Rocky stuns Northern in Lights Stadium debut
Last updated 4/3/2021 at 10:02pm
At halftime of their game on Saturday against Rocky Mountain College, the Montana State University-Northern football team looked poised to win their first game in the Frontier Conference in five years. The Lights held a 21-7 lead and only needed to keep their run game and defense going to open their brand new stadium on the MSU-N campus with a win.
Unfortunately, the Battlin' Bears scored 17 straight points in the second half to win the game, 24-21.
"We got to finish. We got to do more offensively, put the ball in the end zone and make plays when they're supposed to be made," said MSU-N head coach Andrew Rolin. "This game's four quarters. You got to play all four and that's the game."
The loss dropped the Lights to 0-3 in this shortened spring season of only four games. If they had held on for the win, it would have been their first conference win since 2016 against Carroll College. Rocky Mountain's win was their first of the season and came in their regular-season finale as they finished the season with a 1-3 record.
The game started out rough for the Lights. On their opening possession of the game, they lost their leading rusher Andrez Trahan-Proctor on their fourth play of the game. On the next play, quarterback Oakley Kopp and running back Izayah Boss fumbled the exchange and Rocky Mountain's Ethan Hurst recovered the ball at the Lights' 8-yard line. A few plays later, Bear's quarterback Drew Korf completed a slant to Carter Garsjo for a touchdown to give the Bears a 7-0 lead with 11:19 left in the opening quarter.
The next two possessions did not go any better for the Lights. On his first pass of the game, Kopp threw an interception to Ty Reynolds at the Lights' 28-yard line. After the Bears missed a field goal, Kopp threw another interception to Reynolds on a deep throw down the right sideline.
The Lights got the ball and back and finally got their offense going. On third and two at the Bears' 43-yard line, Kopp kept the ball and carried it for 41 yards down the left sideline to make it first and goal. The Lights were stuffed on their first three attempts, but on fourth and goal from the three, Kopp threw to the left corner of the end zone where Jake Horner caught the jump ball to tie the game, 7-7, with 4:11 left in the quarter.
On the Bears' next drive, Korf threw an interception to Trayvion Rainey. The Lights got down the field again thanks to Kopp's short pass to Dylan Vongphachanh that he took for 40 yards. However, the Lights were stuffed at the goal line on fourth and goal.
To open the second quarter, the Lights forced the Bears to punt, but punter Wyatt Brusven mishandled the ball and was tackled at his own 5-yard line. Two plays later, Boss punched it in from five yards out to give MSU-N a 14-7 lead with 12:53 left in the half.
The Bears responded by getting to the Lights' 32-yard line thanks to several penalties. However, they failed to convert on fourth down and on the next play, Boss carried the ball down the left sideline for a 68-yard touchdown run to make the Lights' lead, 21-7.
The teams exchanged missed opportunities the rest of the half. Korf threw an interception to Isaiah Paul on MSU-N's 12-yard line. After marching down the field to Rocky Mountain's 3-yard line, the Lights went for it on fourth down instead of kicking a short field goal. They failed to convert when Kopp failed to connect with Horner in the end zone. The Bears then ended the half with a missed 47-yard field goal.
The Lights offense struggled throughout the second half, allowing the Bears to stay in the game. On their second drive of the second half, the Bears started at the 50-yard line and marched down to the MSU-N 2-yard line. Victor Ngalamulume carried the ball in to make the score, 21-14, with 4:24 left in the third quarter.
The Bears forced another punt to get the ball back. They again drove down the field and got to the Lights' 14-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Korf kept the ball and broke some tackles on his way to the end zone to tie the game, 21-21, with 14:01 left in the game.
Another Lights' punt gave Rocky Mountain the chance to take the lead. They did just that as they marched down the field and kicked a 40-yard field goal. The Lights got two more possessions to tie or take the lead, but they had to punt two more times.
"They did a better job in their front seven scheming what we were doing," Rolin said. "We got to be able to push the ball down field and make plays with the ball in the air and we didn't do that in the second half."
The Bears got the ball back and ran the clock out to hold on for the win. Korf finished the game completing 25 out of his 37 pass attempts for 188 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He also had 29 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Kopp finished his second straight start completing 4 of his 12 pass attempts for 57 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran the ball for 80 yards as he averaged 8.9 yards a carry.
"He did a lot of good things. He ran the ball really well, made some good decisions," Rolin said. "We're young at quarterback especially and so we just need to keep growing."
The Lights will finish their season Saturday when they host Easter Oregon. If the Lights are going to have a chance, they are going to need to continue getting better.
"Got to focus on getting better everyday and that's all that matters," Rolin said. "We took a step today but got to learn how to finish."
Rocky Mountain 7 0 7 10 - 24
MSU-Northern 7 14 0 0 - 21
RMC - Korf 7 pass to Carter Garsjo (Riley Garrett kick)
Drive: 3 plays, 8 yards
MSU-N - Kopp 3 pass to Horner (Vongphachanh kick)
Drive: 7 plays, 51 yards
MSU-N - Boss 5 yd run (Vongphachanh kick)
Drive: 2 plays, 5 yards
MSU-N - Boss 68 yd run (Vongphachanh kick)
Drive: 1 play, 68 yards
RMC - Ngalamulume 2 yd run (Garrett kick)
Drive: 9 plays, 50 yards
RMC - Korf 14 yd run (Garrett kick)
Drive: 9 plays, 67 yards
RMC - Garrett 40 FG
Drive: 7 plays, 33 yards
First Downs 20 10
Rushing 39-83 41-266
Passing Yards 203 57
Total Offense 286 323
Kick Returns 3/20 5/86
Punts 4/43.75 6/36.33
Penalties 7/73 7/69
Possession 27:48 19:26
RUSHING - RMC, John Bass 1-42, Victor Ngalamulume 10-31, Drew Korf 6-29, Shamar Whestone 1-8, Kaysan Barnett 1-6; MSU-N, Izayah Boss 23-129, Oakley Kopp 9-80, Cannan Smith 3-44, Andrez Trahan-Proctor 3-14.
PASSING - RMC, Drew Korf 25-37-188-1-2, Kaysan Barnett 4-11-15-0-0; MSU-N, Oakley Kopp 4-12-57-1-2.
RECEIVING - RMC, Trae Henry 7-52, Donavan Sellgren 5-46, Carter Garsjo 4-29, Lucas Overton 4-24, Gabriel Byrant 3-23, Andrew Simon 2-13, Victor Ngalamulume 1-6, K-Rashee Smith 1-4, Markel Quinney 1-4, Colton Williams 1-2; MSU-N, Dylan Vongphachanh 1-40, Jake Horner 2-9, Izayah Boss 1-8.
TACKLES - RMC, Nolan McCafferty 8, Alex Bush 7, Kyle Frazier 5, Dylan Beridon 5, Prince Johnson 4; MSU-N, Dylan Wampler 13, Joshua Rose 10, Blake Lien 10, Joe Fehr 7, Aidan Hoyt 6, Juston Pfeifer 6.