Game Recap

Benson’s absence noticeable yet Bobcats make due

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BOZEMAN – Chase Benson plays defensive tackle for Montana State. He makes plays that make his teammates behind him look good to great. He is as impossible to move off the line of scrimmage as any interior defensive lineman in the West.

But the burly Bobcat senior from Helena doesn’t get many of the accolades or the post-game adoration or attention. That’s the case for the strong men who do the dirty work.

The 6-foot-4, 285-pounder certainly gained plenty of notice on Saturday afternoon during Montana State’s 27-9 win over Idaho State.

Why?

He didn’t play. And his absence was a point of acute observation as Idaho State surprisingly ran the ball up with some effectiveness.

Suddenly, and ironically, everyone noticed Chase Benson.  Especially the Bengals.  They ran the ball 54 times for 213 yards, which is an unfamiliar number for MSU’s opponents this season.

His absence was a point of acute observation as Idaho State surprisingly ran the ball up with some effectiveness. When Benson first came onto the field on crutches during the fourth quarter of the win, the press box chatter increased.

Although Benson won its fifth straight Big Sky Conference game and its seventh straight game overall, Benson’s head coach and and teammates noticed his absence as well.

“The positive thing is we didn’t have to throw guys out there that hadn’t played,” MSU head coach Brent Vigen said in how he dealt with shoring up for Benson’s absence. “Chase is an elite player in this conference and you take him out of the mix and it’s gonna have an effect, but we have 4-5 players rotating in-and-out inside and they were ready.

“Credit to Idaho State for doing a good job running the football. We were down (Benson and (starting inside linebacker Callahan O’Reilly) today. I don’t know if that prompted that move or not, but they were able to move the ball a little bit between the 20s.

“And I didn’t think we tackled well today.”

The injury to Benson sounds like it may have been a bit of a freakish accident.

“He got hurt today, the damnedest thing actually,” Vigen said of Benson’s injury.. “He’ll be back as far as I know.  I don’t know the depth of it, but I trust that he’ll be back. (The injury) was in walk-through.  I’ll just leave it at that.”

One source close to the Bobcat defensive line said that Benson had been struggling with a sort of back issue. The source said Benson used crutches to simply relieve the weight he was putting on his lower lumbar.

While his teammates allowed the Bengals to get some rush yards, they still kept them out of the end zone, allowing just three field goals.  Benson, a third-team All-Big Sky selection as a junior, has matured physically as much as any player at Montana State the last handful of years. It’s nearly impossible to replace his power, aggressiveness, toughness and ability to control his matchups. But Montana State did its best as the Bobcats kept on rolling.

“It’s always tough when a guy like Chase goes down, especially being as good as he is, but guys were able to step up,” MSU senior defensive end Amandre Williams said.

Several players did just that in place of Benson, including Williams, who had six tackles, a sack, a half-TFL, and a fumble recovery.

Senior inside linebacker Troy Andersen notched 16 tackles, including nine solo, a TFL and two pass break-ups. He cleaned up more mess than usual inside the box and at the point of attack with Benson and O’Reilly, one of the most underrated players in the Big Sky, both on the shelf.

Freshman linebacker Danny Uliulakepa came off the bench in O’Reilly’s spot and had 10 tackles, while fellow rookie Sebastian “Sea Bass” Valdez had a whopping 10 tackles from his defensive tackle spot – a number even Benson would be impressed with – and a sack.

The defense did get going in the second half and it made a huge difference as MSU led just 13-6 after a long, time-consuming ISU drive.

After not forcing its first three-and-out, the offense rewarded them with an eight play, 65 yard drive that was capped off with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Matt McKay to Lance McCutcheon and a 20-6 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The next drive, MSU’s defense did it again with a second straight three-and-out and once again the offense said ‘thanks’ by striking for another TD. This time McKay hit Willie Patterson for a 65-yard score.

“This was a great game in terms of players stepping up for each other,” Vigen said. “That’s what you need to have is players that believe in each other and can step in and make the plays when you need plays.”

As Benson stood in front of the newly erected Bobcat Athletic Complex, he seemed proud of the performance by his teammates within the scope of a game where Idaho State matched Montana State’s physicality somewhat unexpectedly.

That affirmation for the men behind him is telling about Montana State’s current state as a program. And now the Bobcats get an extra week to get right.

“We knew coming in Idaho State was going to be a physical team wanting to run the ball but we trust that we’re a well-conditioned group, a physical group and we knew that if we stuck to the game plan, executed play after play after play, it would come out and be a good result for us,” Williams said.

Montana State takes its bye week before traveling to take on Eastern Washington in Cheney on November 6.

 

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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