By Kent Schmidt
CSN West Columnist
College Sporting News
Top Seeded Bearkats overpower Bobcats to Advance to the Semifinals
Richard Sincere had a career high rushing game, and Sam Houston State (13-0) dominated the battle of the cats. The top seeded Bearkats defeated Montana State 49-13 in front of 9,077 at Bowers Stadium in their quarterfinal Division I contest.
The game, however, was very much in doubt at the start of the second half.
Montana State (10-3) wide receiver Everett Gilbert had scored on a seven-yard catch and run from quarterback DeNarius McGhee on the first drive of the third quarter to pull the Bobcats within 21-13.
The Bearkats’ Brandon Closner, however, returned the ensuing kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown to answer the Bobcat touchdown to go up 28-13 and the blowout was on from there.
Sincere rushed for a career-high 160 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 43 yards and another touchdown.
SHSU quarterback Brian Bell rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown for SHSU, and threw for 73 yards and another score.
Following the kickoff return for the score, SHSU scored on a one yard plunge from Ryan Smith to make the game 35-13 and seemingly out of reach at the 7:39 mark of the third quarter.
Torrance Williams scored the last two touchdowns for the Bearkats on rushes from 56 and 21 yards out to give the final score.
Montana State opened the game’s scoring after Na'a Moeakiola intercepted a Bell pass within Bearkat territory. MSU placekicker Jason Cunningham connected on a 27 yard field goal for what would be the lone Bobcat lead of 3-0 with 9:04 left in the first quarter.
Sam Houston State responded with an 81yard drive that included a 56-yard run from Sincere. The Bearkats took the lead that they would never relinquish on an 11 yard touchdown throw to Grant Merritt from Bell for a 7-3 lead at the 4:50 mark of the opening quarter.
Montana State reached the Bearkats' five yard line early in the second quarter but settled for another Cunningham field goal—this one from 22-yards out at the 14:52 mark of the second quarter.
Bell then ran 54 yards for a score to make it 14-6 SHSU at the 12:03 mark of the opening half.
Cunningham missed a field goal attempt from 46 yards midway through the second quarter.
The Bearkats extended their lead to 21-6 on a 40 yard touchdown tipped pass to Sincere from Bell at the 2:31 mark of second frame.
MSU drove into scoring territory just before the halftime break but Cunningham's 39 yard field goal attempt was blocked as time expired to leave the score at 21-6.
McGhee finished 21-for-36 for 272 yards and the one touchdown but also an interception for MSU. Elvis Akpla caught six passes for 100 yards for the Bobcats.
The Bearkats will host fourth seeded Montana in the semifinal round next Friday night. This is the first trip this far into the postseason for SHSU ironically since Montana defeated the Bearkats 34-13 in 2004. The Grizzlies beat Northern Iowa 48-10 Friday night to advance.
Bison Shutout Lehigh to Advance to the Semifinals
Quarterback Brock Jensen accounted for three touchdowns, and North Dakota State's defense shutout one of the top quarterbacks in the country for a 24-0 win over Lehigh in their Division I quarterfinal in front of 18,111 fans in the Fargodome.
Sam Ojuri rushed for 136 yards to lead the second seeded Bison (12-1).
NDSU’s defense bent but never broke against down Lehigh’s offense led by quarterback Chris Lum.
"We were hitting and hitting and hitting. That really takes a quarterback out of his rhythm," NDSU coach Craig Bohl said.
Lum never really seemed comfortable throwing in this game as he was hurried with many of his throws.
"It's just a really good defense that threw everything at us," Lum said. "We moved the ball at times but didn't finish."
Lehigh had two first half drives stall deep in NDSU territory but failed on two fourth down conversions.
Jensen scored on a pair of 1-yard quarterback sneaks, the last of which capped a 16-play, 80-yard drive to give the Bison a 24-0 lead with 7:23 left in the game.
He found receiver Warren Holloway in the back of the end zone for a 38 yard score in the second quarter to open the scoring for a NDSU 7-0 lead.
The Bison had an 11-play, 97 yard drive in the second quarter that was finished by the first of Jensen’s sneaks to put the Bison up 14-0 at the 2:10 mark of the second quarter.
