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Once Bitten: Western 38, Lights 13

Montana Western plays spoiler in Lights' home debut

 

September 16, 2019

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern running back Cameron Taylor, right, collides with a Montana Western defender during Saturday's Frontier Conference game at Blue Pony Stadium. The 25th-ranked Bulldogs knocked off the Lights 38-13 in what was MSU-N's home debut. For more photos, go to www.havredailynews.com. For more coverage, see Page B4.

The Montana State University-Northern Lights waited a long time to play inside Blue Pony Stadium. To be exact, the Lights had been waiting since Nov. 13 2018. Unfortunately, Northern's first opponent of 2019 seemed to feel right at home in the Pony Stadium.

Saturday afternoon, the No. 25 Montana Western Bulldogs spoiled the Lights' home-opener with a dominant 38-13 win in Havre. The win pushed Western's record to 2-0 while the Lights fell to 0-2 in Frontier Conference play.

And while Western showed its prowess throughout the game, and has now won seven straight times in Havre, Northern head coach Andrew Rolin felt that his team did as much damage to itself as the Dawgs did to the Lights.

"It's frustrating," Rolin said. "I felt like we took a step back from last week when it comes to our execution. Western is a really good football team. They're very good in all three phases. But I really feel like we hurt ourselves way more than they hurt us today."

Nowhere did the Lights hurt themselves more than in penalties and turnovers. Northern had 12 penalties for 137 yards and committed four turnovers. Western was not much better, as the Lights got three takeaways, and the Dawgs committed a whopping 14 penalties for 134 yards.

"We had too many self-inflicted wounds again today," Rolin said. "Way too many penalties. We can't make those mistakes and expect to win football games in this league. And when we did get some breaks, we didn't capitalize on them, and Western did, and that was really the difference in the game."

The Bulldogs did capitalize at opportune times.

Western converted on three third downs on the opening drive of the game, and finished a methodical march down the field with a Jon Jund touchdown run to lead 7-0. Northern's defense however, played strong the rest of the way, and the score remained that way through the first 15 minutes.

Then came Northern's first big miscue. After a huge catch on fourth down by Bryce Bumgardner, the Lights had the ball on the goal line, and appeared to have tied the game. But running back Cameron Taylor was ruled to have fumbled the ball, and while the Lights came away with no points, Western would tack on a Mark Karchenko field goal to go up 10-0 in the second. On Northern's next possession, A Brendan Medina pass would be tipped at the line of scrimmage, and intercepted, and that led to a Trey Mounts score on a screen pass which put the Dawgs ahead 17-0 with 7:43 left in the first half, and gave Western 10 points off Northern turnovers.

"Defensively, I thought we were very good against the run today," Rolin said. "We put our defense in some tough situations today. But we also, as a defense, we have to get off the field on third down, and today, we gave up way too many big plays on third down."

The Lights did answer Mounts' score with an 11-play, 77-yard drive, which included two fourth-down conversions. The drive was capped by a strike from Medina to sophomore Josh Horner from 16 yards out to make the score 17-6 with just three minutes left until the break.

However, Northern was unable to capitalize on the momentum. Instead, the Dawgs went 73 yards in less than three minutes, aided by a couple of costly MSU-N penalties, and Jund plunged in for a score with just four seconds left until halftime, sending the Lights into the break trailing 24-6.

"That hurt," Rolin said. "We felt like we had them stopped a couple of times on that drive, but we just didn't get off the field on third down. That's something we've got to get better at, because if we hold them there, it's a much different game in my opinion."

Indeed. But the Lights were by no means buried at intermission.

And after an Ostin Welch pick early in the third quarter, Northern struck two plays later when Medina connected with Camari Caul-Davis for a 39-yard TD over the middle, bring the score to 24-13 with a ton of time left.

In the end, however, Western had the answers, and Northern could never keep moving forward.

The Dawgs responded to the Lights' score with another screen pass to Mounts, this time the former Belgrade star went 55 yards to put Western ahead 31-13 with 7:37 left in the third. Three minutes later, Jund threw a touchdown pass to Brandon Hunter to make the final score, while the fourth period was marred by each team turning the ball over twice, including two INTs by MSU-N safety and punter Hunter Riley, as well as more penalties.

"Again, it was just too many mistakes," Rolin said. "We had plays all over the yard and we didn't make them. Too many turnovers, too many penalties, and not enough execution."

Plays were there to be made. Northern dominated the time of possession against a potent Western offense, and the Lights had just one less first down than the Dawgs. MSU-N also had 313 yards of offense, including 245 through the air, with Medina going 22-of-48 for two touchdowns and two INTs. Caul-Davis and Marvin Williams Jr., each had five catches, while Jared Eisenbarth had four. Western's stout defense, led by linebacker Joe Caicedo, star Jason Ferris and Kyle Schulte, did combine for 23 tackles, and in all, held the Lights to just 68 yards rushing.

However, Northern's defense did a number on Western's run game, too. The Dawgs rushed for just 63 yards, with star running back Kylar Prante running for just 44 yards. On the flip side, Jund threw for 355 yards on just 15 completions, with Mounts racking up 160 yards on five grabs, Nate Simkins hauling in six passes for 89 yards and Walker McKitrick catching five passes for 88 yards.

The Lights were led by Jaren Maki with 12 tackles, while Shaderius Jenkins had nine. Riley had a huge day with eight tackles and two INTs, while also averaging 36 yards per punt, while B.J. Hatcher and Justin Pfeifer each had tackles for loss and Jenkins earned a fumble recovery.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern quarterback Brendan Medina heads up field during Saturday's game between the Lights and Montana Western at Blue Pony Stadium. It was Medina's first home game as the starting quarterback for the Lights, and he threw a pair of touchdown passes. For more coverage of the game, see Page B4. For more photos, go to www.havredailynews.com.

"There were still good things on both sides of the ball today," Rolin said. "We're a good football team, and we know that. But we didn't execute at a high enough level. So there's no excuses. We have to get better, and we will get better."

The Lights (0-2, 1-2) will travel to Helena Saturday looking to get better when they battle Carroll College. Northern then comes home to host Montana Tech Sept. 28.

Dawg Pound

Lights are 0-2 in Frontier, 1-2 overall; Next Up: at Carroll Saturday

Lights Notes: Horner, a native of Great Falls, caught his first career TD, after missing last season with injury. Welch, a native of Malta, had his first INT for the Lights. Northern has now forced nine turnovers in the last two games, but has also given the ball away nine times. MSU-N was missing standout S Japerri Powell and starting DE Joe Fehr Saturday, as well as RB Andrez Trahan-Proctor.Western has now won 13 straight in the series against the Lights, while the Lights have gone 29 games without a Frontier win.

 

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