BOZEMAN — As fall football camps normally ebb and flow, three straight strong days by the Montana State defense figured to produce a strong showing by the Bobcat offense in a Wednesday afternoon scrimmage in Bobcat Stadium.
And it played out exactly that way.
Backup quarterback Jake Bleskin threw for 142 yards and three touchdowns, starter DeNarius McGhee was razor-sharp in completing 11-of-16 passes for 103 yards, and the Bobcat offense generated 574 yards on 81 plays (excluding quarterback rushes). Tight end Lee Perkins and reserve receiver Will Krolick each caught four passes, and Tanner Roderick capped the afternoon with a spectacular 12-yard touchdown catch on one of the day’s final plays.
“The offense played well today,” said Bobcat coach Rob Ash. “They hit a couple of big plays.”
The biggest of those big plays came on the second play of the scrimmage, when receiver Jon Ellis took a handoff and darted 72 yards to the five-yard line. Cody Kirk punched the ball into the end zone on his second attempt for the day’s first score, and an emphatic tone-setter.
“It’s a big difference when the offense hits a big play right out of the gate,” Ash said. “The offense did that, and it got them all pumped up.”
The defense had its bright moments as well, particularly after the top offense’s second possession. After the first defense forced a stop near midfield, the defensive reserves logged three-and-outs on three consecutive possessions.
Much of the enthusiasm generated by the defense, however, was pierced mid-scrimmage when starting defensive end Preston Gale’s day was ended early with a knee injury. “The diagnosis was inconclusive,” Ash said. “We’ll have to see what the doctors say (on Thursday).”
Gale’s dominant play in camp extended through first half of Wednesday’s scrimmage. He registered one of three Bobcat sacks, and was a disruptive presence in the backfield. Ash said that in spite of injuries that held starting defensive end Brad Daly and two starting linebackers out of the scrimmage, he was pleased with many things he saw from that unit. “I think the defense will be fine,” he said.
Most of the post-practice attention, however, was focused on the Bobcat offense. The offensive fireworks were punctuated by scintillating play from the quarterback position throughout the scrimmage. McGhee, Jake Bleskin, Dakota Prukop and Quinn McQueary combined to complete 32 of its 47 pass attempts for 320 yards. The day’s only turnover was a late interception by Khari Garcia on a play in which Austin Barth was drilled and an apparent reception was popped into the air.
“I think (the quarterbacks) played outstanding,” Ash said. “(Quarterbacks coach) Tim Cramsey has done a really good job with those guys. The thing I like about Tim is that if he’s going to throw 20 passes, it doesn’t need to be 20 different plays. He can go back to the same concepts and be effective, and we saw that today. All four (quarterbacks) are playing extremely well.”
Ash was impressed with the run-pass balance his offense displayed. “I thought we had a nice mixture of run and pass,” he said. “We don’t want to be just a passing team. We’ve had success running the football, and we want to continue that.”
The Bobcats also showed balance within the ground game. “They are different types of backs,” he said of the aggregation. Eight running backs carried on Wednesday, and five of them are likely candidates for meaningful carries during the season. “They all have different styles.”
MSU’s quarterbacks also spread the ball around in the passing game. Ten different receivers, three tight ends, and four running backs caught passes.
The Bobcats take the day off of practice on Thursday before returning for a pair of Friday sessions.
RUSHING: Chad Newell 6-49-0, Brandon Davis 5-25-0, Cody Dopps 5-5-0, Cody Kirk 4-24-1, Gunnar Brekke 3-14-0, Cody Vitt 3-3-0, Shawn Johnson 3-23-0, Morris Gates-Mouton 2-16-0, Jon Ellis 2-81-0, Jayshawn Gates 1-14-0. (Excludes quarterbacks)
PASSING: DeNarius McGhee 11-16-0, 103, 1; Jake Bleskin 13-17-0, 182 , 3; Dakota Prukop 3-7-0, 18, 0; Quinn McQueary 6-8-1, 57, 0.
RECEIVING: Lee Perkins 4-31-0, Will Krolick 4-38-1, Tanner Roderick 3-23-1, Jon Ellis 2-26-0, David Dash 2-20-1, Mitch Griebel 2-5-0, Jayshawn Gates 2-18-0, Cody Kirk 2-11-0, Brian Flotkoetter 2-22-0, Shadeed Crockett 2-24-0, Gunnar Brekke 1-40-1, Austin Barth 1-6-0, Chad Newell 1-6-0, Tiai Salanoa 1-6-0, Manny Kalfell 1-6-0, Tanner Bleskin 1-20-0, Shawn Johnson 1-7-0.
DEFENSIVE HIGHLIGHTS: Sacks – Michael Foster, Fletcher Collins, Preston Gale; Other Tackles-for-Loss – James Nelson (2), Taylor Sheridan/Wyatt Christensen, Fe’ao Vunipola, Fletcher Collins; Interception – Khari Garcia; Pass Breakups – Deonte Flowers, Trace Timmer.
Cody Kirk 4 run (Rory Perez)
Gunnar Brekke 40 yard pass from Jake Bleskin (Rory Perez)
Rory Perez 35 field goal
Will Krolick 6 from Jake Bleskin (Rory Perez)
David Dash 15 from DeNarius McGhee (Rory Perez)
Tanner Roderick 12 from Jake Bleskin (Rory Perez)
— MSU Sports Information