Courtesy: Montana State Sports Information
Montana State forced the game into multiple one-possession scores, but No. 9/10 Eastern Washington made the plays when it needed to most as the Eagles defeated the Bobcats, 31-19, in a Big Sky Conference football matchup on Saturday, Oct. 14, at Roos Field.
Both teams turned the ball over on their opening possessions, but the nationally-ranked Eagles put points up on the scoreboard first.
Eastern Washington (5-2, 4-0 Big Sky) completed a nine-play, 64-yard drive in 2 minutes, 47 seconds to take a 7-0 lead at the 10:26 mark in the first quarter.
The Bobcats (2-4, 2-2) drove down the field 46 yards on the ensuing drive but a fumble on the EWU 19 thwarted the effort. The Eagles responded with a 75-yard drive which ended with a 23-yard field goal.
MSU cut the deficit to 10-7 when sophomore quarterback Chris Murray took an option keeper down the left sideline for 54 yards with 5:55 to go in the first half.
The Eagles found their rhythm in two of their next three drives. EWU found the end zone with two double-digit play drives going over 80 yards to propel them to a 24-7 edge heading into the fourth quarter.
Montana State responded by opening the fourth quarter by marching 80 yards and reaching pay dirt with Logan Joneshauling in a 9-yard Murray pass for a score to make it 24-13 with remaining in the game.
The Bobcats followed that drive with a solid defensive play. Braelen Evans blitzed off the weak side and stripped the ball from Eagles quarterback Gage Gubrud as he got set to pass. Derek Marks recovered the fumble to give the ball back to the Bobcat offense.
MSU converted on a fourth-and-12 when Murray connected on a 19-yard pass with Kevin Kassis to keep the drive alive. Senior running back Nick LaSane plowed through the offensive line on the next play for a Montana State touchdown from 5 yards out, cutting the deficit to 24-19, after a failed two-point attempt with 9:32 to go.
Momentum in the game seemed to have swung the Bobcats' way as the Eagles' kickoff return was fumbled and Montana State's Ben Folsom recovered it at the 25-yard line. However, MSU's first play went for six yards and the Bobcats fumbled on second-and-4 to give the ball back to the Eagles.
Eastern Washington put the game out of reach on its next drive. The Eagles used up 5:43 on the clock, and converted on a fourth down, on a march that went 78 yards and wrapped up with a 3-yard rushing touchdown by EWU running back Antoine Custer.
The Bobcats picked up one first down on its next drive but an interception by Victor Gamboa would seal the game for the Eagles.
Murray went 10-for-22 passing for 135 yards and was MSU's leading rusher with 88 yards on 15 attempts. LaSane followed him with 87 yards on 19 rushes. Kassis, Jabarri Johnson, Connor Sullivan and Mitchell Herbert each had two catches on offense.
The Bobcat defense was led by Josh Hill who racked up 17 tackles. He was followed by Bryson McCabe's 11 tackles and Zach Wright's eight. Zach Wright, Mac Bignell, Evans and Marks each had a sack for MSU.
Both teams rushed for similar yardage (227-218), with Custer serving as the game leader with 147 yards on the ground for the Eagles. Gubrud went 25 of 31 with 224 yards passing to help EWU outgain MSU (451-353).
Montana State will travel for the second consecutive week when the Bobcats head to Greeley, Colorado, to take on the Northern Colorado Bears for their seventh game of the 2017 season on Saturday, Oct. 21.