Orediggers rout Western, 43-7

He might not have scored many points with his kindergarten teacher Saturday afternoon.

Montana Tech quarterback Nick Baker, though, scored as many points with Oredigger fans as his team did against the Montana Western defense when he addressed crowd on the DiggerVision screen after the game.

“We don’t like sharing,” Baker said after throwing for 291 yards and three touchdowns to lead the No. 7 Orediggers to a 43-7 win over Montana Western at Alumni Coliseum.

The victory clinched at least a share of the Frontier Conference title. While they haven’t been officially crowned the Frontier Conference champions, the Orediggers basically secured that title and the automatic playoff berth that comes with it with their eighth straight win.

For that to be taken away, the Orediggers would have to lose to Southern Oregon by at least 130 points next week in the regular-season finale in Ashland, Ore.

A Southern Oregon win would mean the teams would tie at 8-2. Tech beat the Raiders in Butte. After head to head, the second tiebreaker is fewest points allowed on the season. So Tech would get the automatic playoff berth, even if the Orediggers lose next week. The Orediggers and Raiders would be crowned “co-champions.”

A win next week would basically guarantee the Orediggers of having at least one home playoff game.

That’s where Baker’s lack of playground manors comes into play.

“We’re going to go out there guns blazing next week hoping to get a win,” the quarterback told the Oredigger faithful.

Tech was definitely firing all out Saturday.

Baker completed 28 of 44 passes. He hit Alec Bray for two touchdowns and tight end Jacob Crawford for one.

Pat Hansen ran for 102 yards and three touchdowns behind a starting offensive line of Brandon Allen, Ben Cook, Keith Mullan David Tapia-Padron and Gage McCann.

The defense forced five turnovers. Seniors Nathan Kobold, Ketwuan Frank and Joe Semansky picked off passes. Luke Seubert and Caleb Vance recovered fumbles.

It all got started, though, with a special teams mistake by the Bulldogs.

Western won the toss and the Orediggers forced the Bulldogs three and out. Then the snap on the punt went over the punter’s head and out of the end zone for a safety, putting Tech up for good at 2-0 just 1 minute, 4 seconds into the game.

Tech’s first touchdown came with 3:37 left in the first in the first quarter. Bray, a true freshman, leaped high in the back of the end zone to pull down a Baker pass for an 8-yard touchdown.

“That’s kind of how we draw it up,” Baker said of the TD that put the Orediggers up 9-0. “It’s either him or nobody. Bray made a great play. That started out the game right.”

A pair of Hansen TD runs — one from 3 yards and one from 2 — made it 22-0. Tech went for a 2-point conversion and failed after the second Hansen run, which was set up by a spectacular diving catch by James Roberts. Roberts needed all of his 6-foot-5 frame on the 42-yard gain.

“Our skill guys out there are playing great,” Baker said.

Kevin Moss caught eight passes for 76 yards, while Trent Thomas caught five for 47 and Zack Kinney caught 5 for 37. Leif Knatterud, Hansen and backup quarterback Brian Schwarzkoph also caught passes.

“It’s easy to get them the ball when the guys up front protect,” Baker said. “I’ve got some big guys catching the ball right now and some fast guys out on the perimeter.”

Backup running back Taylor Rowe ran for 85 yards as the Orediggers racked up 521 yards offense.

“Our offense really established the line of scrimmage today and had control of the ball game up front,” Tech coach Chuck Morrell said. ” That made all the difference in the world.

“Our offense was just so much more consistent today controlling the football,” the coach added. “They established the ground game, chewed up the clock and kept the defense fresh. ”

The Bulldogs, who overcame two 10-point deficits to take the Orediggers to double overtime on Sept. 15 in Dillon, battled back.

Rashad Peniston, who was engaged in chirpy battle with Frank all game, caught a 9-yard TD pass from Jeff Logan to cut the lead to 22-7 just 56 seconds before halftime.

The Bulldogs were on the march again after forcing a punt on Tech’s first possession of the second half. Western drove from its own 7 to the Oredigger 3 when Subert forced and recovered a fumble.

He returned the ball to the 18, and the Orediggers marched 82 yards for a back-breaking touchdown. Hansen capped the drive with a 1-yard plunge. He caught the 2-point conversion pass, too, making it 30-7 in favor of the Orediggers.

Oredigger takeaways led to the final two touchdowns, a 19-yard strike from Baker to Crawford and a 5-yard TD pass to Bray in the back of the end zone.

“That’s three in a row for a rival game,” Morrell said. “It’s tough to beat these guys because they’re so well coached and they play so hard. Hats off to Western and their effort today.”

Semansky said the score difference in the two Western game is an indication of how well the Orediggers are playing right now.

“I think we’ve improved quite a bit,” he said. “Everybody is locked in, we’re practicing better, everybody’s communicating on defense. We’re just going to keep rolling from here.”

The game was the final regular-season home game for Semansky, Frank, Kobold, Craig Halko, Thomas, Tapia-Padron, Shane Lowman and Keith Mullan.

“I’m just so proud of our seniors right now,” Morrell said. “We’ve only got a few of them, but they played big today.”

Of those seniors, Semansky, Mullan, Halko and Kobold are the only four who started together in the fall of 2008. The class started with 50 players, so Saturday’s win had to mean just a little bit more to the Orediggers’ core four.

“It’s awesome,” Semansky said, choking up a bit. “It’s awesome.”

It isn’t over, though.

Morrell said the Orediggers are ready to accomplish a lot more than just clinch a tie for the conference title.

“We talk about the conference championship, but honestly that’s not the big-picture goal here for us,” Morrell said. “We’ve got bigger things in mind. This is just one more step in the right direction for this program.

“In the back of my mind, there’s only one reason for me to be here,” Morrell added. “That’s to be in the playoffs and, God willing, I’d love to bring home a national championship to Butte. We’re a long ways from that, but that’s the big-picture goal. I don’t care about the rest of it.”

Tech-Western stats

Montana Tech corner back Luke Seubert returns a fumble, which he also forced, in the third quarter.
Montana Tech receiver Trent Thomas runs down field on a long reception.
Montana Tech linebacker Joe Semansky smiles while being mobbed by teammates after his fourth-quarter interception.
Taylor Rowe follows his blocker, Tyson Shriver, as Western’s Dakota Pineda tries to make a tackle.