Utah Tech starts 2023 football campaign with 63-20 loss at No. 3 Montana State

File photo: Utah Tech football will face FBS opponent Colorado State, Fort Collins, Colorado, Sept. 30, 2023 | Photo by Brooklyn Fehr, UT Athletics, St. George News

BOZEMAN, MONTANA — Utah Tech fell into an early hole and could not recover as the Trailblazers opened the 2023 football season with a 63-20 loss at No. 3 Montana State on Saturday night. 

The Trailblazer defense was tested by MSU’s vaunted offensive attack on the opening drive of the game as the nationally-ranked Bobcats marched 72 yards on nine plays to set themselves up with first and goal at the Utah Tech 3-yard line.

 However the Blazers turned away Montana State (1-0) with a big goal-line stand to force the Bobcats to turn the ball over on downs.

Utah Tech (0-1) went three-and-out on its first possession, and MSU took advantage of the short field by covering 53 yards in four plays, culminating with a 3-yard Scottie Humphrey run for the first points of the game.

UT ran into a little bad luck on its ensuing possession as a Boone Abbott screen pass got deflected up into air and into the waiting arms of Bobcat defender David Alston at the Blazer 15. 

Utah Tech football players in a non-conference game against Montana State, Bozeman, Montana, Sept. 2, 2023 | Photo by Brooklyn Fehr, UT Athletics, St. George News

MSU quickly turned that miscue into points five plays later when Sean Chambers scored on a 3-yard dive to make a 14-0 game.

Boone showed no ill-effects of the interception as he came back on the very next Blazer offensive play and hit freshman Beau Sparks for a big 62-yard catch-and-run to the Bobcat 13. 

Utah Tech could not turn the red zone chance into a touchdown and had to settle for a Connor Brooksby 32-yard field goal that cut the deficit to 14-3.

Montana State wasted little time with an answer, doing so with a Tommy Mellott-to-Jared White 47-yard touchdown connection. 

Then after another Trailblazer three-and-out, Humphrey notched his second scoring run of the half, a 29-yard scamper up the middle that staked the Bobcats to a 28-3 lead.

The Trailblazers responded on their next possession, covering 75 yards in 10 plays to punch it into the end zone and make a 28-10 game with 3:31 to go in the period.

Abbott added the exclamation point four to the drive when he connected with Sparks on a 4-yard strike for the freshman’s first collegiate touchdown grab.

Set up by a Boone interception, MSU scored its fifth touchdown of the half three plays later and took a commanding 35-10 lead into the intermission.

The Trailblazers managed to add a Brooksby 48-yard field goal and a Kobe Tracy-to-Rickie Johnson 17-yard touchdown connection in the fourth quarter.

But Utah Tech could not slow down Montana State, which struck for one touchdown in the third and three more in the fourth to coast to the season-opening win.

Utah Tech finished with 309 yards, including 260 yards in the air. Abbott wound up with 143 yards on 11-of-19 passing and the one touchdown.

Sparks hauled in six passes for 82 yards and a touchdown in his Trailblazer debut, while Johnson caught nine balls for 79 yards to go with his fourth-quarter score.

Montana State’s offense racked up 638 yards on the night, with 407 of those yards coming on the ground.

Utah Tech opens its four-game home slate against another Big Sky power in No. 14 Montana next Saturday night, Sept. 9. Kickoff inside Greater Zion Stadium is set for 7 p.m.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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