By Bruce Sayler
The technical term was a butt-kicking.
It was the applicable term, too, in referring to Montana Tech’s 62-14 football victory over Eastern Oregon on Saturday. Stats
The Frontier Conference clash celebrated Hall of Fame Day for the Orediggers, who were playing on Bob Green Field on the Montana Tech campus for only the second time this college football season.
Senior quarterback Quinn McQueary passed for five touchdowns and ran for another as Montana Tech spotted the Mountaineers a 7-0 lead, then scored eight straight touchdowns. McQueary finished with 341 yards on 23-for-38 passing.
The eruption turned an expected duel of titans, ranked teams, into a one-sided rout.
“When we get all three phases — offense, defense and special teams — going, we’re a tough out,” Chuck Morrell, head coach of the No. 5-ranked Orediggers, said. “Quinn’s maturity over the year has (been a factor) and the way he’s seeing the field right now is incredible. Our offensive line is doing a great job protecting him. The other guys are doing a great job when Quinn distributes the ball to them.
“It was time for us, defensively, to step to the plate. We have seven new guys on defense. We see the spark, but we needed to show it for four quarters like we did today”
Linebacker Connor Wines’ 3 ½ sacks sparked the defense that smothered the offense of 23rd-ranked Eastern Oregon. The kicking and punting of Derrick Holt and the record-breaking punt return by Levi Lynde were among the special teams’ highlights.
Morrell saw the early Mountaineers’ touchdown as a call back to earth for the Orediggers, more than it being a inspirational punch in the mouth.
With the Oredggers going a very rare three-and-out on offense on first crack, Eastern Oregon’s Jacob Shults blocked a Holt punt and the Mountaineers took over possession on the Orediggers’ 37-yard line. It was Eastern Oregon’s first turn on offense. On second down, quarterback Kai Quinn hit Brenden Kelly for a well-defended 31-yard touchdown on a pinpoint throw and acrobatic catch. Nathan Harden kicked the extra point and the Mountaineers led 7-0 not quite two minutes into the game.
“Derrick Holt is, in my opinion, the best kicker in the Frontier Conference,” Morrell stressed. “I thought it was just that our guys were really amped up at the start of the game. They’d been on the road for a long time, two games, and were amped up about playing at home. That happens.”
The end zone was of telescopic distance away from the Moutaineers most of the rest of the way due to the Montana Tech defensive effort and Holt and Co.’s special-teams performance.
Montana Tech answered the Eastern Oregon score immediately. A 47-yard McQueary pass to Chris LaChance set up a 26-yard scoring throw to Zeb Bloom. Bloom snared the swing pass near the sideline just as Alex Steele blocked the cornerback, opening a path to the end zone.
The Orediggers struck twice more before the first quarter ended. Jed Fike ran for 44 of his game-high 174 yards on a play that gave Montana Tech the lead for good, 14-7. The Orediggers had gained the ball on the first of the Mountaineers’ 12 punts.
After two more trades of punts, McQueary hooked up with Chris Kelly for a 65-yard TD pass and Montana Tech took a 21-7 lead into the second quarter.
By halftime, it was a 42-7 bulge as the Orediggers chalked up three more touchdowns in the second period. Andre Brown’s interception of a Quinn pass ended in a 23-yard return to the Eastern Oregon 1-yard line. A running play lost three yards before McQueary performed an Oscar-worthy fake handoff to Braden Feisthamel and kept for a roll right he turned up the field with and stepped untouched across the goal line.
The Orediggers sustained an 80-yard drive a couple of possessions later after losing the ball once on a fumble. They allowed one yard on three snaps to Eastern Oregon as the Mountaineers went to the second of three quarterbacks they used. None solved the Montana Tech defense.
So, Eastern Oregon punted.
Taking over on their own 20, the Orediggers launched their march. A pass of 15 yards, McQueary to Dion Williams, ignited it. Fike clicked off a 39-yard run and, once Montana Tech reached the Moutaineers’ 26-yard line, McQueary connected with Williams for the touchdown.
