Brody Riggs isn’t trying to unseat Zach Roberson at the University of Mary’s starting quarterback.
He’ll stick with punting and kicking, thank you.
Riggs, however, did experience the feeling a quarterback gets when he completes a big pass on Saturday afternoon against the MSU-Moorhead Dragons in Northern Sun football action.
Riggs completed a 7-yard pass to wide receiver Elby Pope in a 52-45 victory over the Dragons at the Community Bowl.
It was a fourth-and-4 situation on U-Mary’s final drive. If Riggs and Pope don’t execute that play, Moorhead wins.
The Marauders scored the game-winning touchdown two plays later when Roberson hooked up with Pope for 45 yards.
U-Mary im-proved to 5-3 in the NSIC and overall while the Dragons dropped to 1-7.
“It was something we’ve had installed the whole season but we never had time to use it,” said Riggs, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound redshirt freshman from Peoria, Ariz. “We were well prepared for it.”
For Riggs, it was the proper time to put the play into action. U-Mary’s offense had stalled in the second half and its run defense leaked like a sieve, allowing 378 yards.
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“It wasn’t the best throw,” Riggs said, “but Elby made a great catch. As long as I got the pass up, I knew Elby would come down with it.
“This week in particular we knew it would be a close game so we practiced it every day.”
Pope was the only option on the play. If he wasn’t open, Moorhead more than likely would have won the contest.
Pope loved the fake punt call.
“I was waiting for it,” said Pope, who finished the game with 11 catches, 169 yards and two touchdowns. “I knew it was coming. Riggs threw a great ball. I had to go up and get it. He got it to where I was the only one who was going to get it.”
It was the first time Riggs ever threw a pass in competition at any level, including Pop Warner football.
“We told the guys we would probably run it at some point in the game if we get the look,” U-Mary coach Josh Kotelnicki said. “We anticipated it being a high-scoring game. I didn’t think it would mean the game.”
Riggs wanted to atone for a few blunders earlier. He had a punt blocked that Moorhead freshman receiver Damon Gibson returned 10 yards for a touchdown, and he missed an extra point.
“Kicking is a mental game, but my teammates are so awesome that whenever anything bad happens, they bring me up on the sidelines,” Riggs said. “I give them all the credit to this game. They helped me out a lot.”
Roberson gave Riggs a ton of praise for helping the Marauders secure the victory.
“He was just as important throwing the ball today as me because without that first down we don’t get that last touchdown,” Roberson said.
Roberson lights it up
If there were any concerns about how Roberson would recover from a broken right wrist, those worries have been put to bed.
The 6-3, 240-pound junior from Sonora, Calif., looked sharp for having not played in six weeks.
Roberson broke the wrist on his throwing hand in the season opener against Southwest Minnesota State. He returned to action for the first time on Saturday. Roberson completed 27 of 45 passes for 460 yards and had no interceptions. He threw six touchdown passes and ran for one. Roberson completed passes to six receivers.
“He came out and whipped that ball as hard as he could,” Pope said. “He’s a great player. He gave us great energy on offense and got us going. The pass plays opened up our offense, and that’s what we wanted to do.”
Roberson tied a school record for most touchdown passes in a game. Paul Cronin originally set the record with six against Jamestown College in 1994.
Roberson started his day off in a positive fashion, completing his first pass to Pope for 13 yards.
“Going into any game, but coming off an injury even more, getting that first pass is big, getting the jitters out of your system,” Roberson said. “Getting that first pass to Elby was quite a feat.”
Kotelnicki was excited to see his starter return to action.
“He was expecting big things this season and had six games taken away from him,” Kotelnicki said. “I’m sure he was itching to get back out there and play well. I was worried about him being too excited. He came out and did well off the bat.”
Moorhead coach Steve Laqua said his team prepared to face back-up Ben Jolliffe. Laqua said seeing Roberson under center didn’t throw off his defense.
“They have tremendous wide receivers,” Laqua said. “We knew we would have a hard time defending them no matter who was throwing the football. Our major focus was on Pope, and he still had a great game.”
This ‘N That
n U-Mary All-American linebacker Grant Singer injured his right knee in the second half. He is scheduled for an MRI today. The senior finished the contest with nine tackles.
n Safety Preston Tescher led U-Mary with 12 stops, including 10 solo.
n U-Mary linebacker Troy Guptill led U-Mary with two quarterback sacks and four tackles for a loss. U-Mary combined for 12 tackles for a loss.
Guptill, a senior, has 26 career sacks to tie Jason Aman for third on U-Mary’s all-time leaderboard.
n Seth Walton and Danielle Whitaker both picked up interceptions.
n The teams combined for 97 points, the most tallies scored in a U-Mary contest since a 50-59 loss to Si Tanka of Huron, S.D., in 2000.
The 45 points allowed in a win is the most by U-Mary since a 53-48 win over Rocky Mountain in 1997.
n Pope’s 169 receiving yards was the most by a Marauders player since Tyler Steffan recorded 202 yards against Bemidji State in 2011.
Reach reporter Cindy Peterson at 701-250-8245 or firstname.lastname@example.org.