George Ferguson Column: For the Lights, growing pains come with taking steps forward
From the Fringe...
Last updated 9/16/2019 at 8:15am
The Montana State University-Northern Lights have had flashes of what the future will look like under Andrew Rolin.
But make no mistake, for Rolin and for the Lights, flashes aren’t good enough.
No, the Lights want and expect to win now, and after two Frontier Conference games, the Lights believe they’ve missed chances to beat both the Rocky Mountain College Battlin’ Bears last week, and Montana Western Saturday afternoon inside Blue Pony Stadium.
Instead, in the first two conference games of the season, the Lights have simply let too many chances go by.
“Just too many self-inflicted wounds,” Rolin said. “We just can’t make that many mistakes and expect to win games in this league.”
Don’t misunderstand however, the Lights did plenty right Saturday. They forced four turnovers, they got pressure on the quarterback, they stuffed the Western run game, and they made key plays — even converting two fourth down tries.
And yet, on the scoreboard anyway, the flashes didn’t add up to what the Lights were after.
That’s because, for much of the game, it seemed like, for every step forward the Lights took, they took two steps back.
Case in point were plays like when the Lights forced a fumble that, while recovered by Western, was a massive loss of 15 yards. On the very next play though, Trey Mounts took a Jon Jund screen pass 55 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Another back breaker came in the final three minutes of the second quarter, when the Lights had just scored and were trailing just 17-6. Western was pinned deep too but aided by a pass interference penalty, Western was able to march all the way down the field and score with just four seconds left in the half, upping the lead to 24-6.
Yes, it was just that kind of day for the Lights.
Even when things went right, too may other things went wrong. Northern only had one less first down than the Dawgs, and the Lights possessed the ball for almost 15 more minutes than Western did. Conversely though, the Lights committed 12 penalties for over 100 yards. The Lights also forced four Western turnovers Saturday, which is great, but Northern committed four turnovers itself, making the turnover margin 0 for the second straight week.
Again, it was just one step forward two steps back, and honestly, that’s part of the growing pains when you’re a team on the rise.
“That’s exactly what it felt like out there,” Rolin said. “We would get momentum and then do something that took it away. And Western capitalized on those mistakes.”
Yes, it was easy to see just how good the Lights can, and eventually will be in their home debut Saturday. But, it was also obvious, that process is still ongoing, and one thing is for sure, Rolin and his team will make sure that they keep working to get it right.
“We have the talent to play with anybody. The pieces are in place right now. I believe that,” Rolin said. “But we have to learn to execute at a high level all the time, and not just some of the time. We have to learn from this. We can’t get down about it, or dwell on it, instead, we have to learn from it. And we’re going to. One thing I know is, this team has very high character, and because of that, I know these guys will keep pushing forward. They’ll keep working hard and keep getting better. They’re committed. They’re all in, so that’s what we’ll do, we’ll learn from this and keep moving forward.”
Exactly. It’s clear, the Lights are hell bent on being good. And the mistakes they’re making, they’ll go forward and do whatever it takes to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.