Prukop, Bobcats race past Mustangs for homecoming win

BOZEMAN — Dakota Prukop threw for 399, leading Montana State to touchdowns on its first four drives of the game as the Bobcats raced away from 20th-ranked Cal Poly 45-28 in each school’s Big Sky opener Saturday in Bozeman. Stats

Prukop’s career-high passing total included an 88-yard strike to Jayshawn Gates – the third-longest pass play in MSU and Bobcat Stadium history – and a 63-yarder to Beau Sandland. Chad Newell added 111 rushing yards, and scored three touchdowns.

But the story of the day was a shuffled Bobcat defensive line and a simplified game plan. “We had literally on play call the entire game” on defense, said Taylor Sheridan. “It was just line up, hit your responsibility, and play as hard as you can.”

The senior team captain moved from tackle to end in MSU’s alignment so “they couldn’t double me.” He logged 10 tackles on the afternoon, the most in his career against a Division I opponent. The presence of redshirt freshman Tucker Yates in the middle, Sheridan said, made a difference. “You can’t move him.”

The Bobcats took control of the game early. Prukop marched the Cats 65 yards for a touchdown on the game’s first drive, with Newell scoring from one yard out. After the Bobcats forced a Cal Poly punt on the ensuing possession, MSU drove for another touchdown. Newell plunged in from four yards for the score, but the drive’s big play was a 53-yard Prukop-to-Beau Sandland pass.

With a 14-0 lead in hand, Montana State stepped on the gas. After forcing a third Mustang drive in as many possessions, Prukop found Jayshawn Gates stunningly alone behind the Cal Poly secondary for an 88-yard touchdown. “That’s our bread-and-butter deep shot,” Prukop said. “Jayshawn is a fast dude.”

Although Cal Poly answered with a score – which came on a 36-yard run by bulldozer fullback Joe Protheroe, who finished with 156 yards – the Prukop-to-Gates bomb effectively ended the competitive portion of the game. The Mustangs never cut the deficit below 10 points, and never scored on consecutive possessions – which the Cats did in both the first and third quarters.

The Bobcats rolled up 602 yards of total offense, which included 203 rushing yards. Cal Poly rumbled for 356 on the ground, but could find no balance whatsoever. The Cats limited the Mustangs to 50 yards passing, six completions, and just three passing first downs.

Montana State raised its record to 2-1 on the season and 1-0 in Big Sky play, in the process snapping a six-game losing streak against nationally-ranked opponents. Cal Poly falls to 1-2, 0-1. Montana State visits Northern Arizona next week, while the Mustangs host Idaho State.

 — MSU Sports Information

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