," Rolin said. "We just didn't take advantage of those sudden-change opportunities. We have to cash in there and so that's something we need to get better at this week."

Robertson goes over 100 again

While Robertson just missed getting 100 yards on the ground again Rocky, settling for 96 on 24 carries, he did average four yards per attempt against a solid defense and with one catch for 17 yards, he wound up with 113 yards of total offense.

Robertson also made a couple of first-down runs on the Lights scoring drive, including a 15-yarder that set them up with a first-and-10 at the Rocky 36. But all in all, he was a consistent force on the ground and the fact that he churned out 96 yards, in a blowout, against a top-notch defense,is a good sign moving forward. It also keeps Robertson on track for a 1,000-yard season.

"I was proud of what Jett did," Rolin said. "And he is going to do that all season long. He is one of our leaders, one of our vocal leaders and he's a guy that is never going to quit and is never going to stop fighting. He's the kind of guy that we want here at Northern and we are just going to keep trying to find more guys like him."

 

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