NDSU placekicker Ryan Jastram kicked a 31yard field goal just before halftime to give the Bison a 17-0 lead at the intermission.
"It wasn't one of our cleanest games," said Bohl, noting that the Bison had three turnovers. "But we played hard."
Lehigh had three turnovers as well.
Lehigh had a chance to score late in the third quarter. Trailing 17-0, Lum drove Lehigh from its own 20 to the NDSU 11. The Mountain Hawks made an interesting move by inserting backup quarterback Michael Colvin in the game, and Colvin was intercepted by linebacker Preston Evans in the end zone on his second snap of that drive.
Lehigh coach Andy Coen stated that Colvin has has been used regularly in goal-line situations all season long.
"He was trying to make a play. That's what happens when you're down 17-0," Coen said.
Lehigh (11-2) played without top receiver Ryan Spadola, who was suspended earlier this week, as well as top running back Zach Barket, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury three games ago.
"He's a great player," Lum said speaking on Spadola. "During the game I'm not thinking about that at all. We had some other guys step up and play well."
Jensen finished 17-of-28 for 163 yards and a touchdown, while Ojuri was the top Bison ground-gainer with 136 yards on 17 carries. Holloway added a career-high tying eight catches for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Lum finished his Mountain Hawk career completing 25 of 52 passes for 288 yards but two interceptions. Fellow senior Jake Drwal led the receiving attack with 10 catches for 111 yards.
North Dakota State advances to host a semifinal game against third seeded Georgia Southern, a 35-23 winner over Maine today, either next Friday night or Saturday afternoon. The announcement will be made Sunday on the game time.
Montana Blows Out Northern Iowa under the Lights
The game ended with fireworks but the fireworks. But the fireworks really happened during the game in Montana’s 48-10 victory over Northern Iowa in their quarterfinal matchup in a lit-up Washington-Grizzly Stadium with 23,049 in attendance in this Friday night contest.
Jordan Johnson threw for three touchdowns and ran for another to lead the fourth seeded Montana (11-2) offensive attack.
Johnson completed 13 of 20 passes for 196 yards and also rushed for 86 yards on 10 carries. He led the Grizzly offense to five touchdowns in five drives within the Northern Iowa red zone.
Fifth-seeded Northern Iowa (10-3) scored first when Panther quarterback Tirrell Rennie connected with Jarred Herring on a 27 yard touchdown pass.
The Grizzlies tied the game at 7-7 on a one yard score from Jordan Canada with 0:06 left in the first quarter.
Montana took the lead for good at 14-7 with a 6-yard touchdown run by Johnson with 10:50 left in the second quarter.
The Panthers shaved the lead to 14-10 on a 21yard field goal by Tyler Sievertsen with 8:22 left in the second quarter.
At this point, it looked like it might be a classic playoff game between these two traditional powerhouses but this would be the final points of the night UNI.
Montana on the next possession took a 21-10 after a 10 yard touchdown run from Peter Nguyen with 4:26 left in the opening half.
The Grizzlies extended their lead to 28-10 with 0:30 left in the half when Johnson threw a 5-yard TD pass to Kavario Middleton.
Montana took the opening second half possession and capped off a 62 yard drive with another touchdown. The scoring play was an 8 yard pass to Gratton from Johnson at the 12:09 mark of the third quarter.
The Grizzlies sealed any hopes of a Panther comeback after a 25-yard touchdown pass to Gratton again from Johnson with 10:43 left in the fourth quarter but Montana did miss the extra point to make the score 41-10.
Montana added to the Panthers' pain when defensive back Donny Lisowski returned a Rennie interception 35 yards for the game’s final score with 8:56 left in the game to give the final of 48-10.
Showing the dominance in this game was the total yardage. Montana outgained UNI 463 to 257 yards in total offense.
Montana's defense also helped the blowout win with five quarterback sacks and three interceptions, while limiting Rennie to just 93 yards passing.
Gratton caught four passes for 90 yards and the two scores to pace the Grizzly receiving corps.
Montana will meet top seeded Sam Houston State Friday night in Huntsville, Texas in the semifinal round.