Courtesy of Montana State Athletics
BOZEMAN, Mont. â€“ In one spring scrimmage, freshman quarterback Denarius McGhee experienced everything on his checklist of the things that makes Montana State â€œa great place to play quarterback.â€
Great run game? Check. Great defense? Check. Good receivers, check.
â€œThe best thing about being a quarterback here is that we have a great run game,â€ said McGhee, thrust into the role of primary quarterback after Cody Kemptâ€™s spring-ending injury last week, â€œand a great defense.â€ McGheeâ€™s Blue team benefitted from CJ Palmerâ€™s 78 rushing yards and a defensive effort that produced a 31-0 shutout over the Gold team in Saturdayâ€™s Sonny Holland Classic at Bobcat Stadium.
While Palmer pounded out yards in the running game, much of the Blue teamâ€™s damage came through the air. McGhee connected on a 68-yard touchdown pass with sophomore Kruiz Siewing, who led all players with 125 receiving yards, and also found Julius Lloyd for a 30-yarder. In all, McGhee finished with 273 passing yard, hitting 20 of his 25 passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Ash was pleased with his teamâ€™s ability to create big plays, particularly in the passing game. â€œItâ€™s something we worked on all the way around this spring,â€ Ash said. â€œItâ€™s nice to see those things develop.â€
The Blue team got things rolling almost immediately. After forcing the Gold team to punt, McGhee engineered an 85-yard scoring drive which covered 14 plays. The crucial play of the series came early. On a third-and-eight from the Blue 39, McGhee found Julius Lloyd on a 12-yard completion to keep the drive alive. Later, on a fourth-and-one, CJ Palmer rumbled 12 yards for a first down. McGhee later found Gianni Carter from 15 yards out for the dayâ€™s first score.
The White team scuffled early in the first half, with freshman Cody Davies spending most of that time doggedly pursued by Blue defensive linemen or tagged for sacks. Davies rallied the Whites, though, embarking on a solid drive with 5:39 to play in the half. Keyed by Kirk runs of 14 and five yards, the White team moved into scoring territory, but at the 15 Davies fumbled and Chris Music recovered to squelch the Whiteâ€™s only scoring opportunity of the day.
The Blue team blew the game open early in the second half. Facing a first-and-20 from the Blue 32-yard line, McGhee found Kruiz Siewing down the sideline for a 68-yard scoring strike. â€œI love going deep,â€ McGhee said with a smile. â€œThe face is my favorite ball to throw. When Iâ€™m doing that, Iâ€™m happy.â€
McGhee also lauded the Saco native who caught the bomb. â€œHeâ€™s a great player,â€ McGhee said of Siewing. â€œHe makes people miss in the open field, he makes the quarterback look good by taking a ball at the line-of-scrimmage and going 50 yards. Heâ€™s just out there making great plays.â€
â€œI thought Kruiz did a great job today,â€ Ash said. â€œHe looked really fast. I thought he played extremely well.â€
Ash was also pleased with the return of CJ Palmer from a toe injury, even if his day was truncated after aggravating the aggrieved digit. â€œI was pretty happy with the way CJ ran,â€ Ash said. â€œWe wanted to run him a lot. That was one of the most important things we wanted to see today, whether he could get out and go. I was happy that he did.â€