The frustration continued for the Montana Tech football team Saturday at a windy Alumni Coliseum.
Bryce Baker hit Andre McCulloch for a 20-yard touchdown on Rocky Mountain College’s first possession, and that proved to be the difference maker as the Battlin’ Bears beat Montana Tech 13-6 on the Bob Green Field.
The third straight loss for the Orediggers sends a team with national title hopes searching for answers as it gets ready to hit the road for a huge test at Southern Oregon next week.
“We’re going to get on a bus in a couple of days and go to Southern Oregon,” Montana Tech coach Chuck Morrell said. “That’s just the reality of it. It’s going to be a tough night tonight.”
The Bears scored on their first possession when Baker found McCulloch, the NAIA’s No. 5 receiver, for the score.
After that, the Orediggers defense was solid throughout. Morrell said his team didn’t change its approach after the opening score, and his defense held Baker and the No. 1 passing team in the country to just 135 yards through the air.
“We felt we had a great game plan all week,” Morrell said. “We just had to settle in a little bit. They came in and they were up tempo. We were on our heels just a little bit. They sucked us in on a little short play-action pass.”
Ryan Steska extended the lead with field goals of 22 and 32 yards. Both those kicks, though, seemed like victories for the defense because they came in short-field situations.
“They had their backs against the wall a bunch today and had several great stops,” Morrell said.
The Bears led 13-0 at halftime. It would have been worse if not for a heads-up play by Tech punter Travis Farewell.
A snap on a first-quarter punt sailed over Farewell’s head. He ran it down on the 1-yard line, outran a defender and somehow got off a punt out to the Tech 46-yard line.
The Tech offense started showing signs of life in the form of the running of Pat Hansen late in the second quarter.
Hansen, who got just 26 carries total in the last two games, ran 30 times for 117 yards. He broke a 29-yard run late in the second.
Tech’s first possession of the second half resulted in a 38-yard field goal by Matt Berg. Tech cut the lead to 13-6 with a 42-yard field goal with 8 minutes, 51 seconds left in the game.
The Orediggers got two more possessions. One ended when quarterback Herman Tapley was stopped for a loss on fourth and short. The other ended when Kyle Mai picked off a Tapley pass over the middle during desperation time.
“We’re hurting ourselves on third down still,” Morrell said. “It’s just some inconsistencies, some fumbled snaps and just some things that we can’t have happen.
“Our guys worked to play physical today, but we’ve got to find a way to move the chains, and in this league you’ve got to get the ball in the end zone.”
Brian Schwarzkoph started for the Orediggers, but Tapley played most of the game. He completed 10 of 18 passes for 137 yards. Schwarzkoph threw two passes, and both were incomplete.
Of the 137 yards, 89 came on two completions. James Roberts, who caught five passes for 58 yards, hauled in a 41-yard pass. Alec Bray, who picked up 63 yards on two grabs, caught a 48-yard strike.
Freshman Jade Olson ran for 72 hard-earned yards on 22 carries against the Oredigger defense. McCullouch caught six passes for 64 yards.
Linebacker Ryan Jones, who missed last season with an injury, had his best game of the 2013 season. He was in on 12 tackles, while Naill Padden got in on 11 tackles.
Linebackers David Meis and Mike Touzinsky had a big game for the Oredigger defense. So did linemen Levi Cade, Jacob Workman and Mike Waldman and defensive backs Devonte Craig, Luke Seubert and Andre Cornell.
Tech’s defense, though, didn’t force a turnover for the second straight game.
Next week’s opponent, Southern Oregon, won 66-21 Saturday at Dickinson State.
“We’re going to have to flip and get over this as fast as we can,” Morrell said. “Southern Oregon again looks like they have one of the top offenses in the country.”
Morrell said he can’t fault his team’s effort.
“I’m proud of our guys for fighting,” Morrell said. “That’s one thing I look at overall today. The guys went out there and they laid it all out there. That’s really all that I can ask out of them.”