BUTTE – On the first play of the second quarter in Montana Tech’s 45-28 win over Carroll College, ‘Digger quarterback Quinn McQueary launched a deep bomb to senior wide out Chris Lachance.
Lachance caught the ball in midstride and raced the remaining 73 yards to the end zone for a game-tying touchdown in front of a packed Alumni Coliseum in the Aug. 31 season opener for both teams.
It was a perfect strike and indicative of what Tech loves to do – throw the ball.
McQueary is a known commodity through the Frontier Conference and his talent has never been called into doubt. But his performance against Carroll made it easy to see that the Orediggers' passing game is going to be a critical component to the success Montana Tech hopes to enjoy this season.
“Our offense is a juggernaunt, once they get rolling their hard to hang with,” Tech head coach Chuck Morrell said. “I look at our wide receivers right now and it's 'Pick which one you want to stop.'”
McQueary completed 27 of 41 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns against the Saints.
Better yet? No interceptions.
It’s been mentioned more than once, but Tech faces a huge challenge with the loss of running back Nolan Saraceni and needs something to help prop up the offense. Dickinson State transfer Jed Fike was fine in his starting debut, toting the ball 26 times for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns on ground.
He also caught two passes out of the backfield, one going 45 yards that gave the Orediggers a seven-point lead with just over two minutes left in the first half.
Averaging five yards per carry against the Saints was fine, but his slow start — nine carries for 12 yards by halftime — didn't go unnoticed.
Morrell saw this as more of an indication on how the team will play this season.
“Our pace and type of play isn’t going to wear them out in the first quarter,” he said. “It’s going to wear them out in the third and fourth quarter.”
It also helped that McQueary was able to stretch the field, opening things up for Fike as the game went on. The offensive line played a bit better in the second half as well, at least in run blocking.
Tech didn’t allow a sack the entire game and just one total tackle for loss. Keeping McQueary upright and allowing him to progress through his reads without worrying about getting taken down early is no small thing.
Read-progression and pocket-presence are two things McQueary focused on in the offseason. It showed against Carroll. McQueary only tucked the ball and ran five times against the Saints and he didn’t break out of the pocket too early.
He found nine different receivers during the game. Spreading the ball around is important and while he did hit Dion Williams nine times, it wasn’t the only receiver he focused on. The Carroll defense wasn't able to to key on just one or two players because Tech had too many offensive options.
“We have a lot of different looks, a lot of different personnel groups and a lot of different guys in the game and that’s how we really spread the ball around,” Lachance said. “We have plays that will go to a specific person and plays he has reads on. It's just up to Quinn getting it to us and we’ll do the rest.”
Carroll’s young and inexperienced corners are far from the best Tech will see this season but it’s was a positive sign for the Orediggers that they didn’t seem like a one-dimensional team.
Piling up 511 total yards in its first game of the season was a great start for Tech and it seems like things are clicking early. The Orediggers had just three penalties for 20 yards and punted four times.
Tech didn’t turn the ball over and and was able to convert on 9 of 14 third-down conversions.
“I just felt like our depth was able to mix up the looks and give them some different things,” Morrell said. “We’re obviously very, very pleased to come out on top.”