No added pressure for Orediggers

Probably the most-heated rivalry in the NAIA will be renewed on the Alumni Coliseum football field at 1 p.m. Saturday.

That’s when Montana Tech and Carroll College will play for the first only of the season. The Orediggers and Saints met twice per season until the Frontier Conference expanded this season.

Oredigger coach Chuck Morrell said that doesn’t add to the magnitude of the Saturday’s clash on the Butte hill. Every game in the Frontier, the coach says, is huge.

“For the fan standpoint it probably gives some added emphasis to the game,” Morrell said of playing Carroll once in 2012. “From a coaching standpoint, we know they’re a national-caliber team, and it’s great to be playing them at home.”

Both teams are coming off a loss. Carroll (1-0 Frontier, 1-1 overall) lost at Portland State of the Big Sky Conference, while a turnover-plagued Tech squad saw an otherwise solid performance ruined in a 26-23 heartbreaking loss to Eastern Oregon in the season opener.

Morrell said that loss also doesn’t affect Saturday’s game.

“We’ve got to be able to put last week behind us,” Morrell said. “That was my statement to our team right after the game. It was a very difficult loss for us to swallow. But the conference dictates that you’ve got move past it and get ready for the next week. If you’re still hung up on the previous week’s game, it’s going to be a big-time challenge for you to get ready for any opponent in this conference, let alone Carroll.”

Overall, Morrell said he is excited about the way his team performed in Saturday’s loss.

The Oredigger defense was dominant for most of the game, and the offense rolled up 489 yards of total offense. Pat Hansen ran for 112 yards, while Nick Baker passed for 394 yards while directing Tech’s no-huddle offense that showed off serious weapons in Kevin Moss, Zack Kinney, Trent Thomas, James Roberts and Braxton Lucero.

However, the Orediggers turned the ball over five times — seven if you count two failed fourth-down conversions. One of those fourth-down tries came less than a foot away from the end zone.

“I told my guys it’s not one particular play that wins or loses a game, but the accumulation of small mistakes throughout the game can cost you a win,” Morrell said. “I’m extremely proud of the effort and the attention to detail out of our guys. We played 21 guys on Saturday who logged significant minutes who were either freshman or sophomores. To be that far along with that corps of young guys, it’s exciting. We feel like there will be opportunities for us to be successful throughout the course of the season.

“We’ve shown we can be explosive, and really in all three phases we played more consistent than really at any point last year. It’s just a matter of us continuing to pull it together.”

Going, going …

Tickets for Saturday’s game are going fast. Most of Tech’s seats are reserved under the school’s new ticket policy, the school said ticket sales was “strong.”

Tech athletic director Joe McClafferty said he recommends buying a reserved seat to guarantee a spot at the game. Those tickets are $18. General admission seating, which will include sitting on the grass behind the south end zone and some portable bleachers around the field, is available for $12.

The tailgate area opens at 11 a.m., and the gates open at noon