A sack by the Orediggers’ Chance Hansen forced Eastern Oregon into a punting situation at its own 5-yard line. The Orediggers gained possession at the 46, completed a McQueary-to-Kelly pass to the 30 and then cashed the opportunity. McQueary threw to Fike near the sideline after pump-faking both directions. Fike tore up the field, got a gate-opening block at about the 2 and angled left into the end zone.
“We talked about it being Hall of Fame Day a lot this week,” Morrell said. “We talked about what Davis Almanza meant to this program in the mid-1990s, and we talked a bunch about Rod and Mary Lee James coming to everything we do. We wanted to make sure that on their day, we would get a ‘W.’”
Almanza, football receiving records-holder, and the Jameses were joined as inductees by volleyball star Collette (Phillips) Anderson, basketball great Jeff Bellach, baseball/basketball standout Gary Carlson, and the 1981 Oredigger volleyball team.
A return record of Almanza’s was broken Saturday in his presence after being recognized on the field at halftime as a new Hall-of-Famer.
Eastern Oregon received the second-half kickoff and, again, was held to a three-and-out by the stingy Montana Tech defense. Lynde gathered in the punt at the Oredigger 11-yard line, took a few steps forward, and saw clear sailing to his left as he veered to take advantage. His 88-yard touchdown return broke Almanza’s school-record 83-yard return of 1996.
“Honestly, my job was easy,” said Lynde, a 5-foot-9, 155-pound junior receiver from Red Lodge, “We knew if we could get to the edge, we had an opportunity. I got to the edge and I saw a wall of green. Everybody made their blocks and all I had to do was not trip.
“We wanted to make a statement coming out for the second half. Offense, defense, special teams — it’s always a good thing when we’ve got it all together.”
The teams traded punts again and then Eastern Oregon had the ball on its own 28-yard line. Saige Wilkerson’s pass on first down was picked by Oredigger Jalen Johnson on a diving grab close to the east sideline. Montana Tech had possession at the Eastern Oregon 48.
McQueary mid-range completions to Williams and Kelly, and a pass interference penalty against the Mountaineers took the ball to the 2. McQueary flipped a pass over the line to Sean Sullivan. The Orediggers led 56-7 with 6 minutes, 15 seconds still to go in the third quarter.
The Mountaineers tallied at 2:32 on a Quinn pass to Kelly before Montana Tech finished the scoring with a pair of Holt field goals, measuring 30 and 26 yards.
The Montana Tech defense limited Eastern Oregon’s offense to two touchdowns and 234 total yards, only 70 on the ground. Mountaineer quarterbacks Quinn, Wilkerson and Chad McCoy were a combined 20-for-39 passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“The scheme,” Wines, a 6-2, 220-pound junior linebacker from Gardiner, said was the key to the Orediggers’ defensive prowess Saturday. “Coach (B.J.) Campbell sets us up every week to be successful.”
Wines collected 4 ½ tackles for loss, including his three-plus sacks, while winding up with seven total tackles — the team-high.
“The D-line and the DBs balled out and made it a lot easier for me,” he said. “A key to our gameplan was to contain the quarterback. He (Quinn) is a scrambler. If we could contain him, we could contain the running game, and we did.”
Linemen Hansen and Brock Beede each had six tackles as did defensive back Reid Siderius. Hansen registered 2 ½ sacks. In all, the Orediggers made 10 tackles for loss of yardage. Safety Justin May broke up three passes.
Chris Kelly led Montana Tech receivers with 101 yards on five catches. Williams and Sullivan also caught five passes each and Fike grabbed three. Lynde stacked 134 yards on five punt returns.
Victor Dias was Eastern Oregon’s leading rusher with 30 yards on eight carries. Quinn passed 26 times, completed 14 and gained 126 yards, including the two TD tosses. Brenden Kelly led Mountaineer receivers with seven catches for 85 yards. Defensive back Haziel Ladezma totaled eight tackles to lead Eastern Oregon. Zackery Jacobs, another member of the secondary, was second with seven.
The win pushed Montana Tech’s record to 4-0 and the Orediggers will not play again until Oct. 7 when they are at Montana Western in Dillon. Eastern Oregon fell to 1-3 with the loss.