Photo: Joel Venzke
Seeking to stage a major upset, the Drake football team fell just short, falling to No. 4 Montana State 34-24 Saturday night at Drake Stadium in front of a large crowd. Despite holding a lead for a large portion of the game and winning the turnover battle, the Bobcats were able to ride a surge of fourth quarter momentum to improve to 2-0 in head coach Rob Ash’s return to Des Moines after 18 seasons as the Bulldogs’ head coach.
“This is not OK that we lost, we wanted to come in here tonight and win this game,” said head coach Chris Creighton in a Drake athletics press release. “Don’t get me wrong, that’s a great football team that we played, but we came out here to win this game.”
Leading 24-21 at the end of the third quarter, a 30-yard run by Tray Robinson gave Montana State a lead that they would not relinquish, stopping Drake twice more on fourth downs sandwiched around a pass from DeNarius McGhee to Tanner Bleskin which provided the final margin of victory.
The Drake offense had a very proficient day, especially through the air, led by fifth-year senior Michael Piatkowski’s 311 yards passing on 25 completions, including a touchdown to sophomore Michael Hudson, his first as a Bulldog.
Rushing the ball was another story, as the Bulldogs could only muster 59 rushing yards, but did score twice on the ground with Piatkowski and junior TJ James getting the ball in the end zone.
Defensively, the Bulldogs didn’t play like a team that gave up 34 points, at times imposing their will on the Montana State offense, especially in the second quarter where Drake held the ball for over 10 minutes while holding the Bobcats to under 30 yards of offense.
The Bulldogs recorded three sacks on defense. Junior Brett Park, senior Brandon Coleman and fifth-year senior Tyler Moorehead each recorded a sack, giving them 12 team sacks on the season. Pacing the team in tackles was sophomore John Hugunin with 13 stops, while junior Travis Merritt compiled 12 tackles as well as a big forced fumble that stopped a Montana State drive early in the fourth quarter.
Following a relatively quiet first quarter that featured one score from the Bobcats’ Cody Kirk, Drake exploded for 17 points in the second quarter on James’ one-yard run and Hudson’s 15-yard reception. That continued Hudson’s big half as he also ran a fake punt 30 yards on a fourth-and-six, setting the stage for James’ touchdown.
Despite the defeat, the Bulldogs’ performance should give them confidence as they head to Indiana State next Saturday for their final non-conference game of the season.
“There’s a lot of disappointment right now,” Creighton said. “I’m so proud of our team and I told them I love and respect them so much. We wanted for them to experience the joy of winning this game, but we’ll watch the film and move forward, but I wouldn’t coach another team in the nation.”