Comeback Falls Just Short as Bears Fall 13-10 to No. 19 Montana State
Nov. 4, 2006
BOZEMAN, Mont. - Despite a valiant and gritty effort against a Top 25 team, the University of Northern Colorado football team came up just short to the No. 19 Montana State Bobcats in a 13-10 loss on Saturday at Bobcat Stadium.
The Bears (1-8, 0-6 Big Sky) pulled to within three points of the Bobcats late in the fourth quarter, but Montana State (7-3, 6-1 Big Sky) was able to grind it out on the ground and run out the clock for the narrow victory.
The Bears used superb blocking on their second offensive play of the game to spring sophomore running back Patrick Ealy for a 38-yard scamper on an option pitch from junior quarterback Dominic Breazeale. But MSU managed to stuff Northern Colorado on a 3rd-and-5 from the Bobcats' 31-yard line, forcing the Bears to make a tough decision on 4th-and-2. The Bears decided to go for the first down, but senior running back Andre Wilson was stopped just short of the marker on an off-tackle play to the left, giving the ball to Montana State.
Bobcats quarterback Jack Rolovich threw for 33 yards on MSU's first offensive series and drove the team down to the Bears' 5-yard line. Then on 3rd-and-goal, freshman defensive back Korey Askew took away the touchdown pass attempt by Rolovich in the right corner of the end zone for his second interception of the season.
After trading the ball back-and-forth, Montana State got on the scoreboard first when kicker Jeff Hastings made a 32-yard field goal. The Bobcats drove the ball down to the Northern Colorado 15-yard line, but redshirt freshman Martin Awachie was able to chase Rolovich to the sideline and force him to throw it away, bringing the fourth down.
After Ealy was able to grind it out for a Bears first down on a toss sweep to the strong side, Montana State forced Northern Colorado to a 3rd-and-7. The Bobcats were able to collapse the pressure and force an errant Breazeale pass that was intercepted by MSU freshman defensive back Kevin Retoriano, who brought it all the way down to the Northern Colorado 7-yard line.
On the next play, Bobcats sophomore running back Evin Groves punched it in the end zone for a 10-0 lead following the extra point with 6:22 remaining in the second quarter.
On the ensuing possession, the Bears were faced with a 3rd-and-6 when Breazeale put his head down on a bootleg left and got it across the sticks for a first down. Faced with another 3rd-and-6, Northern Colorado reached into its bag of tricks and pitched the ball to junior wide receiver Jeff Vaden on a reverse option.
Northern Colorado escaped a near trap just before halftime when sophomore defensive back Myles Hayes got beat deep by MSU wide receiver Josh Lewis, but Rolovich's pass was just long as the Bobcats went into the locker room with a 10-3 lead.
After forcing a Montana State punt at the beginning of the third quarter, the Bears got the ball back on their own 20-yard line. Breazeale got roughed up on their first offensive play, and sophomore T.J. Swanson made the return to quarterback. Swanson kept it in on an option left on 3-and-2, but was stopped just short, forcing a 40-yard Rafael Mendoza punt.
On Montana State's next drive, the Bobcats drove it to their own 43-yard line and were faced with a 4th-and-1. Rolovich handed it off to Groves on the play, but senior defensive back Matt Thomas came in with a monstrous hit in the backfield, sending Groves reeling back.
Swanson had a near gamebreaker on the next play, throwing the ball deep to senior wide receiver Zac Carlson, but it was batted away by Bobcat defender Michael Beach. Later in the drive, Swanson was intercepted by Kory Austin, who returned it down to the Bears 45-yard line. MSU took it down to the Northern Colorado 29-yard line, but a colossal hit by Bears' junior linebacker Asa Matthews forced an incomplete Rolovich pass. Hastings converted on his second field goal of the day on the next play from 47 yards out to extend the Bobcats' lead to 13-3 with 3:04 remaining in the quarter.
Just when it looked like Montana State would put the game out of reach for the Bears after driving the length of the field, junior defensive back Aaron Henderson took the ball away in the end zone from MSU's Michael Jefferson for a touchback.
Faced with a 4th-and-6 from their own 24-yard line, the Bears were able to get a first down on a personal foul face mask penalty by the Bobcats. From there, the Bears efficiently drove it down the field. Following a 21-yard completion to Ealy, Swanson threw a slant to senior wide receiver Robert Long, who broke away from defenders for a clutch 40-yard touchdown that pulled the Bears to within 13-10 with 3:07 left in the game.
But Northern Colorado was not able to recover an onside kick, and Montana State wound the clock down to pull out the close call.
Swanson finished his return to quarterback by completing 9-of-17 passes for 115 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Ealy caught eight passes for 53 yards and rushed seven times for 64 yards. Senior Andre Wilson has held to just 30 yards rushing, putting him 233 yards behind Billy Holmes for the Bears all-time rushing title. He is currently third all-time, 39 yards behind Adam Matthews (2000-03).
Northern Colorado returns to action next Saturday when they host the nation's No. 2 team Montana (8-1, 6-0 Big Sky). The game marks the Bears annual Hall of Fame contest and kicks off at 12:05 p.m.