BOZEMAN – After one of the biggest days of his college career, it was almost unfair that Eastern Washington running back Quincy Forte was consigned to the sidelines at the end of the Eagles’ 52-51 win at Montana State.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Forte picked up 7 yards on a first-down play, but his stomach landed squarely on the football and he was helped from the field.
“I’ll be fine,” Forte said after gaining 182 yards and scoring four touchdowns – on just 13 carries.
Indeed, Forte carried the Eagles on a day when the passing game was less than its best. After Eastern went three-and-out on its first possession and Montana State took a 7-0 lead, Forte dashed 76 yards down the right sideline for the equalizer.
Four minutes later, Forte did it again with a pair of deft fakes and a 33-yard scoring dash that gave the Eagles a 14-13 lead.
And on it went, until Forte equaled the third-best day of his career, ranking only behind the 202 and 190 in the 2013 FCS playoffs. It was the seventh 100-yard game of his career; he now ranks ninth on EWU’s career list with 2,290 yards.
Miller steps up
Jake Miller’s versatility served the Eagles well on Saturday when starting kicker Roldan Alcobendas was injured during a Montana State kickoff return in the first half.
Miller, a senior punter from Central Valley, stepped up and delivered all afternoon: three kickoffs, two extra points and a field goal – every one of them crucial, as it turned out.
As the chants of “MVP” echoed from the locker room, Miller figured he was just doing his job.
“It was ugly, but it worked out,” Miller said. “I was prepared, just in case.”
Trial by fire
Several young Eastern defensive linemen – five of them – grew up in a hurry on Saturday.
Confronted by injuries and the big-picture necessity of maintaining depth, Eagle coaches moved a pair of true freshmen to the defensive line for Montana State.
Tight end/fullback Conner Bauman was transformed into an end, while 315-pound offensive lineman Jay-Tee Tiuli moved into the middle on the other side of the ball.
They joined three other true freshmen already seeing action – Nick Foerstel, Patiole Pesefea and North Central product Marcus Saugen.
“We did that because we’re thinking big picture,” said defensive line coach Ryan Sawyer, who wants to maintain a 10-man rotation all season.
“We didn’t want to go through with only seven guys,” said Sawyer, who was missing ends Evan Day (ACL) and John Goldwire (concussion).
Defense makes a stand
Lost in the scoring pyrotechnics was Eastern’s big second quarter on defense.
After Montana State scored on its first four possessions and led 23-14, the Eagles forced four straight stops in the second quarter, holding the Bobcats out of the end zone until the final minute of the period.
The Eagles had just cut the deficit to 23-20 when MSU running back Anthony Knight ran into Eastern safety Tevin McDonald, who stripped the ball and recovered at the Bobcat 47.
On the next MSU possession, Eagle defensive end Zackary Johnson met running back on a third-and-five play at midfield and threw him for a 1-yard loss, forcing a punt.
McDonald struck again on the Bobcats’ next drive. Running back Chad Newell dashed around the left end of the Eagles line. “He thought he could beat me to the sideline,” said McDonald, who stripped the ball and celebrated as cornerback Victor Gamboa recovered at the Eagle 36.
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