By Bill Foley
When Montana Tech football coach Chuck Morrell talks about his quarterback, he immediately goes to the NBA.
Yes, the National Basketball Association.
“I’m not the first one to say this, but when your best player works the hardest, you’re going to be successful,” Morrell said of Quinn McQueary as the Orediggers prepare to play at MSU-Northern Saturday in Havre. (Kickoff: 1 p.m.; Radio: KBOW, 550 AM, 101.5 FM or online)
“That’s a Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan thing,” Morrell said. “When your best guys are your hardest workers, you’re going to be successful. That’s certainly true in his case and it’s true with some of our other positions.”
Morrell said McQueary’s determination is off the chart. That is backed up by stories of the Montana State transfer working alone on the football field over the winter — even when temperatures were near zero.
“There’s three feet of snow on the field, and I’d look out my window and there’s a guy with a shovel,” Morrell said. “I know who it is. It’s Quinn.”
McQueary is coming off a game that has Oredigger Nation abuzz with talk of contention for a national title.
The Manhattan native completed 27 of 41 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns in Tech’s 45-28 home win over Carroll College last Thursday. McQueary also jumped into the end zone for a rushing touchdown in the game that was played in front of a crowd of around 6,000.
“The biggest difference for him right now is his constant attention to detail,” Morrell said. “He doesn’t have any lapses in focus or lapse in decision making. That’s the thing that really stuck out to me from Thursday.
“We were in the right looks all the time. We were in the right sets. We had very few offensive penalties. A lot of that is driven by your quarterback organizing your group.”
Morrell doesn’t just use the Popovich line when talking about McQueary.
“I look at the way our offensive line guys work,” Morrell said. “I look at some of our defensive line. I look at Andre Brown at corner. He’s our hardest working DB. It’s not a big surprise when he goes out there and plays a great game.”
The coach had plenty of praise for his offensive line. Jalen Whitley, Jack Hape, Nate Younk, Kellen Davis and Trevor Hopf did not allow a sack in the win over Carroll.
“In my seven years here, this is the best offensive line that we’ve had,” Morrell said. “We’ve actually got some more guys who are ready to play at that position, too.”
Morrell said McQueary’s quick release and decision making helped keep the quarterback untouched.
“When it comes to Quinn, you have to make a decision,” Morrell said. “Are you going to blitz to try to pressure him? Well, he might get loose on you and get out of the pocket, and that can create a whole other set of issues for you. Or, you can try to drop and play coverage.
“It’s great when he doesn’t get touched. That is certainly a benefit for us. It hasn’t always been the case.”
McQueary spread the ball around to nine different receivers, with junior Dion Williams leading the way with nine catches for 68 yards and a touchdown.
Chris Lachance racked up 98 yards and a touchdown on three carries. That includes a 73-yard score. Senior Sean Sullivan added five catches, while classmate Chris Kelly joined Lachance with three.
Sophomore transfer running back Jed Fike also caught a touchdown, scoring from 49 yards out. The former Dickinson State Blue Hawk also ran for 130 yards and two 1-yard touchdowns.
The only flaw for the Oredigger defense, which gave up just two first downs to Carroll in the second half, was a lack of turnovers.
Brown, though, held Carroll star receiver Connor Fohn in check, and Chance Hansen, Danny Mannix and Brock Polley each got in on sacks. Safety Reid Siderius led the team with nine tackles.
That defense could be tested in a way it hasn’t been in a while with the Lights, who are coming off a game they feel they should have won last week at Rocky Mountain College.
Junior transfer Tommy Wilson used 11 receivers while passing for 297 yards in Northern’s 32-25 loss to the Battlin’ Bears. He tossed three touchdowns and was picked off twice.
“He ran all over the place,” Morrell said of Wilson. “He’s very athletic, and he just spread the ball all over the place. Obviously, he’s got a good command of the offense right now because the ball was finding receivers all over the place. He wasn’t just locked in to one guy.”
Running back Zach McKinley is gone after a stellar career, so third-year head coach Aaron Christensen changed the identity of the Northern attack.
“They’re obviously trying to play a really fast tempo offense,” Morrell said. “They got off 90 to 95 snaps last week, and that’s an incredible number. From an offensive standpoint, they certainly have more depth than what they’ve had in the past.”
The Oredigger defense, though, is basically built to stop such an attack.
“It goes back a couple of years when we started playing Southern Oregon,” Morrell said. “It was clear that they were going to be one of the best teams in the conference, and if we were going to compete with them then we had to improve our depth and be able to match their tempo. That’s how we originally got to playing the 20 or 25 guys on defense.”
Morrell said the Orediggers will not adjust their offensive game plan because of what the Lights are doing. He said the Orediggers plan to dictate the tempo of games.
“People are going to have to do decide,” Morrell said. “Are they going to play fast or keep up with us, or are they going to try to keep our offense off the field? I think it’s the million-dollar question that other people have to answer.”
Rocky Mountain College will have to answer that question next Saturday. That’s when the Orediggers travel to Billings to take on the Battlin’ Bears.
Tech’s next home game is Sept. 23 against Eastern Oregon.