Big plays sink Cats

BOZEMAN — Eastern Washington used a pair of big plays in the fourth quarter to beat Montana State 27-24 in a Big Sky Conference football game Saturday.

The sixth-ranked Eagles blocked a Rory Perez punt on the period’s sixth play and Evan Day recovered it for a touchdown to give EWU a 20-17 lead, and three plays later Jordan Tonani returned a DeNarius McGhee interception 21 yards for a touchdown to give the Eagles the necessary cushion to hold off No. 2 Montana State. That fourth quarter over-rode a Bobcat defensive effort that held the Eagles to just 211 yards of offense.

“The defensive performance by (Montana State) was magnificent,” said Bobcat coach Rob Ash. “It’s heartbreaking to think that you lose a game when the defense plays thate well. The special teams play – the blocked punt – and the interception return were too much for us to overcome.”

While Montana State compiled 375 total yards – 164 more than Eastern – the Bobcat effort was uneven. MSU failed to capitalize on a couple of possessions that started around mid-field – set up by a long Everett Gilbert kick return and an interception by Na’a Moeakiola on the game’s opening possession – and in fact failed to score points on possessions after EWU’s two turnovers.

Much of EWU’s defensive success stemmed from stout play up front. The Eagles limited the Bobcats to just 70 rushing yards – 32 of them by Tray Robinson on an 84-yard, 11-play scoring drive late in the third quarter that gave MSU a short-lived 17-13 lead. The MSU passing game was more effective. DeNarius McGhee threw for 294 yards on 28-for-36 passing, but one of his two interceptions set up and EWU field goal and the other was the pick-six.

MSU held Eastern’s freshman sensation quarterback Vernon Adams to just 140 passing yards, and the Eagles rushed for 71 yards.

“We focused all week on stopping the run,” said MSU linebacker Na’a Moeakiola, who had three tackles, an interception and a pass breakup. Brad Daly led the Bobcats with seven tackles, including 1.5 sacks. Ronnie Hamlin compiled 15 tackles for Eastern, two for a loss, and a pick.

— MSU Sports Information