Lighting up the spring

Northern offense scores big in annual spring game


April 22, 2019

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Bryce Bumgardner hauls in a pass during Saturday's MSU-N spring game in Havre. The game marked the end of 2019 spring ball, a spring in which second-year head coach Andrew Rolin said, his team made big strides.

If you are going to win in college football, at any level, including the Frontier Conference, then you have to be able to score points quickly and with what we saw during the Montana State University-Northern football spring game Saturday, the Lights might be able to do that in 2019.

Certainly, building an explosive offense has been on the agenda for head coach Andrew Rolin, but in his first season at the helm, the Light were the worst offensive teams in the Frontier on their way to a winless season in conference play and just one win overall.

But in a controlled scrimmage Saturday on campus at the MSU-N practice field, redshirt freshman quarterback Brenden Medina lit it up, throwing for more than 400 yards and eight touchdowns as the offense beat the defense in coach Rolin's designed scoring system 62-16.

"We talk a lot about continuous effort and continuous improvement and looking back on last spring, we improved a lot," Rolin said. "Just within this spring, we have made a lot of improvements. We are playing with better technique and better effort and that's all I can ask of these kids right now."

Part of the reason Medina had so many touchdowns in the scrimmage, is because he was the only quarterback. He took all the reps for the Lights offensively and responded early with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Bumgardner on the opening series. Bumgardner caught the ball on the sideline than tight-roped his way in for a score. It turned out to be one of four touchdown passes that covered at least 40 yards during the scrimmage, as Medina also hooked up Marvin Williams, Cal Holgate and James Gilham on lengthy touchdowns, too.

"It usually takes us a couple of plays to get going but once we get everything into place, we get rolling," Medina said. "We look good when we are rolling but when we aren't, we need to pick it up. I think when everyone knows what they are doing, we can be a really good offense."

After a quick start, the offense sputtered and was stopped on five straight possessions by the Lights defense, which proved to be stout against the run and held in a number of short-yardage situations, including a fourth-and-one when the offense was just outside the red zone. Both Samuel Braboy and Andrez Trahan-Proctor struggled to find much running room on the ground and as a team, Northern failed to reach 100 yards.

But there were good moments on the ground, too. After a 35-yard pass from Medina to rising sophomore Keagan Stroop, Trahan Proctor scored from six yards out. Stroop also scored a rushing touchdown later in the scrimmage on a reverse and added a touchdown reception later on.

Stroop was one wideout making plays but he wasn't alone. After the Lights got into a rhythm, just about everything seem to be working and with each drive starting closer to the goal line, as the coaching staff progressively moved the starting position down the field, finding the end zone seemed easier and easier.

Three of the touchdowns came in the red zone period. Stroop scored on a reverse and then Medina threw a touchdown pass to Williams, before capping the scrimmage with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Bumgardner, converting a 4th-and-20 in the process.

"Everybody was doing really well," Bumgardner said. "I was able to come up with that last catch. I am just trying to do whatever I can to make a play."

The fact that Bumgardner, Stroop, Williams, Holgate and Gilham were all able to come up with big plays had to be promising for the offense, but it didn't come as a shock to Bumgardner, the senior wideout.

"I think we all get more excited to see each other make plays," Bumgardner said. "We talk about coming up with those 50/50 balls all the time. We know that we have to go up and make those plays. Sometimes a game is riding on us, and we need to make a play and get the energy back up. You know if you can come down with a catch for something like 40 yards, it's a huge turning point for the rest of the game."

The defense allowed some scores late but was able to string together a few stops early including a couple of three-and-outs, which earned it extra points. Yet, the defense, which got seven points for a turnover, forced only one as Caleb Knoche intercepted a Medina pass. Outside of that, the offense played pretty clean football outside of a few penalties. There were zero fumbles and that was Medina's only interception.

"Defensively, I will say it from last year, we weren't great," Rolin said. "This year I think we have made huge improvements. That has started up front. We have focused on tackling and technique and it has shown. Guys were out there making tackles, we were stopping the run and getting guys on the ground."

Overall, Rolin was happy with the work his team put in this spring, knowing there is still much to do before the season opener at Arizona Christian in Phoenix Aug. 31.

"I am happy with what we did this spring," Rolin said. "But I am in no way satisfied."

The Lights open the 2019 season Aug. 31 at Arizona Christian.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Northern's James Gilham is hit by a defender during Saturday's spring game in Havre.


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