Montana Western coach Ryan Nourse never viewed his 2-3 team as an underdog as they were heading into what would turn out to be one of the Frontier Conference's biggest upsets of the season.
"There are no David and Goliaths in this league," said Nourse in the week following the Bulldogs 42-35 come-from-behind victory over then undefeated Montana Tech in front of a jubilant home crowd at Vigilante Stadium on Saturday.
Western will now try to maintain its newfound place in the Frontier spotlight and extend its win streak to three games as it travels to Caldwell, Idaho, on Saturday to take on The College of Idaho. The Bulldogs' edged the Yotes (2-4) 16-14 in Week 1.
Ousted from the Top 25 poll after a Week 3 loss to Eastern Oregon University, Western answered a three-game losing streak against ranked teams with a 61-7 blowout win over Montana State University-Northern on Sept. 23.
Routing the lowly Northern Lights was one thing. Coming off a bye week and toppling the seemingly unstoppable 'Diggers was another.
Nourse' strategy was simple — stay calm, whatever the situation.
"I told myself, going through the week, because they had beaten teams by an average of something like 31.25 points, that I wasn’t going to panic," said Nourse. "I felt really good about our ability to score. Each and every week that we’ve come out since College of Idaho, we’ve been able to score on people who scored more points."
He maintained the same approach after the Orediggers bolted to a 14-point lead in the first quarter.
"I just told myself not to panic no matter what happened in the game and to just keep on cranking," Nourse said.
The Bulldogs obliged, rallied back and pulled out the improbable win.
Montana Tech looks to rebound against Carroll
While Montana Western is still enjoying the afterglow of its thrilling victory over Tech, the Orediggers are aiming to learn from their first loss and then quickly put it behind them.
Tech fell to No. 11 in the Top 25 poll after falling to the Bulldogs.
"The one thing we talked about is you've got to be able to correct your errors, fix your mistakes and then move," said Tech coach Chuck Morrell. "We've got to get ready for the next opponent because they don't care what happened in the last game."
No. 12 Tech, third in the NAIA with an average 574 yards of offense a game, will collide with 1-4 Carroll College at Nelson Stadium on Saturday. The Saints only victory so far was a Week 3, 34-3 thrashing of MSU-Northern.
Tech defeated the Saints 45-28 in the season opener for both teams while amassing 520 yards of offense.
Morrell said his team has adopted a take-it-one-play-at-a-time approach as they gear up for Carroll.
"Literally we've just got to focus on what's right in front of us," Morrell said. "Take that play then move on to the next. We've got to have that mentality in Helena on Saturday."
Carroll College looks to stop skid
The Saints enter Saturday's home game against Montana Tech looking to end a two-game slide after falling 21-6 to College of Idaho last weekend and 35-14 against Southern Oregon on Sept. 23.
Through five games Carroll has been outscored by opponents 144 to 96 and outpaced in the passing game by an average of 248 yards to 155.
Sophomore running back Major Ali has continued to be Carroll's workhorse, totaling four touchdowns this season and averaging 5.2 yards per attempt.
Southern Oregon stands alone
The No. 7 Raiders are the last remaining undefeated team in the Frontier Conference to set up what could be a de facto championship game against one-loss Montana Tech on Nov. 11 in Butte should the Orediggers make it to that point without losing again.
Southern Oregon will look to maintain its perfect record against the 2-3 Eastern Oregon Mountaineers in La Grande, Oregon, on Saturday.
The Raiders survived a scare in their 24-23 win over Rocky Mountain College on Sept. 30 after the Battlin' Bears scored on a 1-yard throw from Drew Korf to Max Gray with 1:25 remaining in the fourth quarter but failed on the two-point conversion pass attempt.
Frontier Conference Players of the Week
Montana Western quarterback Bennett Gibson was named the NAIA Offensive Player of the Week for orchestrating a five-touchdown performance in leading the Bulldogs to its upset win over Montana Tech.
Montana Tech volleyball outside hitter Masha Korol was named Frontier Conference Attacker of the Week, Carroll's Rayne Pilgerman was tabbed Frontier Conference Setter of the Week and senior libero Holland Ferguson of Rocky Mountain College earned Frontier Conference Defender of the Week honors.