With the win the Thunderbirds moved to 5-2 in Big Sky play and 8-3 on the season, equaling the school-record for wins in s a season. The Bobcats dipped to 7-4, 5-2 in the Big Sky and fell into a tie for third place with the Thunderbirds and Montana for third place in the league
SUU’s defense set the tone early, sacking Bobcat quarterback DeNarius McGhee three times in the first six plays – Robert Torgersen had two and Toi Taufa had the third – and limited MSU to just 19 yards of total offense in the first half, 11 of those coming on one Shawn Johnson run. The normally potent Bobcat offense didn’t pick up a first down until the 13:07 mark of the second quarter.
SUU was the first conference opponent to keep the Bobcats out of the offense on its first drive and the first team all season to keep them scoreless at halftime.
Meanwhile, the SUU offense was able to drive inside the Bobcat red zone three times in the first half but settled for a field goal the first time, then failed on a fourth-and-short when Toa Afatasi came up just short. The third time SUU got within scoring range, however, the Thunderbirds were able to convert on Chris Robinson’s 5-yard end around with 48 seconds to go in the half, but the PAT failed, leaving SUU up 9-0 at the break.
SUU pushed the advantage to 15-0 after Taufa recovered a McGhee fumble at the MSU 11 yard line, setting up a quick drive that culminated with a one-yard Aaron Cantu dive to the score. SUU went for two on the conversion but failed when the Bobcat defense held Mike Sharp out of the end zone.
Montana State had just 38 total yards at the end of the third period but the Bobcats made things interesting, driving 85 yards in 12 plays to pull within 15-7 on a 13-yard Chad Newell run.
The Bobcats then forced SUU to punt but Matt Holley picked off his second pass of the night at the MSU 27 and returned it to the 18, setting up what proved to be the winning score as after Levi Te’o took the ball to the one yard line Cantu got the final yard for a 22-7 advantage.
MSU put together another quick drive, going 86 yards in 2:24 to get within 22-14 on a short McGhee run at the 2:47 mark.
Southern Utah ran the ball three times on its ensuing possession but couldn’t convert, giving the ball back to the Bobcats with 2:20 to play and although the Thunderbirds allowed MSU to get down inside the red zone the defense stiffened when it absolutely had to.
“We were tired out there, but they were tired too,” Holley said. “I think in the end we just wanted it a little more.”
“I couldn’t be any prouder of our guys and the way they played,” SUU Coach Ed Lamb said. “I thought the offense played completely unselfishly. I thought our quarterback was hot, he played very efficiently, but yet the game circumstances dictated that we run the ball. I thought that with the way our defense was playing, they played outstanding, so courageously, they were well prepared by the coaching staff over there on defense.”
Cantu wound up completing 10-of-12 passes for 88 yards while the team combined to rush for 179 yards, with Levi Te’o leading the way with 75 while Toa Afatasi added 53.
SUU finished with 273 yards of total offense and Montana State finished with 283, 245 coming in the fourth period.