Montana Tech Almost Completes Comeback, Falls in Eastern Oregon for Season Open | Montana Technology


BUTT – Kyle Samson’s first game as head coach of the Orediggers didn’t go as he had hoped, as they lost 26-24 to Eastern Oregon on Saturday night in the Copper Game. But Samson acknowledged the positives he took from the exciting and hard-fought loss.

Montana Tech was trailing 10 points with one minute left, until Mark Estes returned a kickoff for a touchdown to give the Orediggers another chance at victory. But they couldn’t get the kick back in play and Eastern Oregon emptied the rest of the time.

The last minute of the game reflected a lot of what happened earlier. Tech has always made good plays, but mistakes and penalties derailed their success.

“I’m really proud of the way our guys fought, they fought and gave us a chance until the end,” Samson said. “But we kind of shot each other in the foot. We can’t make the mistakes we made against a good football team like we did tonight.”

The Orediggers’ first key mistake came on their first possession where Zak Donato of eastern Oregon intercepted Jet Campbell. Jordan Eggers of Eastern Oregon then interrupted a 37-yard rush for a touchdown to give his team a 7-0 lead after a quarter.

The Mountaineers added a field goal in the second quarter to take a 10-0 lead. But Campbell and the Orediggers found momentum in the next possession, leading the field through nine games and ending with a short touchdown pass to Logan Kennedy.

“The guys settled in after making mistakes early on,” Samson said. “I thought we looked great sometimes and sometimes like I said we would shoot each other in the foot. But we’ll get better as the season goes on.”

Eggers rushed for another touchdown from Eastern Oregon late in the second quarter to give his team a 17-7 halftime lead. But Tech started the third quarter strong with a 70-yard rush.

It appeared the Orediggers scored on another touchdown pass, but the score was overruled for a hold penalty. The penalty forced Tech to settle for a field goal, an event that had a significant impact in the game, according to Samson.

“That touchdown that was called back for holding was obviously a big hit,” Samson said. “We can’t give them penalties like that. But there are definitely positives from tonight, they really stuck together.”

Eastern Oregon scored two more field goals to give them a 23-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. But the Orediggers responded with a fourth down conversion, a through pass to Trevor Hoffman and a touchdown to make it a one-possession game.

Despite notable efforts from the Orediggers’ defense and deafening chants from the crowd at Bob Green Field, the Mountaineers converted a 42-yard basket to take a 26-17 lead with just one minute left.

While the lead might seem overwhelming, Mark Estes had a different plan. He ran the next kickoff for a 76-yard touchdown, which gave Montana Tech 55 seconds to recover and kick the side and score three runs. The Orediggers couldn’t get the kick back in play and had no more timeouts, which let the time run out.

“The positive outcome today was our unity,” Samson said. “The guys never flinched. We got up, we went down, we could have given up 23-10, but our guys made a big save and then scored. I’m proud of.”

Eastern Oregon finished with 349 yards, including 266 rushing yards. Eastern Oregon quarterback Kai Quinn had 11/20 with 80 yards. Jordan Eggers finished with 148 yards and two touchdowns.

For Montana Tech, Jet Campbell completed 14 of his 23 attempted passes for 153 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Blake Counts rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown, while Tech had 287 yards on total offense.

“We just need to go back and clean up some things,” Samson said. “The first week we would have liked to win the game, but I’m proud of them for staying together.”

Although the Orediggers were unable to secure the victory, the opener seemed like an enjoyable experience for those who attended. The pre-match tailgating was a vibrant scene and the stands were full by the time the match started.

Montana Tech students, Butte residents and Oredigger fans as a whole noted their presence throughout the game. Players often waved their hands to encourage fans to clap louder and Samson spoke about the atmosphere after the game.

“The atmosphere was great, the fans were awesome,” Samson said. “I want to thank them all for being here tonight and for giving us their support. I wish it had gone differently for them, but I can promise them we’ll be back. The ‘Diggs will be back.”

The Orediggers will travel to Helena for their next game against Carroll College on September 4 at 1 p.m. Eastern Oregon will host Montana Western at the same time.

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