GRAND FORKS — In two previous meetings, the University of North Dakota pushed Montana State around — using a dominating run game to rack up big numbers and wins against the Bobcats.
Montana State apparently was tired of the UND treatment
So the Bobcats took out plenty of frustration against UND on Saturday, overwhelming North Dakota 49-21 before 12,432 fans at the Alerus Center in the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams.
“A year ago, when those guys walked out for warmups, I was like, ‘We don’t have a chance,’ ” said second-year Montana State coach Jeff Choate. “Today, I was eyeballing their guys and our guys and I’m like, ‘We’re getting closer to looking like how we want to look and doing the things we want to do.’ ”
Montana State is trying to build a physical, run-oriented team similar to UND, and the Bobcats certainly were the more dominant, more physical team as it controlled both lines of scrimmage.
The loss leaves UND at a crossroad — considering the Hawks were crushed 45-7 last week in a brutal nonconference loss at South Dakota. Being on the wrong end of back-to-back blowout losses one month into the season isn’t the place to be.
“Obviously, it was a disappointing day for our team,” said UND coach Bubba Schweigert. “To come home, have a great crowd and to not be in the game in the fourth quarter is disappointing.
“We take a lot of pride in playing tough, hard-nosed football. We’re not doing that right now.”
Montana State did what it wanted offensively for four quarters. The Bobcats, behind dual-threat quarterback Chris Murray, scored on seven of its first nine possessions — moving the ball on long, clock-eating drives that wore down UND’s defense.
A big difference was Montana State’s third-down conversion rate. The Bobcats converted 12 of 16 third-down plays to keep drives going. At one point, Montana State converted 10 straight third-down plays.
UND wanted a fast start after last week’s loss, and it appeared it was on track to do that. A Keaton Studsrud-to-Noah Wanzek 33-yard TD pass on UND’s first possession was called back due to an offensive pass interference penalty.
UND had to settle for a 45-yard field goal attempt but it was blocked.
The Bobcats responded with a 10-play, 72-yard drive, capped by Logan Jones’ 11-yard run.
UND’s offense responded with a three-and-out; MSU (2-1) scored again on Troy Andersen’s 2-yard run, capping a 65-yard drive that ate up 6 minutes, 40 seconds.
UND responded again with a three-and-out. The Bobcats then went up 21-0 on Murray’s 12-yard pass to a wide-open Wilson Brott. Again, UND followed with a three-and-out.
Jake Disterhaupt did give the Alerus Center some energy when he scored on a 37-yard interception with 4:42 left in the half.
“The coaches made a good (defensive) call,” said Disterhaupt. “Their QB threw an easy pick.”
But MSU responded with another TD, moving 72 yards in nine plays.
And so it went for UND. The Hawks couldn’t develop an offensive rhythm and couldn’t get off the field on defense. MSU finished with 515 yards of offense, while UND was limited to 255 — only 102 on the ground.
“You never want to go 0-1 in conference play,” said Brady Oliveira, who led UND’s ground game with 39 yards. “But it’s a long season; we have to stick together as a team, look back at the mistakes and fix them.”
UND (1-3 overall) now faces a long road trip, traveling next Saturday to UC Davis.
“This game will humble you in a hurry,” said Schweigert. “Each one of us has to look into the mirror and see what we can do to prepare better.”