BOZEMAN — Rob Ash counts himself among those pulling for Montana State who love Orenzo Davis’ big-play ability. Montana State’s sixth-year head coach likens his senior running back to “a home run hitter” who can score at any opportunity.
But ask Ash about Davis’ performance last Saturday, when the Littleton, Colo., native broke off a 74-yard run that proved crucial in MSU’s 24-17 win at Southern Utah, Ash singles out plays that were 73 yards shorter.
Davis’ ability to move the chains were as important as his ability to dash into the end zone, Ash said. “Some of (Davis’) best runs in the Southern Utah game were third-and-ones, and he got three key first downs as the third-and-one back at Southern Utah against a very physical front.”
“That 74-yard run was a great effort and a big play,” Ash says, “but I think Orenzo’s most important run was the one right before the touchdown.”
The stage was set early in the second quarter, after Southern Utah had tied the score at 7-7. The teams traded three-and-out possessions, and the Thunderbirds were about to force another Montana State punt. With Cody Kirk freshly sidelined, offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven called Davis’ number.
“One of their (SUU’s) guys beat the blocker to the inside and hit Orenzo a couple of yards behind the line of scrimmage,” Ash said. “But Orenzo kept pumping his legs, kept working, got back to the line of scrimmage, and got that yard we needed for the first down. It was an impressive effort, and without that play he wouldn’t have had the long run.”
Four times out of his 20 carries, Davis made the line-to-gain for a first down, with three of those rushes coming in short-yardage situations and two on third down.
For his part, Davis enjoyed turning those short-yardage carries into first downs. “Those were key,” he said with a smile. “Those were big plays in the game. I was glad we got first downs on those plays.”
Davis’ struggles during the 2011 season, when he was academically ineligible, are well-documented. Ash feels Davis’ struggles made him a stronger person.
“I think it did,” he said. “I think he made the connection between academic work and football and how those two both have to be on the same level in order to play. I think he appreciates (football) more because he missed it for a whole year. And he’s really excited to be out there, he’s really been a huge key for us.”
— By Bill Lamberty, MSU Sports Information