Carroll Luke Jensen

Carroll College freshman wide receiver Luke Jensen battles with Montana State Northern defensive end BJ Hatcher on Sept. 21 at Nelson Stadium. 

HELENA -- It’s not too often that a team, nationally ranked in the top 10 steps into Nelson Stadium.

No. 3 Southern Oregon visited last season.

No. 7 Montana Tech visited in 2016.

No. 8 the College of Idaho (4-0, 4-0) is the next scheduled to challenge the Saints this Saturday.

Carroll (2-2, 2-2) is coming off the bye week following a heartbreaking loss to Southern Oregon in Ashland, but has had two weeks to prepare.

It’s been three years since Carroll has knocked off a top-10 team.

Can it do it again?

Keep your eye on some key storylines leading up to the game.

1. Stopping a dual-threat quarterback

There is no question that the Saints have struggled against C of I as of late.

Carroll has lost their last two meetings.

And it could be because of the inability to stop the Yotes’ quarterback.

Senior Darius-James Peterson has been a thorn in the Saints’ side throughout his career with the ability to be a dual threat.

In 2017, Peterson threw for 208 yards and rushed for another 86 yards en route for a 21-6 win.

Last season, Peterson did even better.

His 314 total yards and three touchdowns masked his four interceptions as C of I came away with a 28-7 win.

Peterson continues to put up numbers, as he is ranked fifth in the Frontier Conference in passing yards per game and eighth in rushing yards per game.

Will the Saints’ defense be able to stop its opposition?

2. Finding the key receivers

Over the first four games of the season, Carroll redshirt quarterback Devan Bridgewater has found his favorite targets.

Sixty percent of his passes have gone to junior wide receiver Shane Sipes and sophomore tight end Tony Collins.

They have also caught all seven of Bridgewater’s touchdowns.

Sipes proved he can put together big games. He put together a 171-yard receiving game last year at Montana Tech.

And Collins caught a touchdown pass in each of his four games this season.

If Carroll wants to get the upset on Saturday, look for both to have giant games.

The Saints have shown that they can run, but can a balanced offense be enough to take down the Yotes?

3. Responding after the bye week

Carroll had two weeks to think about the tough 29-28 loss to Southern Oregon after it gave up a 19-point lead.

Last Saturday’s bye week gave the Saints an opportunity to rest players and game plan for the C of I.

But was it too much time off?

Football is a game about momentum so, the question is, will a week off derail the Saints? Despite two losses, Carroll has held leads in each of the four games.

The other pressing question is how will C of I respond?

The Yotes’ are off to their best start since the 1969 season and have won 10 games in a row dating back to last season.

They also have their highest ranking in school history and are on their way to winning their first conference title since 1955.

Of course, that was all before the bye week.

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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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