Montana State runs past Northern Arizona 49-31
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) – Travis Jonsen ran for 105 yards and two touchdowns to lead Montana State back from a 21-0 first-half deficit to a 49-31 win over Northern Arizona in a Big Sky Conference opener on Saturday.
The sixth-ranked Bobcats (4-1) trailed 31-14 midway through the third quarter, but they rattled off 35 unanswered points behind a prolific running game that produced 244 yards in the second half.
MSU ran 22 straight rushing plays at one point during the second half.
"(NAU) had a good scheme to stop our run game, but as usual we keep carrying water and chopping wood," MSU head coach Jeff Choate said.
NAU (2-3) scored the first three touchdowns, with two coming off MSU turnovers, including Taylor Powell's pick-6 off Tucker Rovig to spot the Lumberjacks to a 7-0 lead.
MSU's Logan Jones fumbled the ball two possessions later and NAU marched 56 yards to go up 21-0.
MSU cut the lead to 21-14 before halftime, but Case Cookus led the Lumberjacks on an 85-yard drive for a score just before the end of the first half.
NAU got a 48-yard field goal into a brisk wind from Luis Aguilar to go up 31-14.
The Bobcats methodically got on track in the third quarter and they still trailed by 10 at the start of the fourth but exploded for 28 points, including 14 points in an 18-second span after NAU fumbled a kickoff return.
"To hold them to a field goal there was as big a series as any in the game," Choate said.
"We get a three-and-out and then we muff the punt return but held them to three," he continued.
MSU held NAU star quarterback Case Cookus to just 26-for-50 passing for 273 yards and one touchdown.
Shane Perry rushed for 67 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries for MSU, while Logan Jones added 74 yards on 18 totes. MSU finished with 340 yards rushing.
After finally drawing within 31-28 early in the fourth quarter, the Bobcats went 89 yards for the go-ahead score when Jonsen bowled his way into the end zone from the 2.
Following the fumbled kickoff, Perry ran it in from the 15 and then scored again on a 5-yard run after a big interception return by Amandre Williams to put the game out of reach.
Jacque Allenye ran a punt back to the NAU 14 in the second quarter to breathe some life into MSU's offense.
"You never know where a spark is gonna come from," MSU offensive lineman Lewis Kidd said.
"We never got down, which shows maturity. The coaches weren't screaming at us at halftime, they were solidifying us and telling us we'd keep doing what we were doing. Those little 1-, 2-yard plays turned into 5-, 6-, 7-yard plays. That's our mentality," he said.