Montana Tech handles Blue Hawks
BUTTE, Mont. -- Linebacker Ryan Jones, much like the rest of the Montana Tech football team, had seen victory slip through his hands one too many times.
The senior made the most of his second interception opportunity near Dickinson State's end zone late in Saturday's fourth quarter.
Jones' interception set up a short Pat Hansen touchdown run to finally squash a frantic Blue Hawk comeback and help the Orediggers hang on 34-14 for their first home victory of what has been a frustrating inaugural season for Bob Green Field.
"Oh, man, it felt great to get that second pick. I had to make up for that first one," said Jones, who had dropped a sure pick-six at the same 20-yard line before DSU score its second unanswered touch-down to make it a 21-14 ball game with 5 minutes, 41 seconds remaining. "Our team put me in a good position to make those plays. We knew, as a team, we had to come up with a stop there and close this thing out."
"Coach called the right play, and I'm really happy we executed."
An aggressive defense had helped the Orediggers (2-4) take a 21-0 lead late in the third quarter after shutting out the Blue Hawks (1-7 overall, 0-7 Frontier), despite DSU's offense starting with multiple short fields.
True freshman quarterback Dawson Reardon -- who came out of his redshirt season to become the Diggers' third starter of the year at the position -- shook off the rust with big plays out of the break to finally expand on a 7-0 halftime lead. Reardon completed three straight passes for a combined 75 yards to set up a short Hansen touchdown that made it 14-0.
The young signal-caller then bounced back after a lengthy drive on Tech's following possession ended with a Zack Kinney fumble in the red zone. When Tech's defense got him the ball back in quick fashion, he engineered a 73-yard scoring drive, capped by a 7-yard scoring scramble in which he juked a DSU linebacker to make it 21-0.
"I thought (Reardon) was outstanding," Tech head coach Chuck Morrell said. "For a guy who's 18 years old, and it's his first college football game, he made plays down the field, and he made plays with his feet. It's been a second -- probably since his last high school playoff game -- since he's seen some live action. Now, there's a lot of things he can do to improve, but he established himself today."
Dickinson rallied following Reardon's scoring run, though, driving 80 yards behind suddenly-hot freshman quarterback Kaler Ray. Ray found Wyatt Mirich from 3 yards out to make 21-7. Then, after Jordan Moore picked off a tipped Reardon pass to set up a short field, Ray hit JT Keith across the middle of the end zone to make it 21-14 with 5:41 left.
A fumbled snap forced a Tech punt shortly after, and DSU found itself 82 yards away from tying the game. That's when Jones stepped in front of Ray's pass, though, and dove towards the left pylon as he was upended by a DSU player. The officials marked him out at the 2-yard line to set up Hansen's game-clinching score, but Jones and the Tech side-line thought he had a touchdown.
"We don't have instant replay, so it's hard to say," said a smiling Morrell after the game. "We tell our guys, any time you get your hands on the ball, go for broke and get in that end zone. But it effectively ended the game. We just need to end a little stronger there in the fourth quarter. We had owned the whole game, and it just kind of slipped away from us for a second. It was good to see guys bounce back and make some key plays down the stretch."
Defensive end Jacob Workman, who had two of the Diggers' five sacks on the night, said, while Jones' interception swung the game, it won't save him from some locker room ribbing over the drop that could've sealed it a couple drives earlier -- or the fact that he didn't get the touchdown.
"That play was so huge," Workman said. "Football's a game of momentum, and you could feel that we had to do something in order to get back in control. But he's still get-ting a hard time for not scoring. I saw the replay (on the scoreboard), I don't think he got in."
Hansen ran in the snap following Jones' pick from 2 yards out, and later Reardon found 6-foot-5 senior receiver James Roberts -- who broke out with 116 yards on six catches -- from 18 yards out to cap the scoring with 2:18 remaining.
Reardon finished the game 26 of 40 for 283 yards with a touchdown and the one interception. He also ran in a pair of scores.
"At first it was a little nerve-wracking. Practice is practice, but a game is at a completely different speed," said Reardon, a Helena High grad. "We were attacking the middle of the field, mostly. (Roberts) is such a big target -- if I throw the ball up for him, he's going to go get it for me, I know that."
Tech outgained DSU 494-207 on the day, and won the first down battle 26-11.
"We had an opportunity to put some points on the board, but we had some mishaps -- took too many sacks, had some drops and couldn't run it against them in the first half," DSU coach Hank Biesiot said. "We really struggled with any continuity or rhythm. They do have some good defensive players, at the same time we had chances just didn't execute."
Adding to Roberts' effort, Kinney had nine catches for 90 yards, while Alec Bray caught three for 39. Hansen, who set the tone for Tech with a heavy load in the first half, finished with 144 yards and two scores on 31 carries.
"We've been flip-flopping a bunch (on offense). We've thrown it 70 times in a game and thrown in 20 times in a game," Morrell said. "It's so important to have that balance where you make people defend the run and the pass, defend all our skill guys. And then, with a mobile quarterback back there now, they have to keep eyes on him, too."
Ray finished 6 of 22 for 82 yards, two scores and an interception for DSU. Keith caught three balls for 42 yards as his top target, while Jesse Carney ran for 52 yards on 16 carries.
Tech, which snapped a four-game losing streak, hosts Eastern Oregon next Saturday at 1 p.m. EOU lost to Rocky Mountain 45-13 on Saturday.
"Eastern had been playing really well," Morrell said "Their offense is really good, and they've picked up the tempo a bunch on defense. I think you're going to see a heck of a game here come next Saturday."
DSU 0 0 0 14 -- 14
MT 0 7 20 7 -- 34
MT-Dawson Reardon 2 run (Matt Berg kick), 14:36.
MT-Pat Hansen 1 run (Berg kick), 9:21.
MT-Dawson Reardon 6 run (Berg kick), 1:08.
MT-Hansen 2 run (kick failed), :01.
DSU- Wyatt Mirich 3 pass from Kaler Ray (Josh Borm kick), 11:22
DSU- JT Keith 15 pass from Ray (Borm kick), 5:41
MT-James Roberts 18 pass from Reardon (Berg kick), 2:18.
TEAM STATISTICS DSU MT
First downs 11 26
Rushes-yards 32-39 52-211
Passing yards 168 283
Comp.-Att.-Int. 11-33-1 26-40-1
Total yards 207 494
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 5-15 3-30
Punts-Avg. 10-46.7 6-34.8
RUSHING: DSU, Jesse Carney 16-52, Myron Moore 6-14, Zach Sandau 2-6, Brian Cronnelly 1-0, Thad Lane 1-(minus 9), Kaler Ray 6-(minus 24). MT, Pat Hansen 31-144, Dawson Reardon 9-31, Taylor Rowe 7-24, Nolan Sarceni 3-15, Mack Ferko 1-(minus 3).
PASSING: DSU, Ray 6-22-1 82 yards, Lane 3-4-0 30 yards, Cronnelly 2-7-0 56 yards. MT, Reardon 26-40-1 283 yards.
RECEIVING: DSU, JT Keith 3-42, Jesse Carney 2-37, Wyatt Mirich 4-33, Dalyss Hanson 1-31, Josh Borm 1-25. MT, James Roberts 6-116, Zack Kinney 9-90, Alec Bray 3-39, Zach Bunney 1-20, Kevin Moss 3-10, Hansen 2-10, Clay Cavender 1-1, Rowe 1-(minus 3).