Tech faces ‘ground-and-pound’ Blue Hawks

The Orediggers are ready for a change. Well, at least they had better be.

Montana Tech is on the road this week to take on Dickinson State in a Frontier Conference football game with the Blue Hawks. Saturday’s kickoff is at 1 p.m. (KBOW 550 AM. Click here to listen online.)

In the Blue Hawks, the Orediggers will be facing a blast from the past. Led by NAIA Hall of Fame Coach Hank Biesiot, Dickinson (1-4) runs a smash-mouth Power I offense that is unlike anything the No. 13 Orediggers (4-1) have seen in quite some time.

“It’s a 180-degree swing for our guys this week,” Oredigger coach Chuck Morrell said. “We go from the last couple of weeks with Rocky and Southern Oregon defending a spread offense to now going up against a straight, downhill-style of physical football.

“I tell you what, you’ve really got to be ready to mash their style of play,” Morrell said. “It’s really different than anything that’s out there now. They do an outstanding job with it. They’ve got two very talented tail backs. Their offensive line is physical at the point of attack, and they can grind you into an oblivion. They’re very good at it. It suits their personnel very well.”

The Blue Hawks will be celebrating homecoming, marking the fourth straight homecoming game for the Orediggers. Tech spoiled homecoming for Montana Western and Rocky Mountain before celebrating homecoming with a 48-45 double-overtime win over Southern Oregon last week.

Dickinson State is ranked last in the conference in scoring offense and scoring defense. The Blue Hawks are coming off a 45-7 loss at Southern Oregon and a 46-6 home beating at the hands of Carroll College.

Dickinson also lost 30-19 at home to Rocky Mountain and 28-13 at Montana Western. The Blue Hawks beat MSU-Northern 21-20 at home Sept. 15.

The Orediggers, though, don’t study records. They study film, and Morrell said he has come away impressed with the Blue Hawks.

“It kind of reminds me of Nebraska — the old Cornhusker style of football, just ground and pound and always keep the game in range,” Morrell said of the Blue Hawk offense. “They played both Rocky and Northern both extremely well. I don’t think their record by any means is indicative to their ability to win in the Frontier.”

Looking past the Blue Hawks to next week’s open date isn’t an option, Morrell said.

“We keep that same 1-0 mentality,” Morrell said. “As much as it is every week about playing your opponent, you’ve really got to turn your eyes inward. Where are we at, and what do we got to do to improve? Coming off the last two weeks, we know we’ve got to get better.”

The Blue Hawks are going to try to run the ball. That usually hasn’t been tough for them in the 37 years under Biesiot.

Myren Moore, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound junior from Los Angeles, leads Dickinson’s two-headed attack. He averages 4.2 yards per carry and has racked up 300 yards in the first five games. Senior Presley Straub, a 5-9, 195-pound junior from Baker, averages 3.5 yards per carry.

The Bluehawks will be without running and passing threat Dave Vasquez, a senior quarterback from Frenchtown. Vasquez is out three to four weeks with an ankle injury.

Sophomore Matt Harkless will likely get the start. Harkless has seen time under center this year, but he has only attempted eight passes. Redshirt freshman Thad Lane could also see time at quarterback.

Morrell said Senior Tanner Leak is a playmaker.

“They’ve got a number of guys who can make things happen,” Morrell said.

The Oredigger defense gave up a lot of points last week. Still, the unit feels like it played well against the Raiders, who came to town with the No. 1-ranked offense in the NAIA.

Lineman Jacob Workman leads the defense up front with three and a half sacks, while Ketwaun Frank, the reigning Frontier Conference Defensive Player of the Week, leads a talented Oredigger secondary.

Safeties Nate Thompson and Nathan Kobold each have a pair of interceptions on the season, while five Tech defenders rank in the top 25 in the Frontier in tackles.

Linebacker Mike Touzinsky, who is playing with a broken hand, is the No. 3 tackler in the Frontier, averaging 10.2 takedowns per game. Kobold, linebackers Joe Semansky and David Meis and Frank are also among the conference leaders.

Offensively, the Orediggers are coming of perhaps their best game of the season.

For the second time in three games, junior quarterback Nick Baker threw four touchdown passes. He hit James Roberts for two scores in both of those games.

Baker is completing 70 percent of his passes and has 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. Most of those picks came in the first two weeks. He hasn’t thrown any the past two games.

Junior Zach Kinney leads the Frontier with 36 receptions. He’s racked up 422 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore running back Pat Hansen has 27 catches for 137 yards, while senior Trent Thomas has 25 for 325 yards and two touchdowns.

Hansen is ranked third in the conference with 509 yards on 100 carries, putting him on pace for his second 1,000-yard season. He ran for 173 yards last week behind a solid performance by an offensive line led by Gage McCann, Ben Cook, Keith Mullan, David Tapia-Padron and David Valenzuela.

The Orediggers are off next week. Then they head Eastern Oregon for a rematch with the only team to beat them.

Morrell said the break couldn’t come at a better time for his team that, like most teams at this point, is facing a bunch of nagging injuries.

“We’re looking forward to giving our guys some time to heal up and come back,” Morrell said. “Our guys have had to play every second of every game. There’s not one win that we put on the board that I would consider an easy win. We’ve had to grind until the end of games — plus extra time — to get the win.”