Bobcats crush North Dakota

BOZEMAN — Montana State coach Rob Ash was well aware of his team’s spectacular offensive numbers Saturday, when the Bobcats set school records with 695 total yards and 40 first downs on their way to a 55-10 win over North Dakota.

And it didn’t matter to him in the least. “I don’t care about the yards,” Ash said, “I wanted to keep the ball away from North Dakota.”

The plan worked, as MSU – in addition to the other offensive pyrotechnics – held the ball for 35 minutes Saturday, keeping it away from a UND offense which rolled up 660 yards against Montana a week ago. That offensive success allowed Montana State’s defense to pin back its ears and sack North Dakota’s quarterback eight times, holding UND to just 180 total yards.

Junior quarterback DeNarius McGhee threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns on 24-for-32 passing. His 41-yard pass to Shawn Johnson got the Bobcats on the board mid-way through the first quarter. After that, the engine that powered the Bobcat offense most of the game was Cody Kirk.

“He’s one of the most inspirational players I’ve ever coached,” Ash said. “He lifts the level of every player when he’s out there.”

After missing two-and-a-half games with an injury, Kirk scored on a three-yard run to give the Bobcats a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter, and on the team’s first drive of the second quarter powered in from a yard out to stretch MSU’s lead to 21-7. Later in that period, Orenzo Davis scored from 19 yards, and the Bobcats took an insurmountable 28-7 lead into the intermission.

While McGhee was taking advantage of UND’s soft coverage on the outside, Kirk and Davis pounded away in the middle. Kirk battered UND for 160 yards, while Davis rambled for 145. Shawn Johnson added 68 yards. Montana State’s 436 rushing yards is the third-highest total in school history.

North Dakota’s sensational Braden Hanson never found a rhythm on Saturday, in large part due to MSU’s relentless pass rush. The Bobcats registered eight sacks, led by Jody Owens’ two, hurried the UND quarterback four times, and broke up four passes. The Bobcats held UND to just 180 total yards and nine first downs.

NOTES: Neither team turned the ball over Saturday, and they combined for just seven penalties… Rob Ash’s 46th win as MSU head coach draws him to within one of Sonny Holland’s school record… DeNarius McGhee’s three touchdown passes raises his school-record total to 64… Cody Kirk’s 160 rushing yards pushed him over the 2,000-yard mark, the ninth Bobcat to reach that milestone… Kirk’s three rushing touchdowns moved him into third in school history with 25 in his career.

— MSU Sports Information