Montana Tech sent a message to the rest of the NAIA football teams around the nation Saturday on a hot Bob Green Field.
The Orediggers are for real. That was apparent to a crowd of 6,000 plus in and around Alumni Coliseum as the Orediggers beat No. 4 Carroll College 19-10. Stats
“We definitely did,” Tech quarterback Quinn McQueary said after the Orediggers out-gained the Saints 407-198. “If they don’t see it now, they’re definitely going to see it when we play them.”
The beauty of the win for the Orediggers is that the team wasn’t at its best. The Orediggers committed 14 penalties for 98 yards, costing running back Zach Winfield touchdowns on consecutive plays.
Wearing their alternate gray uniforms Orediggers also turned the ball over inside the 5-yard line.
“We’ve got to clean up a few things for next week,” McQueary said. “We clean those up, shoot, we’re putting a lot of points on the board. A lot of points.”
Tech head coach Morrell said his team picked each other up from its mistakes. That includes four field goals by senior Matt Berg, including a career-long 46-yard kick.
“We didn’t play the cleanest football, but we played together all day,” Morrell said. “That was the thing I was the most happy about. We’ve talked about playing great team football this year. We’ve got to have each others backs.”
An example of that came when McQueary pitched the ball over Nolan Saraceni’s head on third and goal from the 5. Carroll defensive back Matt Wymore recovered at the 6, ending the Oredigger drive.
The Digger defense got the ball back in a hurry. David Meis sacked Mac Roche at the 2-yard line on third down, and Tech got the ball at the Carroll 45 after a punt.
That led to Berg drilling a 39-yard field goal to tie the game at 3 with 25 seconds left before halftime.
The Saints took a 10-3 lead early in the third quarter when Ryan Walsh scored on a 2-yard run shortly after a face-mask penalty on the Orediggers.
Berg cut into that lead with his 46-yard boot to make it 10-6 with 7:28 left in the third.
The long field goal came after Winfield had a 4-yard run called back by a hold. On the next play, McQueary rolled right, then left and threw back to his right for a 14-yard TD pass to Winfield. An offensive pass interference call, though, wiped out that score.
Berg, though, was there to pick the Orediggers up.
Just 2 minutes, 20 seconds later, Saraceni busted down the left sideline for a 37-yard touchdown run to put the Orediggers on top for good at 13-10 (after Berg’s extra point).
On Tech’s next drive, Saraceni turned a screen pass into a 36-yard gain on third and 17. That led to a 24-yard field goal with 11:15 left in the game to make it 16-10.
The Saints looked to take the lead with a drive into the red zone. Tyler Sanders and Jacob Crawford, though, sacked Roche to make it forth and 24 on the Tech 29.
The Saints went for it, and the snap sailed over Roche’s head. Roche raced back to recover the ball, but it went over on downs to the Orediggers at the 50.
That led to Berg’s fourth field goal, a 31-yard boot that put Tech up by two scores at 19-10 with 3:03 left in the game.
Luke Benz ended the game with an interception, and the Oredigger crowd went crazy for their team’s first win over the Saints since 2012.
It was Tech’s second win against the Saints in the last 21 meetings.
“It’s the closest thing you can get to Cat-Griz in the state,” said McQueary, who transferred to Tech from Montana State. “This is a big-time win for us. Our offensive line came out and produced today. I’ve got to give all the credit to them.”
Behind the likes of Jack Hape, Tyler Denney, Alexander Ravarino, Jalen Whitley, Gage McCann and Ryan Stemple, the Orediggers ran for 226 yards.
Saraceni, who was battling an illness, ran for 102 yards on 10 carries. McQueary scrambled for 75 yards, while Zach Winfield ran for 31 yards and Zach Bunney went for 10 yards on two carries.
McQueary completed 14 of 20 passes for 181 yards. Alec Bray caught five passes for 62 yards, while Mitchell Keaton caught three passes for 51. Saraceni caught two passes for 41 yards, while Clay Cavender hauled in two receptions for 16.
Cavender had a huge third-down reception that led to Berg’s final field goal.
Roche completed 14 of 26 passes for 16 yards. He was picked off twice, by Benz and Xavier Marsden.
“I won’t say we kept Mac Roche on lockdown by any means, but we tried to limit his big plays because he’s such a good football player,” Morrell said.
Tyler Gavlak and Gunnar Kayser led the Orediggers in tackles.
McQueary said the Orediggers will move on quickly from the win. Tech travels to Eastern Oregon next week.
“It’s a big win. We’re on to Eastern now,” he said. “That’s one win, we’re done.”
The last time the Orediggers beat Carroll it started an eight-game winning streak that led to the Frontier Conference title.
Morrell cautioned that it is still early.
“We’re going to play a really good Eastern Oregon team next week, and that’s a good team,” the coach said. “We’re going to enjoy it tonight, but we’re going to move on quickly. It’s a good, quality win early in the season. But we’ve got a long ways to go.”