Montana Tech burns Northern in Homecoming rout

By Bruce Sayler

The Montana Tech touchdown parade lasted even longer than the rain did at Bob Green Field Saturday.

The Orediggers employed four different quarterbacks and none of them was regular starter Jet Campbell (out with a knee injury) in a 73-0 Frontier Conference football win over Montana State-Northern. The Montana Tech defense pitched a shutout while the offense kept hitting home runs as the Orediggers combined with the rainy weather to douse the Lights.

It will take some to time to list and to read the scoring plays. The Orediggers stretched deep into their depth chart with regular starters playing little or not at all in the second half against a, so-far, struggling MSU-Northern program new head coach Jerome Souers it trying to build from nearly scratch.

The margin of victory was a point short of the historical 93-19 victory Montana Tech posted over the Lights five years ago on the same field.


The Oredigger defense held MSU-Northern to six first downs and 28 yards in total offense. The Lights’ ground game lost 58 yards and the offense coughed up seven fumbles – five of which were recovered by Montana Tech. Add in Oredigger Jadyn Downs’ interception and the Lights were guilty of six turnovers.

Montana Tech backup quarterback Blake Thelen played the second game in a row in place of the injured Campbell and responded with a second win. Head coach Kyle Samson said it is hoped Campbell will be back next week when the Orediggers go on the road to play league leader College of Idaho.

Saturday, Thelen completed 10 of 14 attempts for 256 yards with no interceptions. He threw three aerials for touchdowns.

No 21-ranked Montana Tech tried only two passes, both incompletions, after halftime. Kyle Torgerson caught one, but out of bounds.

“I’m really proud of the way we started the game,” Samson said. “We had talked about coming out and being ready to play and ready to go. It was a three-phases win with offense, defense and the special teams all playing great.

“And, it was awesome today that so many of our young guys who practice hard every night, but never get many reps in a game, got to play a whole half. I was proud to see the young guys go out and execute and get out on the field.”

Defensive end Keyshawn James-Newby, enjoying a starring role this season, said he “didn’t get close to the field in the second half.” Still, he came up with a sack and two tackles for loss in a team-high seven stops.

Samson, a former star quarterback at MSU-Northern, put an end to the scoring after the Orediggers reached the Lights’ 3-yard line with little more than three minutes left in the game and Montana Tech having just gained a new set of downs. He ordered the offense to kneel-out the possession. When MSU-Northern took over on downs, Souers had the Lights reciprocate and the clock ticked off the remaining few seconds.

“Our coaches did a great job getting everyone prepared,” Samson said. “We had just won a big rivalry game (against Montana-Western) last week and the coaches got the guys focused and prepared for this week. You have to win games like this to be able to play in big games like we have coming up next week.”

The implication was to make sure the Orediggers didn’t take the Lights, well, lightly. Samson reiterates teams can get themselves into trouble by thinking they can have a week off against anybody in the Frontier Conference.

Thelen, Cade Wyant, Jake Standlee and Justus Peterson all saw time at quarterback for Montana Tech, 10 different Orediggers carried the ball and six caught passes.

The scoring plays were:

A six-yard touchdown run by Kaleb Winterburn with 13 minutes left in the first quarter;

Thelen’s 34-yard TD pass to Kyle Torgerson with 6:51 to go in the quarter;

Thelen’s 12-yard scoring pass to Trevor Hoffman with 2:34 left in the quarter;

Tyler Little’s fumble recovery in the end zone as the result of James-Newby and Cole Wyant sacking MSU-Northern QB Kaymen Cureton with 57 seconds left in the quarter;

Blake Counts’ 1-yard dive with 14:43 left in the half after Naoki Harmer blocked a punt and Kade Wilcox recovered at the Northern 2-yard line;

Winterburn’s 1-yard burrow with 8:11 left in the half (set up by a 62-yard Thelen pass to Hoffman);

Thelen’s 65-yard touchdown pass to Wyatt Alexander with 5:48 to go in the half;

Ryan Lowry’s 31-yard field goal with 12:48 to play in the third quarter;

Wyant’s 8-yard keeper with 1:58 left in the third quarter;

Christian Vetter’s 7-yard carry with 10:39 left in the game;

And, Standlee’s 5-yard keeper with 6:43 to go in the game.

The Lights offense crossed the 50-yard line only once, reaching the Orediggers’ 38-yard line before being tackled for a loss of yardage and forced to punt. MSU-Northern punted six times in the game. Montana Tech never had to go to its punter, Andrew Almos.

“We were working basics, mainly,” James-Newby said about Montana Tech’s defensive line play. “We were working off the blockers, using good hand-eye coordination and holding the heel line – instead of pressing the offensive line forward, you hold it (neutralize it) in place. It allows the linebackers and other guys (playing behind the defensive line or circling behnd it) to get to the backs.”

Blake Allred and Cole Wyant had five tackles each for the Orediggers while Ezra Gulewich, Wilcox and Caleb Novak each had a sack, sharing the stat lead with James-Newby.  The Oredigger fumble recoveries were by Little, James-Newby, Allred, Zach Newton and Wilcox.

Hoffman led the Montana Tech receivers with five catches for 124 yards. Reserve running back Ethan Renner led the ground game with 91 yards on 17 carries. The Orediggers totaled 27 first downs and 467 yards in total offense, 258 through the air.

For MSU-Northern, TaVarus George led in receiving with five catches for 52 yards and Mason Dionne gained 27 yards on 10 carries. Cureton was 7-for-16 passing for 86 yards.

Montana Tech will take a 4-1 season and Frontier Conference record to Caldwell, Idaho, next Saturday to vie with the College of Idaho. MSU-Northern fell to 0-5.

“This gave us a chance to keep getting better,” Samson said.