BUTTE — It has been quite a while since Montana Tech found itself on the losing side of a game with MSU-Northern on the football field.
Five years, in fact. Since a Lights 37-34 win in Havre in 2014, the Orediggers have won seven-straight games. Fun fact: That win came when now-Montana Tech offensive coordinator Kyle Samson was at the school. The Orediggers have averaged 59 points per game during that streak, while allowing just 88 points to Northern over the past four years.
Following a 93-19 Oredigger win in 2017, then MSU-Northern head coach Aaron Christensen resigned from his post just three days later. Now under the tutelage of Andrew Rolin, the Lights are still looking for their first Frontier Conference win of his tenure. He is 2-13 over the past two seasons and the Lights are 1-3 so far this year.
But there may be light at the end of the tunnel for the folks in Havre. Northern has been improved this season, especially on offense.
The Lights are fourth in the Frontier Conference in points per game (23.3) and first in total passing yardage with 1144 — a mark that is also sixth in the entire country.
Granted, some of this is due to the fact that the Lights have been playing from behind in most of the games they have played in. Northern, in fact, is No. 70 in the NAIA in rushing, gaining just 92.5 per game on the ground.
So while the offensive passing yards might be a bit naturally inflated, it still would be wise to not overlook the Lights. Redshirt freshman quarterback Brenden Medina, a product of Analy High School in Sebastopol, California, has completed 90-of-171 passes (52.6 percent) for all 1144 of those yards and 11 touchdowns. He also has nine interceptions, but Saturday afternoon’s game against the Orediggers will be just his fifth college start.
Those interceptions just might also be a place the Orediggers can exploit for their own gain — the Orediggers are plus five in turnover margin this year, the best mark in the conference.
Grab a few turnovers, limit Medina’s passing and continue the strong play of defense and Tech should roll south out of Havre with win No. 3 on the year.
Northern, not Western
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On October 13, there will be a humongous game in the Mining City — Montana Tech vs. Montana Western. Assuming both the Bulldogs and Orediggers beat teams that, on paper, they should it will likely be a ranked vs. ranked matchup under the lights.
It could also very well be a factor in the Frontier Conference championship race down the road.
But that said, losing focus on the task at hand could prove detrimental to the Orediggers. Montana Tech head coach Chuck Morrell — as well as his players — have long talked about taking things one game at a time. That will be no different this week.
Limit the turnovers
MSU-Northern actually leads the Frontier in total defensive turnovers gained. They’ve picked off 12 five passes and recovered seven fumbles.
Freshman defensive back Hunter Riley has picked off two passes already this season and is third on the team with 23 tackles. Not throwing the ball his way might be ideal.
True freshman Blake Counts and redshirt sophomore Tyler Folkes picked up the slack when running back Jed Fike was knocked out of the game last week and might be asked to do something similar against Northern.
Folkes and Counts each have 29 carries, gaining 110 and 88 yards, respectively. Neither have scored a touchdown as of yet, but with Tech’s offense so dependent on the run to open things up, they could look to utilize both this week.
They will need to be excellent, but Northern’s run defense is allowing over 150 yards per game. It might just be the opportunity Counts and Folkes need to break out.