MACOMB, Ill. — Logan Jones likened the blocking on his 87-yard touchdown run Saturday in Montana State’s 23-14 victory at Western Illinois to the parting of the Red Sea. And it came at a great time for the Bobcats.
With MSU leading by three points in the middle of the third quarter, Jones took a handoff from quarterback Casey Bauman, burst through a hole and outran WIU’s defense all the way to the end zone to extend his team’s lead.
Picking up the slack for injured tailback Isaiah Ifanse, Jones did his job as the 10th-ranked Bobcats improved to 2-1. Jones, a fifth-year senior and a former standout at Kalispell Glacier, finished with career highs of 167 rushing yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns.
“I’m tired. I want to go get in the ice tub,” Jones said with a smile afterward. “But I want to get into the weight room tomorrow and just keep working, get the soreness out of me and do what I can next weekend, too, just be there for the team in any role I can be.”
Jones’ 87-yard touchdown ranks as the third-longest run from scrimmage in school history, trailing a 90-yarder by Shawn Johnson in a game against Monmouth in 2013 and a 97-yarder by Ben Vaughn against Fresno State in 1963.
It also served as atonement for a second-quarter fumble that Jones said he was “very upset” about.
Bobcats coach Jeff Choate said after the game that the injury to Ifanse, who was hurt and held out of the second half of MSU’s Week 2 win against Southeast Missouri, isn’t long term. But he praised Jones for his effort.
“Logan had a big day. They packed the box on us and did a great job,” Choate said. “Really, there was a lot of open access throws we just did not make. And so we had to lean on our run game, and I thought Logan stepped up huge.
“I’m really proud of that young man. He did some tremendous things for us.”
The Bobcats will welcome FCS Norfolk State of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to Bozeman on Saturday.
Highs and lows
The game represented an up-and-down performance for Montana State’s special teams.
Placekicker Tristan Bailey was one of the standouts. Bailey made all three of his field goal tries, two of which were 40-plus yarders in the fourth quarter. Bailey’s 47-yard field goal with 2:40 remaining gave the Bobcats a two-possession lead.
"He’s money. He’s always money,” defensive end Bryce Sterk said of Bailey. “He’ll have an off day every now and then, but I always trust him to make his kick. I get more nervous, and I’m probably more nervous than he is. There’s ice in that guy’s veins.”
Bailey went 4 for 4 on field goal attempts against Western Illinois last season.
Punter Jered Padmos averaged 40.6 yards on seven punts, but his 76-yarder in the first quarter was the highlight. The rugby-style punt rolled nearly 40 yards before it was downed at the 2-yard line. It ranks among the 10 longest punts in school history.
On the flip side, the Bobcats’ kickoff coverage struggled. MSU gave up three kickoff returns of 35 yards or longer, and Western Illinois finished with 140 return yards on four returns.
“As I told the guys, we’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to clean up,” Choate said.
Finally, a pick
It took four years, but Bobcats senior cornerback Damien Washington picked off his first career pass when he intercepted WIU quarterback Connor Sampson on a third-down play that originated on MSU’s 22-yard line early in the fourth quarter.
Washington cut across the field and returned the ball all the way to the end zone, and it would have been a 90-yard Pick-6 but defensive end Derek Marks was called for holding during the runback. In any event, it was a key play, one that Washington had been waiting to make.
“I was just super happy. Obviously it’s my first career pick,” Washington said. “I was just running, making dudes miss, I guess. It got called back, but I was just glad we got off the field as a defense to put our offense back on the field and it obviously changed the course of the game.”
The Bobcats finished plus-1 in turnover margin — Chase Benson forced an earlier fumble that Brayden Konkol recovered — and are now plus-2 through three games.