Cats' Season Ends in 47-40 Loss to South Dakota State - News, Sports and Weather

Cats' Season Ends in 47-40 Loss to South Dakota State

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BOZEMAN, Mont. -- South Dakota State running back Zach Zenner rushed for 252 yards and scored five touchdowns, leading South Dakota State to a 47-40 win over Montana State in the first round of the FCS Playoffs at Bobcat Stadium on Saturday.

Zenner scored four times on the ground and once in the air, and become the first opponent back to gain more than 200 yards in Bobcat Stadium since Danny Woodhead in 2006. He moved into the top three in FCS history in rushing yards, and teamed with quarterback Austin Sumner (249 yards passing) to form an unstoppable duo.

Yet the Bobcats nearly had enough to overcome South Dakota State's supreme talent. MSU rallied from an 11-point deficit to take a third quarter lead then nearly recovered an on-side kick that would have set the team up for a potential game-tying drive in the game's final 70 seconds.

“I kind of slipped,” said Cole Moore, who had a shot at the on-side kick after the Cats pulled within 47-40. “It just kind of squirted out.”

That the Bobcats stayed in the game to the end was a testament to a hard- nosed sophomore running back and a pair of players who had been injured the last two weeks. While senior running back Shawn Johnson was likely to play all week, quarterback Dakota Prukop's status was undetermined until game time.

They each played brilliantly. Johnson compiled 204 all-purpose yards, leading the team with 59 receiving yards. Prukop was marvelous, throwing for 280 yards and rushing for 14 more on a leg injury that has kept him out the last two weeks.

“It was gut-wrenching, back-and-forth, and it went right up until kickoff,” Bobcat coach Rob Ash said of the decision to play Prukop. “You could tell he wasn't quite 100 percent.”

Ash lauded Johnson on his final effort in Bobcat Stadium. “He really wanted to play today. I thought he really played well, and contributed in a lot of ways.” Johnson finished with 4,681 all-purpose yards in his career, a school record, and set the single-season mark Saturday with 1,961.

In the absence of Johnson and junior running back Anthony Knight, Chad Newell has emerged as a bastion of toughness and consistency. He rushed for 101 yards on the day and had another 42 yards receiving. He was also a special teams mainstay, and his five rushing touchdowns matched Zenner's total for the afternoon and also tied a Bobcat single-game record.

“Chad Newell was a warrior today,” Ash said. “What a great performance. Hard-nosed, gutsy, (it was) whatever adjective you want to put on it.”

Still, the story of the day was Zenner. “He's a great player,” Ash said. “I thought we did a really good job on many of his runs, but when he broke free he was out of there. He is very impressive.

While SDSU advances to play at North Dakota State next Saturday, the Bobcats' season ends. MSU finishes 8-5, and tied for second in the Big Sky.

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