MSU Bobcats Fall to Eastern Washington Eagles in Another Close F - News, Sports and Weather

MSU Bobcats Fall to Eastern Washington Eagles in Another Close Finish

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Nzuzi Webster intercepted a Dakota Prukop pass with eight seconds left, allowing Eastern Washington to hold on to a dizzying 55-50 win Saturday afternoon.
Montana State's only turnover of the day capped a contest featuring a combined 1,385 yards, 58 first downs and 105 points. Prukop accounted for 549 yards himself, second-most in school history. But at the end of the day, the interception and a couple of early stops carried the day for Eastern Washington's defense.
"We win together and we lose together," Bobcat coach Rob Ash said after Eastern Washington's fourth straight win over his squad. "That's how we do things in this program. I was proud of the resolve and resilience we showed. The guys never gave up."
There were opportunities aplenty. The Eagles led from their first drive, and the cushion was as many as 20 points, 34-14, with three minutes to play in the first half. But a late second-quarter field goal by Luke Daly, and a defensive stop followed by a 30-yard Prukop-to-Mitchell Herbert touchdown early in the third quarter turned the tide. The Eastern Washington lead was never again 20, and when Herbert made a sensational one-handed catch with 4:13 to play the Cats drew to within five, 55-50.
After a slow start – "It was the same thing as against Fort Lewis (16 days earlier)," he said, "we just didn't click early" in the game – Prukop got rolling. He finished the day with 196 rushing yards, the most ever by a Bobcat quarterback and just 13 yards from the MSU single-game top 10 list. He threw for 353 yards and four touchdowns.
Ash lauded the play of his junior quarterback. "I thought he was a great player the whole day," Ash said. "As the game went along he threw caution to the wind and knew we had to keep scoring points as a team."
Eastern Washington quarterback Jordan West threw for 410 yards and six touchdowns, with nearly half the yards (201) and half the scores (three) going to sensational junior receiver Cooper Kupp. Jabari Wilson rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns, one of them a 62-yarder. The Eagles gained 257 yards on the ground.
Prukop was not MSU's only offensive star. Newell rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown, and caught seven passes for 49 yards. Mitchell Herbert caught five balls for 83 yards.
The game reached its first crossroads early. Prukop gained seven yards on MSU's first play from scrimmage, and after an incompletion the Cats faced a third-and-three. Running back Chad Newell gained a yard on third down, setting up a fourth-and-two. MSU elected to go for it on fourth-and-two, but Newell was stopped short.
On Eastern's second play Jabari Wilson scampered 31 yards for a touchdown. The Eagles led 7-0.
The second series offered much the same. The Cats drove the EWU's 10-yard line, and facing a fourth-and-three the offense remained on the field. Again MSU was stymied, and Eastern scored on the fifth play of its next drive. Kyle Wimberly caught a one-yard pass from Jordan West, but the drive's key play was a 61-yard run by Wilson.
The Bobcat offense kept the game close, marching 80 yards in six plays to light the scoreboard. Jayshawn Gates wove his way through the Eagles defense for a 19-yard score. MSU also engineered a 14-play, 72-yard drive capped on a 14-yard fourth-down pass from Prukop to Beau Sandland. But Eastern used a 78-yard touchdown pass from West to Nic Sblendorio and a 71-yard, five-play drive and a 34-14 EWU lead.
Montana State's offense again answered with a drive, moving from its own 30 inside the Eagles 10. Facing a second-and-goal, though, Prukop threw an incompletion and then fumbled the snap, and the Cats settled for a 25-yard field goal from Luke Daly to leave the score 34-17 at the intermission. Eastern churned out 398 first-half yards, but the two fourth-down stops stood as the difference.
Ash said that running five fourth-down plays on offense was a matter of playing percentages. "We felt we needed to extend possessions," he said. "That was going to give us the best chance to win the game."
The loss drops Montana State to 1-1 on the season, while Eastern is now 1-1. MSU hosts Cal Poly next Saturday for Homecoming at 1:35 pm.

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