Bulldogs Lose Out to #1 Lindsey Wilson
The Montana Western Bulldogs (8-4) struggled to hold first-ranked Lindsey Wilson Blue Raiders (11-0) in the first round of the 2021 NAIA Football Championship Series.
After flight delays and kickoff postponed by a day, the Bulldogs made their first debut in the playoffs since 2002.
Inclement weather and a strong Lindsey Wilson offense made it difficult for the Bulldogs to gain momentum. Despite this, Montana Western managed to put 21 points on the scoreboard, while the Blue Raiders have only allowed opponents an average of 7.5 points per game this season.
The Bulldogs were the first to score with a 34-yard field goal from John Mears in the first drive of the game. The Blue Raiders responded with two touchdowns in the remaining time of the first quarter and another touchdown in the first two minutes of the second. After a three-yard rush from Colten McPhee and two completed passes from Jon Jund to Jamison Hermanson (34 yards total), Jund rushed into the goal line to put the score at nine to 20. Lindsey Wilson scored twice more in the final four-and-a-half minutes of the half to put the Blue Raiders up 25.
Montana Western defense held strong in the third quarter, holding the Blue Raiders to zero points. At the end of Lindsey Wilson's fourth drive of the quarter, Braden Smith blocked the Blue Raiders' punt for a loss of five yards, putting the Bulldogs at the Blue Raiders' seven-yard line. The Bulldogs used two downs to get Nate Simkins a catch in the goal line, helping Simkins break five Montana Western program records.
The Blue Raiders scored in the first four seconds of the fourth quarter, putting them up 41-15. The Bulldogs were unable to match the score on their next drive. Lindsey Wilson scored next on a third-down quarterback-keeper to put them up 48-15. Montana Western was unable to convert on their next drive, but Lindsey Wilson fumbled on the punt return; the fumble was recovered by Montana Western's Kameron Rauser on Lindsey Wilson's 35-yard line. Jund hit Hermanson for a 27-yard play to gain a Bulldog first-down on the Blue Raiders' eight-yard line. Simkins managed to put another touchdown on the board with a pass from Jund with 09:20 left in play. The two teams traded drives for the remainder of the game with no additional scores.
The Bulldogs were one of 12 on third downs; the Blue Raiders were 15 of 24.
Montana Western had 219 offensive yards on 53 plays; Lindsey Wilson had 539 yards on 88 plays.
This is coach Ryan Nourse's first appearance in the playoffs in his coaching career. His eight wins this season is the most by any coach since 2002.
"It was a great season," coach Nourse said. "The team grew and showed great competitive character. This weekend we competed hard and gave great effort—we just ran into a really talented team that was better than us in the playoffs. This team has a lot to be proud of; winning eight games, securing a share of the Frontier Conference Championship, and making it to the national playoffs is one great year."
Nate Simkins broke four Montana Western program records in this game: career passes caught (222), single-season passes caught (83), career touchdown receptions (39), and single-season touchdown receptions (16); he previously broke these records in the Nov. 13 game against Rocky. Simkins broke the record for career touchdowns scored with 39 touchdowns (previously held by Sam Rutherford with 38 [2013-2016]).
Jon Jund threw for 130 yards (13-29), threw one touchdown, and rushed for one touchdown.
Jamison Hermanson had seven catches for 101 yards.
Reese Neville rushed for 37 yards and Colten McPhee rushed for 33.
Kameron Rauser had 15 tackles for the Bulldogs, ten of which were solo.
Blue Raiders' quarterback, Cameron Dukes, threw for 243 yards (13-26), rushed for 48 yards, and scored three touchdowns.
Jaylen Boyd rushed for 148 yards and Noel Patterson had 98 receiving yards for Lindsey Wilson.
Darius Willis had six tackles for the Blue Raiders.
(UMW Press Release)