Article by Iain Dexter, Eastern Oregon Sports Information
Photo by Chris Duarte
LA GRANDE, Ore. – In the NAIA Football Game of the Week, redshirt freshman quarterback Kai Quinn led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, giving the No. 7-ranked EOU football team a 27-24 victory over No. 19 Montana Western, Sunday afternoon at Community Stadium in Frontier Conference play.
Quinn led a six-play, 77-yard game-winning drive, capping it off with a 37-yard touchdown run with 4:59 left on the clock to give the Mountaineers (1-1, 1-1 Frontier) a 25-24 lead. On the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, Quinn hit senior wide receiver Calvin Connors in the end zone to up the score to 27-24.
“This team showed the ability to play together and find a way to win,” said head coach Tim Camp. “The coaches did a fantastic job putting the players in position to be successful. Credit the players and the coaching staff for this big time win against a top-20 opponent.”
Quinn, a Pendleton, Oregon, native rushed for a career-high 189 yards on 20 carries, punching in all three EOU touchdowns on the ground. Quinn also added 161 yards through the air, finishing 14-for-26 with two interceptions.
The offense as a whole put up 489 yards of offense, including 328 yards on the ground. Redshirt freshman running back John Lesser accounted for 103 rushing yards on 16 carries, averaging 6.4 yards per rush.
The Mountaineers opened the game with the ball, driving 70 yards on nine plays and moving into the red zone. The drive ended abruptly, however, as Montana Western’s Tristan Clark picked Quinn off in the end zone.
The Bulldogs (1-2, 1-1 Frontier) went down the field but stalled at the 30-yard line. UMW kicker Mark Kharchenko’s 46-yard attempt sailed wide left to keep the game scoreless.
After the team’s traded punts, EOU closed out the first quarter with a 24-yard field goal by redshirt junior kicker Nathan Harden.
Montana Western responded with back-to-back touchdown drives in the second quarter as Bulldog quarterback Bennett Gibson threw for one and ran in another to give UMW a 14-3 lead.
Quinn and the Mountaineers bounced back with a touchdown drive of their own, moving the ball 58 yards in just 1:47 of game clock. Quinn ran for his first touchdown of the day from two yards out to cut the deficit to 14-9 after a missed point-after attempt.
The Bulldogs extended their lead to eight points as Kharchenko connected on a 32-yard field goal with just 1:39 left in the half. The Mountaineers quickly answered, however, as Harden hit his own 36-yard field goal as time expired, cutting the deficit to 17-12.
The Mounties put up 307 yards in the first half to UMW’s 255. Quinn had 140 rushing yards in the first 30 minutes, averaging 11.7 yards per
Montana Western went back up by two possessions to start the second half after a two-yard touchdown pass from Gibson to Melvin Walser with 7:52 to go in the third quarter. The touchdown gave UMW a 24-12 advantage.
From that point on, the EOU defense was stout, allowing just 131 yards of total offense in the second half and only 52 in the fourth quarter to give the offense a chance to make the comeback.
The Blue and Gold offense took advantage of their defense’s efforts, as Quinn punched in a six-yard touchdown with 4:17 left in the third quarter.
After five straight punts between the two teams in the third and fourth quarter, EOU took over with the football at their own 23-yard line with 7:32 on the clock. Quinn orchestrated the six-play, 77-yard game-winning drive, putting the Mountaineers ahead for good on his 37-yard touchdown run.
On Montana Western’s final drive, the defense quickly ended the threat as sophomore defensive back Anfernee Cortez came away with the team’s first turnover. The offense ran out the clock with two first downs as Lesser converted a 3rd and 13 with a 14-yard run up the middle to put the game on ice.
Connors finished with five catches and 58 yards and totaled 105 yards on four kick returns for EOU. Junior wide receiver Brenden Kelly had 70 receiving yards on four catches.
Defensively, senior linebacker Michal Arenas tallied 11 tackles and one sack. The Mountaineers had four sacks as a team as sophomore defensive end Isaiah Cranford added a sack and five tackles.
On the Montana Western side, Gibson went 16-for-28 passing
Defensive back Zach Janis had nine tackles and an interception, while Clark recorded eight tackles and his own interception for the Bulldog defense.
The No. 7 Eastern Oregon football team heads back on the road, visiting College of Idaho on Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. Mountain Time.