BILLINGS — Fresh off of a road win at Carroll College a week ago, Rocky Mountain College was looking to make another statement when No. 5 Montana Tech rolled into town.
The Orediggers cut those hopes short, and proved why they are one of the top teams in the country.
Montana Tech (3-0, 3-0) withstood a late comeback attempt from the Battlin' Bears to win 34-28 on Saturday at Herb Klindt Field.
Montana Tech quarterback Quinn McQueary had a hand in all five of Tech's touchdowns, completing 24 of 37 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns and one interception. The senior also ran the ball eight times for 27 yards and a pair of scores.
McQueary and receiver Dion Williams connected on the first play from scrimmage with a 75-yard touchdowns to give Tech a 7-0 lead 17 seconds into the game. About four minutes later, McQueary scampered into the end zone on a 15-yard touchdown to put Tech up 13-0 early in the first quarter.
"Our game plan was to test their corners off the bat and we had that first touchdown," McQueary said. "We went down and drove down and scored again, but after that we just stalled. We came through in the end and the defense had a great first half. We kind of came on in the second half and had to feed on one another."
Trailing 20-0 at half, Rocky got its first points of the game off of a 1-yard run on fourth down from Mason Melby who jumped over the pile to get Rocky on the board.
Tech responded quickly, as McQueary found Sean Sullivan for a 6-yard touchdown about four minutes later. Tech's lead increased to 34-7 after McQueary found Chris Kelly for his third touchdown pass of the game with 44 seconds left in the third quarter.
From there, the fourth quarter belonged to Rocky (2-2, 2-1). Quarterback Jacob Bakken found Max Gray in the middle of the field who then out sprinted the defense for a 40-yard touchdown. After the defense forced Tech to go three-and-out, Rocky drove down the field and capped it with another Melby touchdown, this one from two yards out to make it 34-21 with 7:37 to play.
Rocky then responded with an onside-kick recovery to keep momentum on its side. Rocky coach Jason Petrino said they decided to go for the onside kick because they were kicking off from close to midfield due to a Tech penalty on the PAT.
"It was something we were messing around with in practice," Petrino said. "We just thought we'd try it. We gave it a chance, got it, and the guys kept believing and fighting and from that standpoint it was good."
Two minutes later, Bakken hit Lucas Overton in stride down the right side of the field for a 41-yard touchdown with just over five minutes left in the game.
That was as close as the Battlin' Bears got, as Rocky decided to kick off instead of trying a second onside kick. Petrino said he thought about it, but thought Tech would be more prepared and trusted his defense with two timeouts left in the game.
Tech started from its own 37 and ran out the remaining 5:21. Facing a third and nine, McQueary came through with another clutch pass to Kelly to keep the drive alive. Rocky forced Tech into a fourth-and-1 situation with about 40 seconds left, but an illegal substitution call gave Tech a new set of downs and allowed them to run the clock out from there.
"That last penalty is on me," Petrino said. "I know we had a defensive tackle go down so I was trying to get our linebacker in to play it. I apologize to our guys because they fought their butts off to get themselves back into it."
Tech coach Chuck Morrell said he was confident that his offense could take care of business down the stretch.
"We have a ton of confidence in those guys," he said. "Quinn I think is one of the best players in the Frontier Conference and we have a great receiving core and a great offensive line and a really good running back."
Rocky will host the College of Idaho next week. Tech will take on Eastern Oregon in Butte.
"We just kind of stuck together," McQueary said. "We just had to keep grinding. There was a few things that didn't go our way here or there and we just didn't make some plays. In the end we came together and made some plays when we needed to and went down the field and finished it off right."