Eastern Oregon’s offense found its rhythm after a slow start. The defense suffocated Montana Tech all afternoon.
The outcome was a dominant homecoming win for the Mountaineers.
Kai Quinn threw four touchdown passes, the defense recorded seven sacks, and No. 19 EOU earned a 35-17 win over the Orediggers in Frontier Conference play Saturday at Community Stadium.
“Homecoming is one of the biggest things,” EOU Head Coach Tim Camp said. “When people come back, you want to put a great product on the field, for the people who worked so hard and gave so much to this program to be able to see the turf and all the progress we made.”
The Mountaineers turned what started out as a defensive battle into a drubbing by the early stages of the fourth quarter, at one point rattling off 35 straight points to go up 35-3 on Kaler Moore’s six-yard touchdown reception with 12:53 to play.
Montana Tech managed to add a couple late touchdowns to make the score more respectable, but was ultimately locked up by the EOU defense for the second time this season.
The effort started up front for Eastern. Isaiah Cranford combined with Chase Van Wyck and later with Sage DeLong for sacks on the first defensive series, which set the tone for the afternoon.
Both Van Wyck and Cranford finished with 1.5 sacks, Zach Lacey had a sack, and five others players were credited with half a sack as the Mountaineers harassed Tech QB Jet Campbell all afternoon.
“It’s what they practice for,” Camp said. “I think they practice against the best offensive line in the conference. They challenge our guys each and every day. When they do that against a group like (Montana Tech) who wants to run the ball, but knew they were going to have to throw the ball, they're relentless.”
Tech was just as strong on defense early, collecting two sacks on the opening drive and grabbing an interception to set up a short field goal for a 3-0 first-quarter lead.
Eastern, in fact, didn’t get a first down until its fifth possession. That possession, though, finally broke the ice on the offense with Brenden Kelly’s 11-yard TD reception early in the second quarter.
“It just comes down to execution,” said wide receiver T.J. Hancock, who had a team-high five catches on the day. “We know we have the guys to do it. We put a couple passes together and it led to points, which is good.”
Eastern extended its lead to 14-3 when Victor Dias, known more for his bruising running style, took a screen pass, made a cut and sprinted 74 yards just before the half.
EOU put the pedal down in the third quarter.
A strip-sack recovered by Chris Kindle set EOU up at the Montana Tech 13, and Dias scored from five yards out for a 21-3 lead.
Then EOU got a bit tricky, recovering a pooch kickoff at the Tech 35.
“I get it up there, and pretty much hope and pray for a good bounce, which it ended up doing,” kicker Nathan Harden said, noting EOU pulled off the same play a week ago in its win at Southern Oregon. “Anytime it bounces in favor for us is a good day.”
Dias turned the extra possession into points with a seven-yard reception for a 28-3 lead less than three minutes into the third quarter.
“We came out at halftime (and) started clicking offensively,” lineman Colten Alefteras said. “Our defense was balling out the entire game.”
Quinn finished with 295 yards on 22-of-40 passing. Although he had two interceptions, he connected with nine different receivers.
Dias posted team bests of 82 yards rushing and 81 yards receiving.
“Vic has gotten better, and he's worked hard at it. He has worked himself into being an every-down back,” Camp said. “That’s impressive, but that's not surprising with Vic. That’s the kind of person he is, and that's the kind of person we want carrying the ball.”
Campbell was 22-for-40 for 244 yards with a touchdown and a pick for Tech. Jed Fike, who had 149 yards rushing in the previous matchup, had 94 yards Saturday.
EOU (5-2 overall, 5-2 Frontier) travels to College of Idaho Saturday to face a Coyotes’ team that is on a three-game winning streak, most recently with a 45-34 win over Southern Oregon.