BILLINGS – Troy Purcell understands that Hail Mary pass attempts are rarely successful.
They’re more Hail than Mary.
“In my 30-plus years of coaching, I can use three fingers for the times the Hail Mary has worked,” said the Carroll College football coach.
Now he can add a fourth.
“It sure is fun when it works,” Purcell added.
Receiver Kyle Pierce put himself behind a scrum of bodies to gather in a 42-yard Hail Mary pass as time expired in the first half to give the Saints a 10-point cushion going into the locker room.
It was one of many big plays for Carroll, which scored 35 unanswered points in a 51-17 win over Rocky Mountain College on a snowy Saturday afternoon at Herb Klindt Field.
It was the first road win of the season for the Saints (4-3, 4-3). Rocky is 3-5 overall and 3-4 in the Frontier Conference standings.
Running back Matthew Burgess had scoring runs of 10 and 68 yards for Carroll, while Bridgewater has touchdown rushes of one and 54 yards. Linebacker Rex Irby had a 34-yard Pick-6 for the Saints’ defense and 6-foot-4, 275-pound offensive lineman Hunter Mecham added a two-yard scoring plunge.
Pierce’s score was part of a comeback after Rocky led 14-3 in the first quarter, scoring on its first two possession. Quarterback Kamden Brown found Lucas Overton for a 72-yard touchdown pass with Overton shedding a tackle en route to the end zone and Allen Williamson burst up the middle for a 20-yard touchdown run.
“Just don’t panic,” said Purcell of his team trailing early. "We had to stay with what we do. Our defense was outstanding, probably the best I’ve seen them play this year.”
On the final play of the half, Carroll sent three receivers down the left sideline.
“We’ve never run it before. We drew it up in the dirt,” Pierce said. “We all ran deep into the end zone and I ran behind everybody.”
Bridgewater heaved a 42-yard pass to a group of bodies. The ball glanced off a few hands and Pierce caught it about waist-high.
“The ball bounced around, it hit a couple of guys and luckily it rolled right to me,” Pierce said. “We’ve tried it three, four times this season. It’s the first one that worked.”
It was the second week in a row the 6-3 junior made a big catch. He caught the game-winner with 32 seconds remaining in the Saints’ 33-29 win over Montana Western.
Purcell had flashbacks of the first meeting with the Bulldogs when a Carroll Hail Mary attempt came up five yards short. “I told Devan, ‘You have to get the ball into the end zone.’ "he said. “It was a huge momentum changer.”
“Kudos to them for making a great play,” said Rocky coach Chris Stutzriem.
Rocky quarterback Kamden Brown, playing in the place of an injured Drew Korf, finished 13 of 25 passing for 162 yards. Overton finished with six catches for 98 yards and Riley Garrett added a 43-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Burgess finished with 83 yards rushing on nine carries while Bridgewater added 78 yards on seven attempts. Bridgewater was 17 of 27 passing for 249 yards with no interceptions.
The Saints’ defense had seven tackles for loss, including five quarterback sacks.
“I thought we ran the ball well,” Stutzreim said. “We had a couple of stalls out there and you can’t do that against a good team. And turnovers …”
The Carroll defense had three interceptions, two by Irby, and a fumble recovery.
NOTES: Korf suffered a broken hand in last week’s game against Montana State-Northern. … Brown is a transfer from Montana State. … The Battlin' Bears play at Montana Western this Saturday, while the Saints travel to Montana State-Northern. … Carroll swept the home-and-home series.