Cats, Griz Conclude Spring Practices - KULR8.com | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Cats, Griz Conclude Spring Practices

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From Montana State University:


GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- If gazing at stars is your thing, Montana State's Triangle Classic in Great Falls might not have been the place to be Saturday. But with the spring's theme of creating depth and evaluating young players in mind, Rob Ash saw the day as a great success.

“It means you have other guys,” Ash said of the opportunity to see so many young and inexperienced players in a live setting, “and you have the chance to evaluate other guys. “We needed to see them, and there was no chance of (the starters) getting hurt.”

Without the team's top three running backs, six receivers and tight end participating, Montana State's top offensive unit nonetheless produced. Sophomore running back Nick LaSane scored the event's only touchdown and sophomore kicker Luke Daly added one field goal each for the ones and twos.

In windy conditions, the emphasis fell on Montana State's ground game. LaSane gained 78 yards on 11 carries, including the 13-yard touchdown run, while freshman Tavon Dodd scampered 17 times for 67 yards.

“I thought we ran the ball well at times,” Ash said. “The running backs ran hard, and well. Tavon and Nick are certainly different types of runners, and they showed that today. When you're running the ball like that the offensive line has to be doing some good things up front.”

LaSane enjoyed the ground-oriented afternoon, especially the standouts he ran behind. “Oh, yeah, it was a great day,” he said. “We came out and did what we had to do. We didn't get to pass the ball as much as we wanted to, we got to run the ball and evaluate the three of us younger running backs, and I think it was good. The O-line, man, they always come out here and play their hearts out. I couldn't ask for a better O-line.”

The Cats also moved the ball through the air, in spite of its rapid circulation above and through the premises. Dakota Prukop completed six of his 10 attempts for 109 yards, while Jake Bleskin was 8-for-20 for 60 yards. Freshman Johnny D'Agostino caught four passes for 79 yards, while Connor Sullivan's two catches, each involving impressive in-flight adjustments to the ball, caught Ash's eye. “ I thought Connor Sullivan caught the ball extremely well. He really made a statement,” he said.

Still, the defense kept the Bobcat offense largely under wraps. “It was a hard-hitting scrimmage and early on the offense had their own way at times,” Ash said, “but there was only one touchdown scored in 82 plays. When you think about it, that… was a good defensive performance. There were some good fourth down stops, and I thought they played with a lot of enthusiasm and energy, and that's what we've tried to emphasize this spring. I really felt pretty good about it.”

Junior Zach Hutchins has emerged as a key figure in Montana State's revamped defensive scheme. He occupies the Bandit defensive end that plays in space, his speed and athleticism slotting him as ideal as a hybrid defensive end/linebacker. “I thought he was (good), especially (against) the ones,” Ash said. “He made some nice plays, had some sacks against the one offensive line. I thought he looked really good out there.”

More than a compilation of statistics or an opportunity for evaluation – or even the chance for a football fix in the spring – Montana State's annual Triangle Classic visit to Great Falls stands as a special interaction between a passionate fan base in a football-crazed community, and a tradition-steeped college program. Approximately 1,400 attended the Triangle Classic Banquet Friday, not including the players, coaches or other MSU officials, while an enthusiastic gathering of nearly that many saw Saturday's scrimmage.

“It's fantastic!” Ash said of the weekend trip to Great Falls. “I think it's really, really important for Bobcat football to play up here in Great Falls. It's an amazing testimony to the people up here and how hard they work and how much effort they put in for our program, and then to have the energy to come out the next day and support the game, it sends us home with a really good feeling.”

Montana State returns to Bobcat Stadium next Saturday for the Sonny Holland Classic. 

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From the University of Montana:

HELENA, MONTANA – Quarterback Brady Gustafson threw four touchdown passes to lead the way for the University of Montana Grizzlies in their annual Spring game on a sunny, windy Saturday afternoon in Carroll College's Nelson Stadium

The Grizzlies and Saints held back-to-back scrimmages today in the Capital City, as both teams concluded their 2015 spring drills.

"We had some good stuff going on – that's a good defense out there," said Griz head coach Bob Stitt. "We feel like our defense is as good as what we're going to see next year. We did have some good things going, but I was disappointed with a lot of dropped balls and some communication.

"We had some checks that the receivers didn't catch and we would have some better plays on offense," Stitt continued. "But, what I liked about the offense was that when we had the short field we got points out of it, and our defense if s going to get us a lot of short fields next year."

Gustafson, a 6-7, 235-pound junior from Billings (West High School), paced the offense with the first three scores of the scrimmage – all via the passing game. His first touchdown pass was a 17-yarder to redshirt freshman wide receiver Reese Carlson; his second was a 2-yard completion to junior wide-out Ryan Burke; and his third TD strike came on an 18-yard throw to senior wide receiver Jamaal Jones.

"Brady is really grasping it, and every rep he takes he gets better," Stitt said. "He's got all summer now to rep it, and he's got all fall camp; and he's going to continue to get better – and he did all throughout spring. He never took a step backwards.

"He (Gustafson) got us into some good stuff," Stitt continued. "He checked the one (touchdown pass) to Reece that we hadn't run all spring. When they're (the quarterbacks) checking things every single day and getting a chance to call them every single day, that's big time. He had that in the back of his mind, and we talked about it a couple of days ago and he said ‘hey if I've go man I am going to check to that play,' and he did, and got the touchdown.

"You know you hate to talk about it until you go back and watch the tape," said Stitt when asked about what he thought about the play of the four other quarterbacks. "But, I think all of those guys had some good things today, and they're going to learn from it. We're just waiting for that next guy to separate himself and become the strong back-up."

The fourth score of the afternoon was tallied by wide receiver/returner Ellis Henderson, who electrified the crowd when be broke loose first down the left sideline, and he then made a cut up the middle, then raced over to the right sideline, en route to a 92-yard kickoff return for a score.

Henderson, a 6-0, 185-pound senior from Spanaway, Wash., was an All-Big Sky Conference selection in 2013, and missed most of last season due to an illness. He also scored the final touchdown of the day, this one coming on Gustafson's fourth scoring pass -- a 14-yarder.

"He's a big-play guy," said Stitt about Henderson. "We need that. We need somebody who can bust the top off of a route, and be big for us in our return game. He showed what he can do today. It's nice to have him out there."

The other scores on the afternoon were thanks to kicking game, as senior Chris Lider connected on a 26-yard field goal and junior Harrison booted a three-pointer from 33 yards out.

The Griz will take the next three-plus months off and begin fall camp in early August. Montana opens its 2015 season at home on August 29, hosting three-time defending FCS national champion North Dakota State on a game that will be televised nationally on ESPN.


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