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Montana overwhelms North Dakota in Badlands Bowl

Montana arrived at the ball quickly and arrived often. Team Montana frustrated North Dakota in all respects Saturday in the 23rd rendition of the Badlands Bowl, registering a 36-7 victory over North Dakota at the Biesiot Activities Center. Montan...

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North Dakota quarterback Creighton Pfau, center is tackled by Montana’s Alec Steele, left, and Payton O’Reilly during Saturday’s Badlands Bowl at the Biesiot Activities Center. (Press Photo by Parker Cotton)

Montana arrived at the ball quickly and arrived often.

Team Montana frustrated North Dakota in all respects Saturday in the 23rd rendition of the Badlands Bowl, registering a 36-7 victory over North Dakota at the Biesiot Activities Center.

Montana’s offense scored on the first drive of the game - a 1-yard rush from Thomas Trefney to build a 6-0 lead after a missed extra point - but the defensive unit was the star of the show thereafter.

North Dakota didn’t break the century mark in total yardage until the fourth quarter, and the host team was held without points until that same drive, when West Fargo’s Creighton Pfau ran in for a TD from 16 yards out. By that time, though, Montana had already built a 29-0 advantage.

“We knew we came out strong in the first half,” said Montana’s Michael Jobman, the team’s defensive MVP, “and we wanted to make sure we didn’t give anything back to them in the second half and make it a game.”

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Jobman, from his defensive end spot, racked up five tackles - 2.5 for a loss - along with two sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception.

For the first half, at least, North Dakota’s defense kept the game close.

Bismarck Century’s Zach Sweep hauled in a one-handed interception in the end zone in the first quarter, and Mandan’s Jarad Zittleman picked off another pass in the end zone in the second quarter, keeping it a one-score game.

Montana’s Luke May found Ben Hardy for a 35-yard score right before the first half ended to take a 12-0 lead into the break.

“We said we had 30 minutes of football left,” Bismarck Century and Team North Dakota head coach Ron Wingenbach said. “We knew we had the ball coming out in the third quarter. We still had some things the way we wanted them. They just didn’t turn out for us.”

Jobman’s interception came on the first drive of the second half, as he picked off Minot quarterback Ben Bolinske as he rushed a throw. Montana cashed in the turnover after May tossed a 9-yard score to Karl Tucker II just three plays later.

Later in the third, May hooked up with Nate Simkins for 45 yards before being pushed out at the 1. North Dakota’s defense stood up again, forcing just a field goal.

Montana pushed its lead to 29-0 after Payton O’Reilly blocked a Bolinske punt and took it in for a touchdown to open the fourth quarter.

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“The guys felt pretty confident coming into halftime,” Montana head coach Chad Ross said, “even if it was only 12 points. We knew we could put some more points up in the second half. And the defense was playing lights-out.”

North Dakota’s offense came together to avoid the shutout with Pfau’s scoring run, which was preceded by a 39-yard back-shoulder pass to Century’s Adam Geiger down the left sideline.

“Montana’s linebackers were playing in and their middle safeties were really deep,” Pfau said, “so I thought a middle seam route would have been open, but the linebacker went there right away. So I looked to Geiger, and he was streaming down the sideline, and he made a great catch.”

Pfau, who finished 7 of 15 passing for 90 yards, was named North Dakota’s offensive MVP. He also had 23 yards rushing. Bismarck High’s Brayden Thomas was named his team’s defensive MVP after collecting seven tackles, including two for a loss, and 1.5 sacks.

May completed the scoring with a 28-yard strike to Payton Lafrentz with 5:45 to go. May was named Montana’s offensive MVP with his three touchdown passes. He completed 14 of 18 passes for 229 yards.

“This feels really great,” Jobman said. “We worked hard all practice, and we feel we came prepared. Everything fell into place like we were hoping it would.”

Montana’s defense frustrated North Dakota for a good segment of the game, but Wingenbach was pleased that his team kept pushing.

“We tried three-step (drops), we tried sprint out, we tried play-action,” Wingenbach said, “but give Montana credit. They did some things very well. … Our defense was out on the field too long. We had to sustain some more first downs on offense and put the ball in the end zone. They played hard until the end, though.”

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Notes: Killdeer linebacker Zeb Doe had six tackles, including 1.5 sacks. … Bismarck High’s Jake Sanders led all players with 10 tackles. … Dickinson High linebacker Jake Weidner recorded three tackles. … Carson Zarak of Wahpeton recorded an interception in the third quarter. … Richardton-Taylor-Hebron running back Denver Colgrove rushed for 10 yards. … North Dakota had 203 total yards, while Montana had 353. … Montana now owns a 17-6 all-time record in the Badlands Bowl.

Montana 36, North Dakota 7

M   6   6   10   14 - 36

ND  0  0   0      7  -  7

First quarter

M - refney 1 run (kick no good)

Second quarter

M - May 35 pass Hardy (conversion no good)

Third quarter

M - May 9 pass Tucker II (Padmos kick good)

M - Padmos 21-yard field goal

Fourth quarter

M - O’Reilly 59 punt block return (Padmos kick good)

ND - Pfau 16 run (Sweep kick good)

M - May 28 pass Lafrentz (Padmos kick good)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: M, Trefney 19-49. ND, Bolinske 10-39, Pfau 13-23, Bresnahan 3-15.

PASSING: M, May 14-18-0 229, Dane Warp 7-9-2 55. ND, Pfau 7-15-1 90, Bolinske 2-11-1 2.

RECEIVING: M, Tucker II 8-72, Simkins 6-110, Hardy 2-33, Hunthausen 2-30. ND, Wanzek 3-25, Bresnahan 3-19, Geiger 2-47.

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