It was a tale of two halves Saturday afternoon at the Henry Biesiot Activities Center in Dickinson.
The Blue Hawks moved the ball with ease in the first half, putting up 30 points on the heels of some spectacular plays made by the wide receivers.
But the offense would run cold as they were held scoreless in the second half, losing 42-30 to the Bulldogs.
While in the first half the receivers for Dickinson State were making plays, the Bulldogs defense were able to focus on their passing defense as the Blue Hawks struggled on the ground again, gaining only 77 yards on 30 attempts.
No one for Dickinson State had more than 40 yards on the ground.
“We knew we were going to have a tough time running the ball against the front we saw today,” Dickinson State head coach Pete Stanton said. “We thought we could get some spacing with our receivers and we did that in the first half, but couldn’t in the second.”
The Blue Hawks had the momentum going into the halftime break, but the Bulldogs came out with an edge, forcing back-to-back three and outs from the Dickinson State offense. The defense tightened up for Montana Western and shut down the Blue Hawks aerial attack.
From then on it was about Bulldogs quarterback Jon Jund settling in and carving up the defense and consistently moving the chains.
Jund finished with 331 yards and four touchdowns as redshirt senior running back Reese Neville couldn’t find much success on the ground after his hot start to the season. He had 92 yards, but it took him 23 attempts to get there.
Redshirt freshman running back Colten McPhee had two rushing touchdowns for Montana Western in the second half as they surpassed the Blue Hawks after falling down by multiple scores in the first.
While the scoring slowed down in the second half, the game began at a frantic pace. Montana Western fumbled the ball on the opening kickoff, setting up the Blue Hawks in the red zone immediately.
It would only lead to a field goal, but it was still a positive result after they were supposed to begin the game on defense.
After the Bulldogs scored a touchdown of their own, Dickinson State scored 20 unanswered points, aided by a pair of turnovers.
First, freshman defensive back Jayden Heartwill intercepted Bulldogs quarterback Jon Jund downfield to set up a six-play, 80 yard touchdown drive and took a 16-7 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Montana Western fumbled again and set up the Blue Hawks deep in the Bulldogs territory. Junior running back Riley Linder scored a 1-yard touchdown to extend their lead 23-7.
The Bulldogs wouldn’t let themselves get down any further as they responded with two touchdowns of their own to make it 23-21.
Montana Western got the ball back midway through the second quarter with a chance to take the lead, but Jund threw another interception, this time to the other freshmen defensive back Deavon Crawford, who returned the turnover into Montana Western territory.
Dickinson State would capitalize off that turnover with arguably the play of the day. Senior quarterback Drew Boedecker threw deep down the right side for his wide receiver Noah Sickler to make a play on the ball.
He did just that as the sophomore Dickinson native hauled in the pass with one arm and came down with a 35-yard touchdown reception.
It would be the last time the Blue Hawks put points on the board as their rushing struggles made their offense one-dimensional in the second half. The stout Montana Western rush defense, which allowed 89 rushing YPG in their first two, was as good as advertised.
But despite the offensive struggles, they had a lead in the second half, but allowed the Bulldogs to score 21 unanswered points.
“Defensively we’re just not good enough right now,” Stanton said. “We have to tackle better. We continue to give up big plays and that’s not going to win ball games.”
Boedecker finished 18 for 34 with 299 yards and three touchdowns, but took one series off in the fourth quarter, replaced by junior Aaron White, who saw game action against Black Hills State a week ago.
“Aaron played well last week when we put him in at the end of the game,” Stanton said. “He had a good series there, so we knew before the game we were going to play both of them. We were going to give him a chance because we hadn’t moved the ball in the second half.”
Boedecker was also injured on the final offensive series, taking a hard hit and landing on his right throwing shoulder.
“We’ll see where he’s at but it’s his throwing shoulder,” Stanton said. “We’re hoping it’s something he can come back from, he’s our leader out there.”
White was 6 for 10 with 47 yards with one interception in his short stint in the game.
Junior wide receiver Conor McCarvel led the team in receiving with 5 catches for 105 yards, his second-straight 100 yard game. Sophomore wide receiver Kaden Kuntz caught another touchdown in this game, moving his season total to three.
Dickinson State had three interceptions, but also threw two of them and lost two fumbles. They were also poor on third down, going just 2 for 13.
While they didn’t turn the ball over in the red zone this week compared to last week, their red zone defense allowed the Bulldogs to score four touchdowns in five trips.