It’s time for the 122nd meeting of the Diggs and Dawgs
If there is a game that never needs a hype-man, it’s Tech Western. The first time Montana School of Mines played Montana Normal was Oct 3, 1925, and I KNOW there was no shortage of smack-talk even then.
This will be the 122nd time they have played, and I can only imagine there has never been a ‘throw away’ game between the two. Every meeting has weight to it, and Saturday’s game is no different. Montana Tech has been in playoff mode for the last 2 weeks; they know the only way they have a shot at playoff games is by winning out. Period.
Western is out of the national playoff hunt, but they would love to close the regular season on a 4-0 run. Both teams enter the game with great momentum. Western has won their last 2, College of Idaho and Northern, both at home. They will finish their season on the road, this week in Butte, and next week at Rocky.
I was able to talk to Western Head coach Ryan Norse before the College of Idaho game, and he said he felt his team was FINALLY on the same page. He felt his team was playing well in different phases, and at different times but never together as a team. The last 2 weeks certainly show they are rolling as a team. The Bulldogs go as Jon Jund goes, and Jon is firing on all cylinders. Against the College of Idaho, Jund completed 73% of his passes for 370 yards, and then a week later threw for 303 against Northern. Jund is #2 in the conference averaging 215 yards a game through the air, he has thrown 16 Touchdowns, and 8 interceptions.
Reese Neville is quietly the 4th leading rusher in the conference, averaging 81 yards a game on the ground. Freshman Dylan Shipley is their leading receiver with 22 catches for 6 touchdowns, and 376 yards.
Montana Tech enters Round 2 of Digger/Dog winning their last 2 games as well. (Southern Oregon at home, and at Rocky last week). The single biggest number that jumps off the page at me is Montana Tech is +12 in turnover margin. That number is huge. They have taken the ball away from their opponent 21 times and have only given it up 9 times.
Remember, Blake Thelen made his first start at Quarterback against the Dogs earlier this year. In that game he threw for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns. From then until this week Blake has been fantastic, completing 55% of his passes, for 1104 yards, 10 Touchdowns, with only 1 interception. Blake and Jet Campbell have both seen playing time in the last couple of weeks.
Blake Counts is coming off his biggest outing as a Digger, running for 153 yards against Rocky, Kaleb Winterburn also factored into that win by handling the tailback duties in the 4th quarter.
Montana Tech’s offensive front has been outstanding, in addition to the running lanes they create, they have only given up 6 sacks on the year. They are a group that feels like they are getting better and better each week.
The Digger D is led by conference sack-leader Keshawn James-Newby. He finished last week’s game with 2 sacks, bringing his season total to 7. He and Zack Trumble will be big factors in this ballgame before it is done.
The secondary has been banged up a bit, several guys playing in different spots throughout the season. That said, they are solid. Sanchez pulled down 2 interceptions a week ago, and Naoki Harmer was everywhere against Rocky. This unit is good but will be tested if Jund is comfortable in the pocket.
Last but far from least, it is Senior Day, one of my favorite days of the year. I won’t go blathering on about this class, but this is an incredible group of Orediggers on and off the field.
You can listen to Coach Kyle Samson talk about these guys in detail HERE.
I will also air a shortened version of the interview at halftime of Saturdays video stream, that can be viewed HERE. (just scroll down to Western game and click Watch)
Kickoff 1pm Bob Green Field Saturday.
Tradition never Graduates.