Montana Tech coach sees success in 2nd season
In only his second season as head football coach at Montana Tech, Chuck Morrell is already beginning to see the seeds he began planting when he was hired bearing fruit.
The Orediggers (4-1) come into Saturday's game at Dickinson State ranked No. 13 in the latest NAIA coaches' poll and sport an impressive win over No. 8-ranked Carroll College. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
"I think the biggest thing is that our players have just had a great approach to every single game that we've played and they've really focused on what's right in front of them," Morrell said. "They go out on Saturdays, play their hearts out. We get to Monday, get back to work and those guys get ready and get dialed up for the next opponent, which I think is really a key to success in the Frontier Conference."
Morrell has brought an attitude and a bit of South Dakota swagger to Butte, Mont.
He came to Tech after spending 15 years as a player and an assistant coach for former NAIA powerhouse and three-time national champion University of Sioux Falls (S.D.), now in NCAA Division II. He was the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach there from 1998 to 2009 before spending spent one season as a defensive coordinator for the University of South Dakota.
Now, he's building something of his own -- and if Tech's early results are any indication, it may be the start of something great.
The Orediggers are young. They start just three seniors on each side of the ball.
One of the young Tech players standing out is sophomore running back Pat Hansen, an Ekalaka, Mont., native.
Hansen has already been voted a team captain, Morrell said, after he finished third in the NAIA in rushing yards in 2011 with 1,188 yards and 12 touchdowns.
"Number one, he's outstanding in the classroom. Number two, he's been voted as a team captain as only a sophomore," Morrell said. "That just shows you the leadership quality that Pat has. He's one of those guys who is able to drive everybody in the right direction. You heap on top of that his own natural athletic ability and his penchant for taking over football games, he's just been outstanding all-around for us."
This season, Hansen has rushed for 509 yards and seven touchdowns as a one-two punch with junior quarterback Nick Baker, who ranks seventh in the NAIA in passing yards per game and has 1,364 yards passing with 12 TDs.
"There's a number of different ways that I think we have the ability to put the ball in the end zone and that's kind of been our game throughout the course of the season," said Morrell, whose Orediggers average 32 points per game.
Though he has been around the NAIA nearly his entire career, Saturday will be Morrell's first trip to Dickinson.
He said beating the Blue Hawks boils down to making big plays and being the more physical team.
"Whoever makes the most big plays is going to come out on top," Morrell said.