BOZEMAN, Montana- The Montana State Bobcats, the consensus number two team in the country, used a dominating opening half to secure a 42-24 victory over Monmouth in the opening game of the 2013 season in front of 21,007 fans at Bobcat Stadium.
The Bobcats scored on five of its first six drives to take a 32-3 lead with 4:57 left in the first half. A 57 yard pick six by defensive tackle Craig Ashworth put the game at 39-3 at halftime. Monmouth battled back in the second half, outscoring Montana State 21-3 in the second half but the first half deficit was too much to overcome.
“I think it’s very obvious that MSU has an outstanding football team and that comes as no surprise to us,” said Callahan. “They came out to an incredibly hot start and we were in the hole early, one which we were unable to get out of.”
After the Hawks defense held on the first Bobcat possession of the second half, MU junior Julian Hayes (Middletown, Conn./Xavier/The Hun School) scored the first touchdown of the 2013 season when he punched it in from three yards out. Hayes had a solid first half for the Hawks with 12 carries for 100 yards, including a 40 yard scamper.
Junior Eric Sumlin (Dover, Del./Dover) cut the Bobcat lead to 42-17 when he beat his man and quarterback Brandon Hill (Audubon, N.J./Audubon/UMass) hit him in stride for a 77 yard score. On the next MU possession Hill connected with Elijah Phillips (Willingboro, N.J./Holy Cross) on a 17 yard slant to finish the scoring at 42-24.
“I was happy with the way our players responded in the second half,” said Callahan. “At halftime I spoke to the guys and challenged them to come out and continue to compete in the second half. I think we did just that. We were much firmer on defense and we were able to establish things on the ground and in the air offensively. There are definitely things there that we can build on going further.”
Hill finished 18-of-31 for 240 yards with a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions. McGhee was 19-of-27 for 240 yards but also added 54 yards rushing and a touchdown to his totals. Montana State racked up 561 yards of total offense compared to MU’s 355.
Hayes finished with 135 yards on 22 carries for a 6.1 yard average. Lamar Davenport (Asbury Park, N.J./Asbury Park) had four catches for 57 yards while Phillips had three grabs for 35 yards and the score.
Montana State took a mere 2:25 to drive 80 yards on the Hawks, with the Bobcats earning first downs on four straight plays setting themselves up deep in MU territory. After running back Cody Kirk converted a third and one, McGhee took the ball in himself to score the game’s first touchdown. MSU went for two and went ahead 8-0.
After a three and out on the first MU possession, McGhee went to work again, sparking MSU’s second drive with a 49 yard run. Two plays later Kirk piled in to put his squad up 15-0. Spillane’s 60 yard punt on the next three and out by the Hawks set Montana State up at their own 10. The Bobcats answered with a 90 yard Shawn Johnson run up the middle to put MSU ahead 22-0 with 8:32 left in the opening quarter.
Monmouth answered with an 11-play 46 yard drive that covered five minutes and ended with a 45 yard Eric Spillane field goal to cut the lead to 22-3. The Bobcats would score twice more in the half, including Ashworth’s interception.
Defensively, sophomore defensive back Joe Johnson (Manchester, N.J./Manchester) had a team-high eight tackles while senior captain Dave Damirgian (Churchville, Pa./Council Rock) finished with six. Corner Tevrin Brandon (Bethlehem, Pa./Bethlehem Catholic/UConn) had five tackles and four pass break ups on the day.
MSU’s Tanner Blesklin led all receivers with seven grabs for 121 yards, including a 47 yarder. Johnson had 109 yards on five carries while Kirk finished with 42 yards on 11 carries with two touchdowns.
Monmouth heads to future Big South foe Liberty on Saturday, September 7 at 7 p.m.