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QBs, RBs, WRs find success at Triangle Classic
GREAT FALLS - It’s about a three-hour drive from Bozeman to the Electric City.
On the trip up from Montana State to his hometown to once again test out his old C.M. Russell stomping grounds at Memorial Stadium, it gave Tanner Bleskin ample time to prepare for the experience.
“It’s all new,” the redshirt freshman receiver said. “I’ve been in the stands for this game but never on the field. It makes you kind of want to put on a show, in a way, and give something back.”
Even though the Bobcat receiver gave energetic public announcer Jim Sargent plenty to hoot and holler about - and hoot and holler Sargent did - in grabbing a team high four catches for 26 yards and a touchdown as he helped the offense to a 49-39 win in the Triangle Classic spring game, it was a big ol’ defensive tackle that provided the chatter for the bus ride home.
On the first play of quarterback Denarius McGhee’s final drive with the first-team offense, he threw a quick screen pass to Everett Gilbert. The wide receiver-turned-running back took it, made a quick cut, saw daylight and darted toward the end zone.
Zach Minter had other plans. Coming from the opposite side of the field and well in Gilbert’s wake, the 6-foot-2, 260-pound behemoth caught the 5-foot-9, 175-pound jitter bug from behind after 41 yards.
Gilbert knew he’d have to answer for it.
“Aw man,” Gilbert said. “After I got tackled I looked up and was expecting to see (safety) Jordan Craney. Instead I see No. 96. I was like, ‘Man, I’m gonna hear about that for a while.’”
As impressive as the bear catching the hare was, it was Gilbert’s offense that ruled the day. And it was McGhee that had Sargent roaring the most.
“Look at that young freshman,” Sargent said over the PA after his 10-yard completion to Julius Lloyd. “You can see why there is a quarterback competition shaping up.”
McGhee and senior Cody Kempt split repetitions evenly with the first and second teams during the scrimmage. The redshirt freshman completed 13-of-16 passes for 151 yards with two touchdowns. He also ran for a score. Kempt was 6-of-12 for 42 yards without a touchdown.
Even though there was disparity in the stats, head coach Rob Ash wasn’t ready to call McGhee the victor, claiming Kempt was a bit steadier than the energetic freshman.
“McGhee creates plays but he also misses easy plays sometimes, too,” Ash said. “Cody has such velocity on the ball and he has such a good understanding of the offense right now. He’s really steady all the time.
“I’d say the race is still dead even.”
The example Ash used to explain McGhee’s boom-or-bust tendency was his fade throws.
The boom: McGhee twice found receivers in the end zone on perfectly thrown jump balls. On one occasion it was Kruiz Siewing, who caught four passes for 38 yards playing with the first team in place of the injured Elvis Akpla, and on the other it was Bleskin.
The bust: “I thought (McGhee) had Bleskin along our sideline once and he under threw him. Then he missed a pass over the middle to (Steven) Foster,” Ash said. “He’s not perfect yet.”
McGhee wouldn’t disagree with his head coach’s assessment.
“I need some improvement,” McGhee said. “I’m going to go back and watch film and make sure I start making all the right reads that I’ve been missing.”
Ash also said the health of his defense - or lack thereof - needed to be taken into account when judging the success of his offense.
“Our defense was so banged up,” Ash said. “We had almost nobody in the linebacking corps. That makes it difficult to evaluate today.”
Playing in one of the most healthy, stable units on the defense at safety, Craney said it was noticeable that guys like Dan Ogden, Brad Smith, Clay Bignell, Jordan Rohrback, Darius Jones, Zach Coleman and Arnold Briggs - all potential starters in the upcoming season - were missing.
“We were shaky,” Craney said. “We did some good things here and there but we have to do better.”
Banged up or not, the Bobcat offense exploited the defense for three touchdowns a year after scoring none in the 2009 Triangle Classic. And the defense, which was awarded points for things like stops behind the line, ending drives and turnovers, could not keep pace.
While he didn’t find pay dirt, running back Cody Kirk managed 103 yards on 18 carries. And yet, like his backfield mate Gilbert, he too cringed at the touchdown he didn’t score.
Kirk bounced to the outside and into the clear on a 47-yard run with the end zone calling his name early in the scrimmage before being tracked down from the rear.
“It’s that 40 speed,” Kirk said laughing. “I guess Everett and I have to work on that.”
By Will Holden