MSU rushes past Monmouth

BOZEMAN — The turning point of Montana State’s 42-24 win over Monmouth may have arrived just before kickoff, when the Hawks won the toss and deferred their choice to the second half.

In front of a frenzied school-record crowd of 21,007, the Bobcats scored three touchdowns in its first dozen plays and cruised to a 42-24 win over Monmouth on Thursday. With Bobcat Stadium awash in gold MSU rolled up 561 yards of total offense and limited Monmouth to just three first-half points.

Senior quarterback DeNarius McGhee, who threw for 240 yards and gained another 54 on the ground, credited the team’s quick start with setting the tone. And it started at the start. “In pregame we were really dialed in on the first play,” McGhee said of a swing pass he threw to Brian Flotkoetter that resulted in a 30-yard gain. “We wanted to make sure we got off to a good start, and we made sure we had everything right on that first play.”

McGhee completed four passes to four different receivers on that first drive, then dashed in from one yard out for the score. His 49-yard run was the big play of MSU’s second drive, but the big news of the drive came when Cody Kirk powered in from five yards for the score. The 30th rushing touchdown of Kirk’s career set a Bobcat record.

Cats-Monmouth stats

While McGhee and Kirk are likely candidates to score, the Cats got a very unlikely touchdown right before halftime. Monmouth’s Brandon Hill threw a screen into the flat, and MSU defensive tackle Craig Ashworth snagged the ball and rambled 49 yards for a score. He received a great block from Brad Daly on the way.

“That was a great moment for every player on the team and every coach to watch a player who works as hard as Craig Ashworth score a touchdown,” Bobcat coach Rob Ash said. “He played just like he practiced.”

Ashworth was a key cog in MSU’s defensive line, which drew praise from Ash. Daly logged four tackles-for-loss, a sack, two pass breakups and a forced fumble, while Taylor Sheridan also had a sack. Monmouth gained 175 of its 355 yards in the fourth quarter against MSU’s reserves.

But at the end of the day, MSU’s offense stole the show. “When our offense is clicking like that we’re hard to stop,” he said. McGhee was nearly flawless, completing 19 of his 27 pass attempts. He failed to throw a touchdown for only the second time in his 39 career starts, but the Bobcats scored four touchdowns on the ground.

Montana State won its 11th straight regular season non-conference home game and its sixth straight home opener. The Bobcats visit SMU next weekend. Monmouth, in its western-most football game ever, fell to 0-1 on the season.

— MSU Sports Information

Montana State coach Rob Ash and the Bobcats take the field Thursday night. (Pat Kearney photo)

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