Montana Western Dawgs eclipse MSUN, 63-7

Wednesday, November 3, 2021
Montana Western Dawgs eclipse MSUN, 63-7

The pendulum continues to swing wide in both directions and then wider in 2021 for the University of Montana Western football team.

A week after lapsing late to its most damaging setback of the season at College of Idaho, the UMW Bulldogs on Saturday took their most emphatic journey in the opposite direction with a 63-7 road-killing of Montana State University-Northern.

The high-scoring win on the Hi-Line elevated UMW’s overall record to 6-3 and Frontier Conference mark to 5-3, while extending the Bulldogs’ winning streak over MSUN to an unlucky 13 for the Lights.

Luck, good or bad, had nothing to do with Western’s comprehensive dismantling of MSU-Northern (1-8, 1-7) on Saturday in Havre on Til-Leman Field, where the Bulldogs:

• outgained the Northern Lights in total offense by nearly 500 yards (522 to 27);

• prevented MSUN’s offense from getting into UMW territory for the entire first half and third quarter, with the Lights finally crossing midfield with the ball in their possession just under halfway through the fourth quarter;

• enjoyed a nearly plus-300 advantage in field position;

• limited the Lights to under a yard per average play on offense;

• held the Lights kickoff returns to under 11 yards per effort;

• outpaced the Lights in first down production by nearly 7 to 1 (34 to 5);

• outgained MSUN through the air by over 13 to 1 (390 passing yards to 29);

• outgained the Lights on the ground by the beyond-the-realm-of-ratios advantage of 132 to -2;

“That was just good execution in all three areas of football, said Montana Western Head Coach Ryan Nourse of the dominating performances recorded by his offensive, defensive and special teams units.

Individually, the Bulldogs got bolstered by a record-tying and record-breaking effort from wide receiver Nate Simkins (see sidebar).

Most of Simkins eight catches came via throws from quarterback Jon Jund, who tossed for 5 TDs and 275 yards during his 19-23 passing effort before being spelled for the fourth quarter by Peyton Broenneke (8 of 14 for 115 yards and a touchdown).

“Everybody puts a lot of defenders in the box to try to stop our run game, so we planned on throwing a bit more than usual against Northern, and got some good matchups,” said Nourse, noting that his team has now gone three consecutive games without committing a turnover after averaging more than three giveaways per contest across its first half-dozen games of the season.

“We had a lot of guys play really well. We had guys make their first catches and touchdowns,” said Nourse, who got 4 receptions for 82 yards redshirt freshman Isaiah Thomas, who joined freshman Matt Jorgensen in scoring an inaugural college TD.

“All our guys were ready to play and a lot got on the stat sheet,” added Nourse of a team effort that included tackles by 20 different Dawgs, as well as the first college carries by UMW running backs DJ Kirven and Derek Loring.

The lopsided win over MSUN came simultaneous to a loss by Rocky Mountain College (6-2) to Montana Tech that kept Western just a game off the pace in the hunt for the Frontier Conference title, with Rocky set to visit Montana Western on Nov. 12 for both team’s regular-season finale.

But a win over Carroll College on last Saturday by College of Idaho could prove more impactful to Western’s Frontier title and NAIA playoff aspirations.

The CoI Coyotes persevered through a twohour lightning delay and first-half blanking at Southern Oregon for a 17-15 win that improved the Yotes’ conference mark to 6-2.

That come-from-behind win pushed Yotes into a deadlock at the top of the league with Rocky, and sustained the their one-game advantage over Western—a functional plus-two due to CoI’s owning the first tiebreaker with Western from a head-to-head win.

And second place in the conference is unlikely to rate good enough for a spot in the NAIA playoffs set to start later this month, according to Nourse.

“We lost control of our destiny when we did not play up to our potential in some areas against College of Idaho,” said Nourse of his team’s double-overtime loss to the Yotes on Oct. 27 in Caldwell, Idaho.

“I think there is probably a better chance of it snowing in hell,” said Nourse of the Frontier Conference gaining two spots in the 16-team NAIA postseason bracket.

“The NAIA does not want two Frontier teams getting into the playoffs,” asserted Nourse of a tendency of NAIA pollsters in recent years to discount Frontier Conference teams.

“This league is so good and challenging and balanced, we don’t tend to have teams with impressive won-loss records that get the attention of the pollsters,” said Nourse.

“They despise our teams being in the playoffs. We are too competitive at the top end. We are in hard-to-get-to places,” added Nourse of the Frontier Conference roster that features five teams from Montana, two from Oregon and one from Idaho.

“If we can win out and get some help and get in the Top 20, we have a chance,” said Nourse, whose Bulldogs, who checked in at no. 25 in the latest NAIA poll.

In order for Western to gain the Frontier Conference crown and assure a playoff spot, College of Idaho will need to drop its final two games of the regular season—against Eastern Oregon and then at Carroll; and Western will have to win its final two.

The first of those final two games will come Saturday, Nov. 6, when the Bulldogs host Montana Tech (4-4) on Vigilante Field in Dillon, with kickoff set for 1 p.m. on Military Appreciation Day.

“You can control what you can control, and what we can control next is how we play against Tech,” said Nourse of the impending showdown against Western’s archrival, a team his Bulldogs came from behind to beat, 45-21, in Dillon in early September.

“It’s really hard to beat a team twice in a season; that’s the hardest thing in football. And Tech is playing well and with confidence. They have fast wideouts, do well on special teams, and are big and stout in the interior against the run,” continued Nourse of an Oredigger team that won three of its last four games to climb to 4-4.

“You just know it’s going to come down to the fourth quarter. So fans shouldn’t think it’s going to be like the first game, and they can leave and just get back to tailgating at halftime. This will be a huge challenge for us.”

The University of Montana Western will meet Montana Tech at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 6, on Vigilante Field in Dillon. Military Appreciation Day will be observed as part of the event.


Scoring Summary

First Quarter

UMW-Nate Simkins 32-yd TD pass from Jon Jund (John Mears PAT) 9:39

UMW-Colten McPhee 9-yd TD run (Mears PAT) 5:20

UMW-Simkins 33-yd TD pass from Jund (Mears PAT) 0:46

Second Quarter

UMW – McPhee 26-yd TD pass from Jund (Mears PAT) 11:48

UMW – Sean Cooney 4-yd TD run (Mears PAT) 6:11

UMW – Trey Mounts 2-yd TD pass from Jund (Mears PAT) 2:35

Third Quarter

UMW – Simkins 4-yd TD pass from Jund (Mears PAT) 11:19

UMW – Matt Jorgensen 2-yd TD run (Mears PAT) 8:06

Fourth Quarter

UMW - Isaiah Thomas 60-yd TD pass from Peyton Broenneke (Mears PAT) 8:25

MSUN - Cannan Smith 50-yd punt return (Sawyer Zook PAT) 4:25