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Montana State Steps Over Matadors, 32-26

Big Sky: Bobcats take sole possession of lead, drop Northridge to third.


NORTHRIDGE — It was, as some sports philosopher once said, deja vu all over again. And again.

For the third consecutive season, Montana State burned Cal State Northridge on big plays to defeat the Matadors, 32-26, Saturday in a Big Sky Conference game in front of 6,124 at North Campus Stadium.

Northridge (4-3, 3-2 in the Big Sky) dropped out of first place and likely out of the Division I-AA rankings, and Montana State (5-2, 3-1) moved to the top in the standings.

The Bobcats snapped Northridge's seven-game conference winning streak at home and gave the Matadors little room for another slip.

"We have to fight through adversity now," safety Jeremy Golden said. "We don't have a choice."

Montana State, ranked No. 24 in one poll, stunned Northridge, ranked No. 24 in the other poll, and the homecoming crowd with two backbreaking plays in the fourth quarter.

"The last couple of years, we've become a big-play team," said Coach Cliff Hysell of Montana State. "There was a time in my years [at Montana State] that if we fell behind, 16-10, we would lose."

With the score tied, 19-19, Montana State caught Northridge blitzing and Eric Kinnaman broke 63 yards through the middle on a draw play before cornerback Donnell Day chased him down at the Matador seven.

On the next play, Lathian Tyler's run put Montana State ahead, 26-19, with 9:13 to play.

The Matadors, who the previous week committed five turnovers in a 35-21 loss at Cal State Sacramento, gift-wrapped Montana State's next score.

Middle linebacker Kevin Lundstrom intercepted Marcus Brady's pass intended for Anthony Ramos, returning it eight yards to the Northridge 42.

Three plays later, Rob Compson found Hobbs on a fly pattern on the left sideline for a 47-yard touchdown pass and a 32-19 lead with 7:33 remaining.

Compson completed 16 of 30 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Kinnaman finished with 151 yards in 15 carries.

Brady, a redshirt freshman who entered the game with the third-best passing efficiency rating in I-AA, had passes intercepted on Northridge's last three possessions. The final one came at the Montana State 28 with 12 seconds to play.

"The last one was pretty much desperation," said Brady, who completed 16 of 33 passes for 152 yards. He put Northridge ahead, 10-0, with a five-yard run midway through the first quarter.

Northridge pulled to within 32-26 with 3:12 to play when Clemente recovered a fumble by Tyler and flipped the ball to linebacker Brennen Swanson, who ran 73 yards for the score.

The Matadors had the early momentum, blocking two punts deep in Montana State territory in the first half, but turned them only into field goals by Manny Marquez. Northridge led, 16-10, at the half.

Montana State beat the Matadors, 24-17, in 1996 on a screen pass from Compson to Kenyatte Morgan that went 80 yards with 8:57 to play, and last season used a 91-yard kickoff return by Morgan early in the fourth quarter to pull ahead in a 31-20 victory.

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