Cheney Free Press -

By PAUL DELANEY
Staff Reporter 

Eastern Washington, Montana State set to battle in Bozeman

 

Last updated 9/27/2018 at 7:07pm

Paul Delaney

Antoine Custer Jr., was hard to catch last Saturday as he scored on touchdown runs of 62 and 43 yards in EWU's 70-17 Big Sky Conference win over Cal Poly.

Eastern Washington travels to a place to play football this Saturday where they have enjoyed some pretty good success over the years, but one where a few wrenches have been thrown into the gears.

The No. 5-ranked Eagles face Montana State in Bozeman's Bobcat Stadium in a battle of 3-1 teams who both had big wins in their conference openers the week before. Eastern comes off a 70-17 smackdown of Cal Poly last Saturday in their Big Sky Conference opener in Cheney. MSU, meanwhile, went on the road and beat Portland State 43-23.

"It's always a tough out," Eagles head coach Aaron Best said on the Sept. 24 EWU Coaches Show. "We have to sharpen all our tools. Kickoff is 12:10 p.m. and the game will be televised live on ROOT Sports.

Eastern is 31-10 all-time against Montana State, having won six in a row. But the Bobcats certainly can throw a wrench into things, as they did with a 30-7 win over the Eagles in 2010, the year Eastern went on to claim the Football Championship Subdivision national title.

MSU has made steady progress under third-year head coach Jeff Choate. He had a 4-7 debut season and was 5-6 last year, including a 5-3 Big Sky Conference mark.

"We have to be ready for anything – it will be a raucous crowd and a great environment for our guys to play in," Best said. "They'll be ready for us. And they have some special players."

Quarterback Troy Andersen has led the way for MSU offensively, averaging 105.8 yards per game rushing. He is averaging only 47.0 yards passing per game, but is coming off 318 yards of offense at PSU with 211 rushing and 107 passing yards.

The Eagles' win over the Mustangs at Roos Field was a game that seemed out of character for Eastern, at least in the last decade.

In a program known for its passing prowess, Eastern's rushing offense doubled its passing attack for the first time in 14 years when the Eagles rushed for the second-most yards in school history. The total of 441 is second only to the 456 yards Eastern had in 1999 against Cal State Northridge.

The Eagles had their rushing total on just 30 carries to set a new Big Sky record for average per rush with a mark of 14.7. That broke the old record of 11.1 set by Portland State vs. UC Davis in 2013 (427 yards, 38 attempts).

Antoine Custer Jr., who made his first appearance after nursing an injury, made his return notable as he scored on touchdown runs of 62 and 43 yards.

The effort was aided by supreme special teams play that resulted in not just one, but a pair of scoop and score fumble returns for touchdowns in the first half by Cole Karstetter (33 yards) and Jim Townsend (62 yards) following forced fumbles by Kurt Calhoun and Mitchell Johnson, respectively.

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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