Northern looks to turn out the lights in Oregon

Lights emerge from the bye week ready to move forward, starting with a night game at EOU


October 11, 2019

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Jett Robertson plows through the snow and the Montana Tech defense during the Lights' homecoming game last month at Blue Pony Stadium. With the Frontier Conference bye week over, the Lights return to action Saturday night when they face Eastern Oregon in LaGrande, Oregon. MSU-N returns home to host Rocky Mountain College next Saturday afternoon.

The entire Frontier Conference had last week off. And for the Montana State University-Northern Lights, and head coach Andrew Rolin, the bye week couldn't have come at a better time.

Now however, Northern (0-4, 1-4) returns to the field with a renewed vigor, as the Lights travel to Eastern Oregon for a Saturday night showdown with the struggling Mounties (1-3, 1-4).

But before MSU-N pays a visit to EOU, the Lights had some objectives to get through during last week's bye, and though the weather didn't cooperate, they did what they set out to do.

"We had a good bye week," Rolin said. "The kids got some time off, but we also went really hard. We went live a lot. We worked on fundamentals and live action a lot, so I think we got a lot done.

"We also buried the Tech game," he continued. "We learned from it, but we also put it behind us. We're moving on from it."

And moving on starts with the trip to EOU.

Before the blizzard game against Montana Tech, Northern had been showing major signs of progress, especially offensively, where the Lights were second in the Frontier in passing and fourth in total offense. However, the Tech game was a rough homecoming for the Lights, and Rolin said, after regrouping during the bye week, it's time for his young team to start taking steps forward again.

"We definitely took a step back in that game," Rolin said. "Montana Tech was tougher than us, they handled the conditions better than us, and they out-coached us. So we used that to look in the mirror and challenge ourselves as a football team. And our guys have responded well to that challenge. They have responded really well to what we have challenged them to be moving forward, and now we have to carry that over to Saturday."

Like Northern, EOU has seen its share of struggles this season. The Mounties come into Saturday night's game having lost three in a row, and one reason why is, surprisingly, the Mounties haven't been able to find the end zone often enough. EOU comes in averaging a league-worst 13 points per game, and while part of that is due to a play-up loss at FCS Portland State, in their last two Frontier losses, they've only scored a combined 23 points. Defensively, EOU is also last in the Frontier in scoring, allowing 42 points per game.

And yet, the Mounties, for all of their struggles, still have dangerous playmakers all over the field. Veteran quarterback Kai Quinn is a dual-threat standout, while running back Victor Dias had a huge game against Northern last season. On the defensive side of the ball, DE Sage DeLong is as good a pass rusher as there is in the conference.

"They're a talented football team," Rolin said of the Mounties. "They are well coached, and they have playmakers.

"Offensively, they have a dangerous quarterback, and they will spread you out. They want to throw the ball, and they have weapons on the edge. Defensively, they're very impressive up front. They have multiple guys on the edge who can't pressure on the quarterback."

No doubt, despite the Mounties' record, and current losing streak, they are just like the rest of the Frontier, meaning, they aren't a slouch.

Northern has proven itself to not be a slouch either, however, and that makes Saturday night's game intriguing. The Lights bring weapons like Brenden Medina, a trio of standout receivers and defenders like Japerri Powell and Jaren Maki to Community Stadium, and that should make for an intriguing matchup.

"We've had a good week of practice," Rolin said. "We'll be prepared. I think we've been a good road team this season, so this trip won't faze our guys.

"The biggest thing for us right now is, we still have to learn how to win football games," Rolin added. "It's a lot more mental for us. We have the pieces in place to do it. But we've also got to prove we can do it on Saturdays. We have to cut out the mental errors and execute for four quarters. I believe we have the guys to do it. We just actually have to do it on Saturdays."

The Lights and Mounties will meet at 6 p.m. Saturday night in LaGrande, Oregon. Northern returns home to host Rocky Mountain College next Saturday at Blue Pony Stadium.

Night Trip

MSU-Northern Lights (0-4, 1-4) at Eastern Oregon Mounties

(1-3, 1-4)

Saturday, 6 p.m.

in LaGrande, Ore.


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