HELENA — Things didn’t go Carroll College’s way the last time it faced Montana Western.
It lost 34-27 a little more than a month ago.
So, it makes sense that the Saints will enter Saturday’s rematch with a chip on their collective shoulder.
“This is our chance to redeem ourselves,” Carroll redshirt freshman quarterback Devan Bridgewater said. “That game was a frustrating one to lose.”
The Frontier Conference is one of two NAIA conferences where teams play one another twice in a season.
And history has shown that it’s not easy to come away with a sweep.
Carroll has only defeated Montana State Northern twice in one season, back in 2016.
Saints coach Troy Purcell has prepared to play teams twice in a season while coaching at the high school level. He would see a team once in the regular season and then again in the playoffs.
He said it’s all about how you prepare.
“It makes it difficult,” Purcell said. “Both sides have the same issue of what counters are going to come off of what was successful. We just have to have a solid game plan going in.”
The Saints’ game plan during the first meeting back on Sept. 7 was to put together a balanced offense. Bridgewater threw for a season-high 326 yards and a touchdown, while freshman running back Matthew Burgess eclipsed 100 rushing yards and scored a touchdown.
The only problem was that they were outshined by Montana Western quarterback Jon Jund.
Jund threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns during that game and hasn’t let off the gas pedal since.
He leads the conference in passing yards per game and is tied with Montana State Northern quarterback Brenden Medina with 12 touchdown passes.
“He’s only a sophomore so we will see him the next couple of years,” Purcell chuckled, when talking about Jund. “He’s an unbelievable quarterback, and the offense is very explosive.”
Carroll is coming off back-to-back losses where it lost a heartbreaker to Southern Oregon after giving up a 19-point lead and then was blown out by the College of Idaho last week.
No matter how different the losses were, Purcell has kept his team strong and knows the importance of putting the past behind them.
“Win or lose, we are 0-0 this week and we are always looking to get better,” Purcell said. “I thought we got better at this practice and the kids are hungry. The one thing about them is that they don’t quit.”
And that means they persevere even after a tough game.
Bridgewater struggled last week against C-of-I, converting just 36 percent of his passes. In weeks prior, it was reaching above 50 percent.
“I just need to prepare myself a little bit better,” Bridgewater said. “That means going through reads more quickly and making myself into more of a leader.”
The Saints have suffered a three-game losing streak over each of the last four seasons and, with an opportunity to knock off another nationally ranked team that stands at their doorstep, they want to take full advantage of it.
“They found a way to win last game and we just have to win the fourth quarter and give ourselves a chance,” Purcell said.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
Montana Western has not seen much success when it walks into Nelson Stadium. Since 2005, the Bulldogs have only one recent win, from 2018.