Bears drop conference opener at Idaho State
POCATELLO, Idaho – Northern Colorado's football team never quite found a rhythm in the Big Sky Conference opener against Idaho State and dropped to 0-3 on the season with a 50-20 loss to the Bengals.
The Bears had 266 yards of total offense on the evening, but it was no match for the 544 ISU put up. Three different Idaho State receivers topped 100 yards in the game, led by the Big Sky Conference leader Rodrick Rumble, with 158 yards on 14 catches. Anthony Boyles also caught nine passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns and Derek Graves had 15 receptions for 114 yards.
"This is all I have to say about this whole thing: I am going to find 22 players that want to play football for me and we're going to play with them," said Head Coach Earnest Collins Jr. We have to understand what it is that we are trying to do here. I have to figure it out, me, myself have to get it figured out because I am the captain of this ship. I can promise you that I will get it figured out. I don't know how long it's going to take, this year, but I will get it figured out and when I do, Bear football will be back."
Northern Colorado sophomore quarterback Seth Lobato completed a career-best 19-for-36 for 212 yards and one touchdown and rushed for another 18. His favorite target of the evening was sophomore Chris Morris, who caught seven receptions for 74 yards. Senior Patrick Walker also had five catches for 47 yards and one touchdown.
Walker is now the school's Division I career record holder for receptions with 110, passing Alex Thompson's total of 109 (2008-09).
Defensively, true freshman Courtney Hall and sophomore Clarence Bumpas led the way with 12 tackles each, while senior Brandon Owens recorded double figures for the second time this season with 11. Junior Marcel Gibbons continually came up with big plays, netting two sacks, six tackles, one pass break up and one quarterback hurry.
Senior VJ Holmes also had a bright spot for the defense, intercepting a pass and returning it 58 yards for a touchdown.
Idaho State ran a total of 103 plays in the game, passing the ball 77 times with 26 rushing attempts. On a positive note for the Bears, the defense held the Bengals to negative nine yards on the ground, the fewest yards allowed since the team held the same Bengals to -11 yards on Oct. 17, 2009.
"The one that I would say is that we kept hitting them and kept hitting them," stated Collins. "The thing is when you're out there for 100-plus plays, you get worn out. We don't have a lot of people and for me, I hate to talk about not having this and not having that, because it's an excuse and I'm not an excuse maker, but if we've got to do it with 22, we'll do it with 22."
Penalties hurt the Bears on Saturday as they were whistled for a season-high 13, the total of the first two games, for 107 yards.
ISU quarterback Kevin Yost completed 47 passes for 508 yards and four touchdowns, while Justin Arias went 6-for-9 for another 36 yards. The Bears did sack the pair a total of five times with Gibbons getting two.
Idaho State scored first, as Brendon Garcia made a 22-yard field goal with 10:57 to play in the first half and they added a touchdown just under 2:30 minutes later for the early 9-0 lead (the PAT kick missed).
Northern Colorado answered with a 42-yard field goal by Dave Eden with 2:18 left on the clock. The kick was the longest field goal of Eden's career, bettering his previous best of 35-yards from the season opener.
The Bengals scored another touchdown in the second quarter and the PAT went off the right upright for a 15-3 tally.
Northern Colorado immediately answered, driving 75 yards in just 2:47. Lobato hit Walker for a 10-yard touchdown pass and the Eden kick made the score 15-10.
A two-yard run by Daniel McSurdy capped a 67-yard drive by Idaho State and this time the kick went through, making the score 22-10.
ISU receivers made three big catches on its second drive of the third quarter to extend the lead to 16 points, 29-13. Luke Austin caught a 25-yard pass in the back corner of the end zone with 5:41 to go after Boyles had a 23-yarder and Rumble had a 20-yarder during the drive.
Senior VJ Holmes intercepted a pass on the first play of the fourth quarter, running the ball back 58 yards for a touchdown to cut the score to nine, 29-20 at 14:51.
Again, Idaho State had an immediate answer, driving 66 yards in just 3:21 for the 36-20 lead. Andrew Zamora scored from one-yard out for the Bengals second rushing TD of the day.
The Bengals tacked on another score after intercepting their third pass of the day and Yost found Rumble on the first play for the 43-20 lead with 6:23 to go. Their fourth interception of the day, by Ryan Coleman, was returned 88 yards to give Idaho State 50 points.
Northern Colorado returns to Nottingham Field for Homecoming next Saturday, hosting Weber State in a game televised by Altitude Sports & Entertainment. Kickoff is slated for 1:35 pm. A year ago, the two teams fought through quadruple overtime before the Wildcats finally edged out the Bears, 50-47.