Courtesy of Montana State Athletics
BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Saturday marked a â€˜freshâ€™ start for Montana State football.
Or rather, a â€˜freshmanâ€™ start.
Quarterback Denarius McGhee became the first Bobcat frosh to open a season as MSUâ€™s signal caller since 1987, Cody Kirk the freshman running back to do so since 1992, and they led a wave of one dozen freshman that participated in the Bobcatsâ€™ season-opening 59-10 home win over Fort Lewis College. Montana Stateâ€™s 59 points matched the teamâ€™s 59 points in 2008 as the most a Bobcat team has ever scored in a season opener.
Rob Ash said the wave of youthful achievement Saturday was neither purposeful nor accidental, but was welcome. â€œWe didnâ€™t start anybody today because they were a freshman, or hesitate to start anyone because they were a freshman,â€ said MSUâ€™s fourth-year head coach. â€œThatâ€™s always been my philosophy, to play the player who is the best at that time.â€
That collection of talent allowed MSU to roll up and down the field offensively, and to stifle Fort Lewisâ€™ offense. Montana State rolled up 532 total yards and 30 first downs, limiting the Skyhawks to just 238 yards and eight first downs. McGheeâ€™s efficient afternoon sparked the offensive onslaught. The freshman finished 11-for-17 passing for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Four Bobcat running backs rushed for over 50 yards.
Just as impressively for a season opener, MSU was whistled for only two penalties and didnâ€™t turn the ball over.
â€œI was very, very happy with our consistency all day long,â€ Ash said. â€œIt was one of the best first games a team of mine has ever played.â€
The Bobcats came out of the gates on fire, scoring touchdowns in the teamâ€™s first three drives â€“ and five of the first six â€“ of the day. Kirk, the freshman running back, blasted in from one yard out on MSUâ€™s first possession of 2010, and from three yards out on the second. On one of the dayâ€™s most artistic plays, McGhee found fellow freshman Tanner Bleskin on a 32-yard fly route.
â€œThat was a beautiful play,â€ Ash affirmed.
MSU led 35-3 at halftime and had 52 points in the bank after blanking Fort Lewis in the third quarter. One of the dayâ€™s top performances was turned in by Skyhawk receiver Justin Johnson, who caught 10 passes for 161 yards. His 62-yard catch set up the Skyhawksâ€™ first half field goal, and accounted for all but 80 of the teamâ€™s total yards at the intermission.
Aleksei Grosulak, like Bleskin and McGhee a redshirt freshman, led the Bobcats with six tackles on the afternoon. Senior defensive tackle Dan Ogden forced a FLC fumble, which was recovered by fellow senior Jordan Craney for the dayâ€™s only turnover to set up the teamâ€™s third touchdown.
Montana State takes its show on the road next week, facing Pac 10 foe Washington State in Pullmanâ€™s Martin Stadium. Fort Lewis is does not play next weekend.