This week, Montana State's defense is under a heavy microscope. Truth be told, how the Bobcats' D performs against Eastern Washington on Saturday will probably be the difference between a win and a loss.
If MSU can keep Eagles QB Vernon Adams contained (as much as possible), it'll go a long way towards a win. If Adams lights them up for 400 yards and five touchdowns -- as he's done the past two weeks -- it won't turn out so well.
But what about MSU's offense? DeNarius McGhee, Cody Kirk, Shawn Johnson and Co. are flying a bit under the radar this week. Why? It's not like the Cats haven't built a similar resume to Adams and EWU. The Bobcats average 37.6 points per game (40.4 in conference games) and are one of only three teams to rush for more than 200 yards per outing. And, like Eastern, they've won five straight games.
The Bobcats' offense could work as a great buffer this week. Coach Rob Ash explained on Tuesday:
“We play the game different than Eastern does. We take far fewer shots down the field than they do. We don’t put up as many points and we don’t throw for as many yards, but our total offensive production is competitive near the top of the conference. We’re not necessarily as explosive (as EWU) on offense. It will come in handy if we can have some long, sustained drives.
"I told (offensive coordinator Tim) Cramsey that I want a few 14- to 16-play drives with a touchdown at the end of each one (laughs). That’d be great. We have to be explosive though. We’re going to have to score some points in this game. That’s no secret at all. We have to put points on the board.”
The ability of Kirk and Johnson to run the ball, McGhee to hit a few big passes down the field and, yes, control time of possession could pay off big for the Bobcats. It's not like Eastern Washington's defense is playing great right now: In the past two weeks, the Eagles have given up 1,055 yards and nine touchdowns (489 yards and five TDs to Montana, 566 yards and four TDs to Idaho State).
So while Eastern's offense (rightfully) gets all the hype this week, the Bobcats' offense has a chance to show what it is made of. The goals are to keep pace -- and put a lot of points on the scoreboard. And that'll be a big difference in the game.