Saints bully Dawgs, 31-7

Montana Western defensive end Andrew Gilpin, a 6-3, 260 sophomore from Kalispell, sacks the Carroll College quarterback during third quarter action between the two teams Saturday at Vigilante Field in Dillon. The Saints defeated the Bulldogs, 31-7. J.P. Plutt photo

 

The stiff, steady wind blowing through Vigilante Field during the first two thirds of Saturday’s football game might as well have been the air letting out of Montana Western’s hopes of beating Frontier Conference leaders Carroll College, as the #7-ranked Saints efficiently and ruthlessly deflated the Dawgs on their way to a 31-7 road win.

With an offensive output you could almost set your game clock to, the Saints (5-1) went marching into the end zone at the end of the first quarter, about halfway through the second, at the end of the second, and then again about halfway through the third quarter to build a 28-0 lead that their nationally top-ranked defense (11.7 ppg) never looked inclined to yield.

“Carroll won that game at the line of scrimmage and set itself up to be successful on both sides of the ball,” commented Western’s head coach, B.J. Robertson.

A lot of the glory from their offensive line play got reflected onto a trio of the Saints offensive skill players: Carroll running back Dustin Rinker carried 31 times for 162 yards and 2 TDs; wide receiver Anthony Clarke hauled in 8 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown; and QB Dakota Stonehouse rushed for 60 yards and showed why he ranks in the top 5 in the nation in passing efficiency (160.8) by throwing for 153 yards on 15 completions out of 19 passes, two that went for touchdowns and none that came close to being picked off.

“Dakota Stonehouse showed what a senior QB can look like,” said Robertson, who’s in the middle of his freshman year as a college head coach. “He did a great job running the ball and throwing the ball when he needed to.”

Western (3-3) rallied and reenergized a crowd that nearly packed the stands on both sides of the field, as the Dawgs scored with a late third quarter drive that traveled just over 60 yards in just under 90 seconds and ended with running back Sam Rutherford rumbling five yards into the end zone.

But Carroll’s defense, which held an opponent to 7 points or less for the fifth time this season, reapplied its vise grip the rest of the way and its offense closed the scoring with a field goal late in the fourth quarter.

The Western defense was nearly as good as Carroll’s for most of the second half, limiting the Saints offense and keeping the visitors out of the end zone for the last third of the game.

“Honestly, I thought our defense played pretty well all game. They had to defend a couple of short fields, and you can’t give a team like Carroll a short field,” commented Robertson of the two touchdown drives Carroll mounted after taking advantage of Bulldog turnovers. 

“But I thought our defensive guys played their tails off all game.”

The Dawgs D ended the day with 4 sacks—a pair a piece by defensive linemen Andrew Gilpin and Phil Selin, who upped his conference-leading total for the season to 7 sacks in 6 games.

“I was really proud of those guys,” said Robertson of his defensive linemen. “They just kept battling and battling and got rewarded for their efforts.”

Linebackers Joe Coker and Kasey Griffith topped the Western charts in tackles, with 12 and 10, respectively, and safety Jesse McCloud added 7 takedowns.

Next up for Western, a journey down the long and winding road to Southern Oregon (4-2), which has reeled off four straight conference victories since losing, 38-34, to Western in the Dawgs’ season opener in Dillon on Sept. 7. 

Led by quarterback Austin Dodge, SOU’s high-octane offense ranks first or second in the NAIA in: total offense (595.8 yds per game); passing (421.5 yds per game); sacks allowed (.8 per game) and scoring (53 points per game)—and, no, none of those are typos. 

“They are like video game numbers—Southern Oregon is doing a great job on offense and have another heck of a quarterback,” said Robertson of SOU’s Austin Dodge.

“His arm is probably the best in the league. We’ll see if we can get to him. They are playing well and we are excited to go out there and see what we can do against them.”

DAWG BYTES

*Western’s punting game continues to improve dramatically, with Seth Mason on Saturday averaging 49.5 yards on a half dozen punts, one of which rolled to the Saints 6-yard line; Mason added a tackle to his stat sheet after a punt when he overkicked his coverage.

“I am so excited for Seth,” said Robertson, who also serves as Western’s special teams coordinator. “That’s the side of Seth Mason we’ve all been seeing in practice.”

*While it amounted to just slightly more than half his season average and about a third of what he averaged the first three games of 2013, the 71 yards gained by Montana Western running back Sam Rutherford on 17 carries against Carroll was still good enough to keep him in the Frontier Conference rushing lead on the year, with 135 yards per game. Rutherford’s third quarter touchdown gave the freshman 11 on the season and kept him in second place in scoring in the conference.

*Western defensive linemen Andrew Gilpin and Phil Selin recorded sacks on consecutive plays to stifle a third quarter Carroll drive.

*After starting the season averaging about ten penalties a game, Western continues to cut down on yellow flags, with the Dawgs getting marched back just 26 yards on 3 penalties Saturday.

*With 4 catches for 38 yards, wide receiver/punt returner Josh Lords became the fifth different Bulldog to statistically lead the Western receiving corps in a game this season, when only freshman Collin Sale has managed the feat in two different games.