Cats Improve to 5-1 in Conference with Win Over Portland State - News, Sports and Weather

Cats Improve to 5-1 in Conference with Win Over Portland State

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BOZEMAN, Mont. -- The equation, according to Dakota Prukop, is simple.

“We take what the defense gives us,” Montana State's sophomore quarterback said Saturday after leading the Bobcats to a 29-22 win over Portland State in Bobcat Stadium. “(Opponents are) allowing us to run the ball, so the run is more effective,” he said after rushing for 135 yards, his fifth 100-yard day of the season. “That's why we're running the ball well and not passing as much.”

The Bobcats rushed for 329 yards against a Vikings squad allowing just 173.0 yards a game before Saturday, second-best in the Big Sky. While Prukop diced PSU's run defense with a variety of called runs and scrambles off of pass plays, Gunnar Brekke added 92 and Anthony Knight bludgeoned his way to 64 yards. Even shifty receiver Jayshawn Gates chipped in with a 32-yard dash.

Brekke made the game's first big play, rolling 71 yards for a touchdown on the game's second play. Bobcat coach Rob Ash called the play “a new wrinkle for us this week,” and came in the absence of starting running back Shawn Johnson, who missed the game with an injury.

“I think that was a statement” by Brekke, Ash said. “It was really good.”

Montana State scored touchdowns on its first two possessions – the Brekke run was followed by a Mitch Greibel two-point conversion – to grab a 15-7 lead with just seven minutes gone. Brekke scored again on a six-yard run late in the second quarter, and after a 37-yard field goal by Jonathan Gonzales to close the half MSU led 22-10.

In between the Cats punted three times, which Prukop attributed to MSU mistakes. “We just shot ourselves in the foot with penalties,” he said. But all parties affiliated with the winning team praised PSU's tough and physical play on defense. “I'm extremely sore,” Brekke said.

Portland State drew closer early in the third quarter, blocking a Trevor Bolton punt for a safety, but first surrendered by MSU since 2006. But Prukop stabilized matters less than two minutes into the fourth quarter with a 13-yard touchdown run, and the Cats withstood a late score for the 29-22 win.

While the Bobcat offense operated methodically, senior linebacker Alex Singleton led the MSU defense with a ferocious effort. His 17 tackles is a season high, and extends his string to five straight games with double-digit tackles. Three of his tackles were for a loss, and many more came behind the line of scrimmage.

Portland State operated efficiently on offense behind redshirt freshman Josh Kraght, making his first career start. He rushed for 96 yards and threw for 218. Most importantly, the PSU offense did not give the ball away to the Bobcats. “One of the things that has plagued their offense this year is turnovers, and (Kraght) handled the ball well. He did a good job today,” Ash said.

The 300-yard rushing day was MSU's third in the last four games, and fourth of the season. Prukop scored a pair of touchdowns, raising his season total to 13, sixth-most in school history.

With the win, Montana State raised its record to 7-3 overall – the program's 13th consecutive winning season – and 5-1 in Big Sky play. The Bobcats host Idaho State, who brings an identical record and conference championship aspirations to Bobcats Stadium next week. Kickoff in the first meeting between the ancient rivals is 1:40 pm.

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