The Dillon-Montana Tech Ole Diggers entered the Frontier Conference Road contest against the No. 16 Montana Western on Saturday, seeking Dillon’s first victory since 2010.
Blake Sellen, who replaced injured quarterback Jett Campbell, threw for three touchdowns and threw for 200 yards in the first half to give the Tech a 23-point lead.
The relentless Bulldogs scored 17 straight points and are poised for a 4th quarter comeback. However, a 6th-minute drive from Ryan Lowry and a 1:39 32-yard field goal put the game away as Montana Tech beat Montana Western 33–24.
“I’ve been hearing that we haven’t won a championship here since 2010,” said Montana Tech head coach Kyle Samson. “It’s been a long time. Our guys are ready and the Westerns are a great team. Coach (Ryan) Nourse is doing a great job. It’s been a great day being an Orediger.”
It was the Westerns’ first home loss since their 17-14 loss to the University of Idaho on November 3, 2018.
Tech (3-1) took the opening kickoff and drove 64 yards in seven plays. Thelen got his 11-yard touchdown on his pass where he hit Kaleb Winterburn and put the Orediggers on the board. Lowry’s extra point saw the Oredigars score 4:55 to put him ahead 7–0.
Jon Jund’s 38-yard pass to Elijah Benedick landed the Westerns in Tech territory at the 35-yard line. However, on the next play, Jake Orvis intercepted Jund with his Tech 33.
Thelen started the ensuing drive with a 43 pass completion to Trevor Hoffman. Then, after Jaden McNeill’s 15-yard carry and Winterburn’s 6-yard skipper, Selene threw his 3-yard touchdown on Blake’s count. Lowry’s extra point with 6:52 remaining in the first quarter pushed the Oredigars’ lead to 14.
The Bulldogs responded with a 75-yard drive starting with a 28-yard completion from Jund to Dylan Shipley. Reese Neville’s 1-yard touchdown run and John Mears’ point afters cut the margin to his 7 points with his 3:07 playing in the first quarter.
Tech’s next drive failed. His 53-yard punt from Andrew Almos went out behind his zone in the end for a touchback.
Western’s next drive stalled at 25. A high, long punt his snap went outside the zone for safety as Tech finished his 1/4 and he led 16-7.
Kyle Torgerson’s 21-yard free-kick return set the Oredigers up for their next scoring drive. Count began the drive with a 14-yard run, and Winterburn added a 19-yard carrydown to the Bulldogs’ 36.
With 10 for 13 on third downs and a Western, Selen connected with Trevor Hoffman for a 13-yard touchdown. Lowry scored the extra to give Tech his 16-point lead, 23-7.
Alaric Grail and JP Fitzpatrick sacked Jund on the Western’s next offensive play, forcing the Bulldogs to punt after three plays.
Tech’s next scoring drive took nearly four minutes off the clock, and Selene’s 33-yard pass to Jordan Jackson set up Count’s 2-yard touchdown run with 4:57 to play into the half. Lowry’s kick put Oredigars to his 30-7 lead.
“They had the upper hand today,” Samson said. “We started the game a little slower last week. What a great way to start.”
Bulldog quietly navigated the next drive into the end zone. Colten-McPhee, who gained his 35 combined yards on consecutive passes from Jund to Blake his Saint Man, with 32 seconds left in the first half he sent a 5-yard burst into his zone at the end. Mears’ extra point clipped the margin to 16 points, 30-14.
After the teams traded possessions to start the second half, the Bulldogs hit the scoresheet again. His 32-yard pass to Eddie Dewart for Jund set up his pass for a 47-yard touchdown to Treymount. Mears’ successful extra point with 8:40 remaining in the third quarter cut the Oredigars’ lead to his nine points, 30–21.
Tech’s next offensive series stalled at 44. Almos detonated his 51-yard punt that went down at his 5-yard line on the Western.
Both teams traded possessions before the Westerns embarked on a 16-play, 76-yard, 7:49 drive. The Jund and Bulldogs offenses chipped away at the Oredigars defense before Grail and Keyshawn his James his Newby slammed the door at the Tech 13. Mears’ 30-yard field goal with 7:39 to play in the game cut Tech’s lead to six. points, 30-24.
Orediggers responded with a six-minute drive, with Counts and Winterburn rushing hard. Braden Smith dropped the count to lose six yards and a double reverse pass went incomplete, forcing Tech to score a field goal try. Lowry’s 32-yard field saw his goals upright as he played with a 1:39 split, extending the Oredigars’ lead to 33–24 and he extended his lead to 9 points.
The Westerns started the final drive with their own 25 yards. His 16-yard pass to Jund’s Saint Man and Tech’s passer ruffing on his call moved the ball to his 49-yard line for the Bulldogs. Facing 4th and 4th down on Tech 33 with 16 seconds remaining, Jund’s 15-yard scramble cut the clock to 3 seconds. On the final play of the game, Jund’s pass missed Shipley.
The Oredigers gained 400 yards, split evenly with 200 passes and 200 rushes.
Thelen had 15 of 27 passes for 200 yards and 3 runs.
“Unfortunately, Jett Campbell picked up an injury late last week and knew he wouldn’t be able to play today,” Samson said. “Blake did a great job in his first college run, not to mention a big rivalry win on the road. He made some big throws, made some great decisions, took care of football The O-line protected him, the wide receivers played great, the running backs ran well.Blake knows he has a good defense behind him.”
Count played a big role in the running game, completing 120 yards on 17 carries. He broke tackles and made several runs where he jumped defenses. Winterburn on the ground he added 59 yards.
Hoffman led the receiving corps with six catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. Thorgerson added three catches for 33 yards.
James-Newby led the Oredigars with nine tackles and one sack. Cole Wyant added he has 8 tackles.
Jund passed 12-of-27 for 217 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He also ran for 101 yards on 19 carries.
Neville added 56 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Saint Man had 68 receiving yards.
Braden Smith added 11 tackles, while Braden Swank and Cameron Lowther added 10 tackles each.
Tech returns to Bob Greenfield next week against MSU-Northern in a 56-0 loss to Rocky Mountain College in Billings.
“We’re only taking one game at a time,” Samson said. “The Frontier League is a great league and it’s going to be tough every week. My goal this week was to make him 1-0 here in Dillon. We just have to keep winning.”
Westerns will host Rocky next Saturday in Dillon.