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EOU’s Jason Simonis is sacked in the third quarter of the Mountaineers’ 28-20 loss to Montana Tech Saturday at Community Stadium. CASEY KELLAS - The Observer
Late rally not enough for EOU in 28-20 defeat
An early deficit and too many mistakes cost the Eastern Oregon University football team Saturday against No. 8 Montana Tech.
The Orediggers built a 13-0 lead and held off a late rally to pull out a 28-20 victory over the Mountaineers.
“Credit Montana Tech, they’re a good football team,” EOU head coach Tim Camp said.
“They’re ranked eighth in the country, but it don’t matter if you’re playing whoever, if you make that many mistakes, you’re gonna get beat.”
The Mountaineers committed three turnovers and had another rough day on special teams, missing a field goal and having two bad snaps on punts — including one that led to a safety.
But it was a dominant run game that ultimately propelled the Orediggers.
Montana Tech pounded the ball and chewed up a lot of the clock in the first half.
The Orediggers had the ball for 20:54 in the first two quarters and ran 51 plays.
Tech (6-1) got the scoring started with 3:02 left to play in the first quarter.
Montana Tech covered 55 yards in seven plays and got in the end zone on an 11-yard touchdown run by Pat Hansen, who rushed for 158 yards on 38 carries.
After a missed field goal by Marc David on the Mountaineers’ ensuing possession, the two teams traded the ball back and forth for the majority of the half.
But late in the second quarter the Orediggers put together another scoring drive. This time they went 87 yards in seven plays with the drive culminating in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Nick Baker to Kevin Moss to put the visitors up 13-0.
“Too slow of a start,” Camp said.
“I thought the defense was playing fine. Montana Tech has some good skill kids. You’re gonna get beat once in a while. But offensively we just have to do a better job of finishing.”
Montana Tech added to its lead early in the third quarter after a bad snap on a Mountaineer punt attempt gave the Orediggers the ball at the 15 yard line.
Three plays later Montana Tech was in the end zone on a five-yard touchdown toss to Trent Thomas to make it 19-0 after the two-point try failed.
Later in the quarter EOU’s Adam Bese intercepted Baker and returned it to the Oredigger 39 yard line.
The Mountaineer offense took advantage of the short field and five plays later quarterback Jason Simonis punched it in from one-yard out to put EOU on the board.
But the bad luck for Eastern Oregon continued to rear its ugly head, as on its next possession a bad snap on a punt attempt ended in a safety to stretch the Tech lead to 21-7 early in the fourth quarter.
“Our starting snapper is out so those were our No. 2 and No. 3 that we had, so that hurts,” Camp said.
“It’s a little bit different catching a snap from somebody else, but we repped it hard over the course of the week. No excuse. We have to be better, if you’re called upon we have to make sure we execute.”
Tech added to its lead on its next drive when Baker connected with Zack Kinney from four yards out to make it 28-7 with 12:40 to play.
Simonis threw his second interception of the game on the next EOU possession and Tech turned the ball over on downs.
That led Camp to put in back-up quarterback Ray Walser to lead the offense.
And the decision worked.
Walser led a 10-play drive that covered 67 yards and ended with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jace Billingsley to cut it to 28-14.
After the EOU defense forced another Oredigger punt, Walser marched the Mountaineers downfield again and hit Billingsley for a 12-yard touchdown pass.
A low snap on the extra point attempt made it a 28-20 score with 1:03 to play.
“I was gonna bring Ray in a series before, but I have belief and I think that you have to have a rhythm. I knew the plays were almost there,” Camp said.
“It’s kind of the same situation as Week 1. You see what needs to be done, you talk to the back-up quarterback and you talk to the starter — ‘these are the things you need to do, these are the things you need to see.’ So sometimes I think it might help to be able to watch for three quarters and then be able to come in and execute.”
The Mountaineers added more drama to the game when Justin Reynolds recovered the ensuing onside kick.
But the Orediggers killed any chance at a Mountaineer Miracle by holding the EOU offense and forcing them to turn the ball over on downs.
Walser finished 13 for 20 for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
Simonis completed 10 of 23 for 80 yards and a pair of interceptions.
Billingsley caught 11 passes for 136 yards and two scores.
For Montana Tech, Baker threw for 363 yards on 38 of 48 passing. Thomas caught 11 balls for 90 yards.
The Orediggers outgained EOU 497-250 on offense.
The Mountaineers have three games remaining this season and travel to play Dickinson State Saturday.
DSU is 2-6 this season in its inagural year in the Frontier Conference.
“We’re 1-1 in the second half of the season. I think the opportunity to get on the bus and go play and play for Eastern Oregon — you’re representing Eastern Oregon and you represent yourself,” Camp said.
“Everything that you put on the field is going to be talked about, and hey, you’re interveiwing for a roster spot, you’re interviewing for a job these next three weeks.
“I want to find out who is going to finish what they started.”
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. MT against DSU with a live broadcast on 104.7 KCMB.