Western Bulldogs bulldoze through Rocky Bears, 44-21

M.P. Regan
Wednesday, November 16, 2022

The University of Montana Western football team closed out its 2022 campaign last weekend on a high, loud note as part of a four-note power chord resonating across the final month of its season.

“I was pleased we came out and played the way we did,” said UMW Head Coach Ryan Nourse of his team winning its fourth straight game on Saturday by overwhelming Rocky Mountain College, 44-21, at Herb Klimdt Field in Billings, to finish 7-4 on the season.

The Bulldogs got led to victory by some seniors who cranked the volume to 11 for their college swan songs,.

Using his combination of power and speed, senior running back Reese Neville netted 175 yards and a pair of TDs on the ground in Billings to bring his 2022 season total to 1065 yards, the most ever logged in a single season by a UMW player.

“His mom and dad both came to Montana Western,” said UMW Head Coach Ryan Nourse of Neville, who transferred to Western three years ago from a Division 1 program, the University of Nevada. “He had a lot of options on where he could go. He knew Jon Jund growing up, playing close to one another. It became a good fit for him,” said Nourse of Neville’s transfer two year ago to the Bulldog program, where his fellow Nevadan Jund had served as starting QB since his redshirt freshman season in 2018.

Jund capped his stellar college career Saturday with a typically Jundian (aka impressive in a multi-faceted way) performance.

The senior signal caller passed for 332 yards and four TDs to get to the career century mark for touchdown tosses.

The Frontier Conference Offensive Player of the Year last season, Jund also ran for 48 yards on Saturday to add to the 1400 yards and 34 touchdowns he’d already accumulated on the round during his time with the Dawgs—along with countless limpoffs of defenders who tried to get in his way, thinking Jund was just a typical quarterback looking to run out of bounds or slide on the ground before being tackled.

“Coach Nourse always tells me to slide. I did it one time in my career,” smiled Jund on the run-culminating technique favored by most quarterbacks looking to limit their chances of injury.

“Jon’s taken years off of my life.” said Nourse of Jund’s uncompromising approach to running the football that no amount of counseling on its perils could convince him to abandon.

“We call him Junkyard,” Jund’s fellow UMW senior and multi-time All-Conference pick OL Noah Danielson revealed of a nickname given to Jund in honor of the QB’s running style that was every bit as fearsome and fearless as that of Sam Rutherford, the former Bulldog great running back whose season record Jund eclipsed on Saturday.

“He’s such a competitor. He’s one of the toughest football players, if not the toughest I’ve ever coached,” asserted Nourse of Jund, a five-year starter who gained an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic—and never missed a game due to injury.

“If I could, I would go out there on special teams,” asserted Jund, who probably wasn’t kidding.

Trey Mounts went out there on special teams every chance he got during his five years playing for the Bulldogs, establishing himself as one of the program’s greatest-ever return specialists in his spare time— when he wasn’t busy establishing himself as All-Conference wide receiver.

“Trey is a great athlete who just wants to make plays, so I just have to throw it up there and he’ll go get it,” commented Jund on the 5-foot-9-inch, 165-pound Mounts’ uncanny ability to outcompete larger defenders.

Few in the Frontier stand or play larger than Danielson. A starter on the Bulldog o-line since his redshirt freshman season in 2017, Danielson has removed countless obstacles standing between Neville, Jund and other UMW ballcarriers during his long, storied career at UMW, where he studied K-12 physical education while minoring in art.

“I am honestly a pretty artsy guy,” smiled the 6-foot-4-inch, 280-pound mainstay on the UMW o-line.

“I like creating. I enjoy drawing. I did a glass class here that was super fun,” said Danielson who redshirted his first year in Dillon, then another because of a season-ending injury and gained an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic.

“When you have to be in school for seven years, you have to figure out some new classes to take, so I decided to be an art minor” Western’s artful playcalling created chances for big gains on Saturday, when Mounts scored on a 46-yard TD pass, his fellow UMW WR Isaih Thomas hauled in a 70-yarder, and Neville ran in another TD from 46 yards out.

“We had to make some big plays today,” noted Nourse, who got a combined four TD catches and 246 receiving yards from Mounts and Thomas.

“Rocky’s defense is good— they rotate different zones and get into man-to-man,” said Nourse of a team that beat his Bulldogs, 44-21, in Dillon earlier this season.

The Dawg D enjoyed a much better outing against Rocky on Saturday, recording four sacks and yielding just 88 rushing yards, while the UMW offense ran wild for 229.

“We lost so many defensive backs to injuries this season, our defensive staff did a great job of adjusting and going to some zone coverages we needed to use. We played good ‘bend but don’t break’ defense. It put a lot of pressure on the d-line, so to speak. They had to turn it up to put pressure on the quarterback, and those guys as a unit did a great job,” stated Nourse, who got a pair of sacks from Tanner Harrell and two more from Ben Howerton as part of his 9-tackle performance that LB Kameron Rauser matched.

Senior DB Jaden Amasiu notched 8 tackles for Western, as did Braden Smith.

And UMW’s John Mears hit the longest field goal of his career, booting a 46-yarder just before halftime.

The emphatic victory proved a fitting end to the careers of one of the program’s most accomplished classes ever that helped the Dawgs win the Frontier title last season—and to a 2022 season in which Western’s players found a different sort of glory.

Picked to repeat as league champions, the Bulldogs staggered to a 3-4 start, before rallying to win their final four, despite the players and coaches knowing they would not make the NAIA playoffs for a secondstraight season—even with the four-game winning streak it concluded its season with, following a bye week.

“I feel like we won five weeks in a row—sometimes the bye week is the hardest,” laughed Nourse.

“We could have said, ‘Ahh, we’re not making the playoffs. But the competitive nature of these guys and their selflessness got us through the final five weeks. We talked about finishing things the best we can,” said Nourse, a proud UMW alumni who has restored the school’s football program to regular playoff and conference title contenders from the one-win cellar dwellers he inherited it in for his first season as Bulldog head coach in 2011.

“We just went back to doing things the way Bulldogs do them. People working hard to meet and exceed the standards of the program,” recalled Nourse of the mindset his players shifted into halfway through the 2022 season.

“I just wish we could keep playing.”