Matthew Burgess

Carroll College running back Matthew Burgess is forced out of bounds by Montana Western linebacker Jason Ferris during Saturday’s game at Nelson Stadium. The Saints held on to win 33-29 over the Bulldogs.

HELENA — Carroll College football coach Troy Purcell knows how important it is to run the ball.

His running backs proved that last week after putting up 315 rushing yards and a trio of touchdowns against Montana Western.

“We are definitely grinders,” Purcell said. “We want to keep running the ball.”

That includes this weekend, when the Saints drive over to Billings to take on Rocky Mountain College.

The Battlin’ Bears have had a tough time stopping the run this season.

Two weeks ago, they allowed Southern Oregon to run for 201 yards and a touchdown.

Last week, a one-win Montana State Northern team ran for 213 yards and three touchdowns.

Overall this season, Rocky is ranked 85th out of 93 NAIA teams, allowing 208.7 rushing yards per game.

“If you can run to win, you will have a chance to be pretty successful and have positive plays,” Purcell said.

Freshman running back Matthew Burgess has shone all season, ranking second in the Frontier Conference with 117.3 rushing yards per game.

But don’t forget about Burgess’ older teammate.

Or “Big Saint” as the football team calls him.

Senior running back Major Ali has stepped back this season, running for just 364 yards and four touchdowns this season, but showed off last week when he eclipsed 100 yards for the first time since he ran 131 yards against Montana State Northern on Sept. 15, 2018.

“Any of our guys can make plays on the field,” Burgess said last Saturday following Carroll’s 33-29 win over Montana Western. “We all trust each other, so it’s pretty good.”

SEEKING FIRST ROAD WIN

While the Saints have shown they can run the ball and even take down top-25 opponents this season, they are still searching for their first road win.

Carroll has played just two games away from Nelson Stadium this season. The first game ended with a season-opening loss at Montana Western and then a long bus trip to Ashland, Oregon ended with a heartbreaking 29-28 loss to Southern Oregon.

With three road games left this season, Purcell knows how crucial winning on the road will be.

“This team has to step up and overcome the new challenge of beating a team on the road,” Purcell said.

But what are those challenges? Why have the Saints won only 35 percent of their road games since 2014?

“It’s a challenge because of travel and you are out of your element,” junior wide receiver Shane Sipes said. “It’s definitely harder to win, but it is not impossible. A win would be huge for us.”

Carroll sits three games back of the Frontier Conference leader College of Idaho and two games behind second place Montana Western and Montana Tech.

But the Saints aren’t focused what other teams are doing. They want to get their first fifth win in seven tries at Herb Klindt Field.

DEFENSIVE IMPACT

Carroll’s total defense might rank 68th nationally, but the Saints have some individuals who are making an impact as top 10 defenders nationally.

Defensive backs Zach Spiroff and Isazah King respectively rank No. 2 and No. 7 in the nation in passes defended.

Spiroff also leads the team with two interceptions.

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Ryan Kuhn covers Carroll College athletics for the Independent Record and 406mtsports.com. Email him at ryan.kuhn@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @rskuhn

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