Junior Bergen’s Brawl of the Wild Featured Performance Spoils Montana State Injury | Bobcats MSU

MISSOULA – Montana State Football Head Coach Brent Vigen usually gives long and thoughtful answers to questions from the media. This was not the case at the end of his post-Brawl of the Wild press conference on Saturday when he was asked about Junior Bergen from Montana.

Bergen, a true Billings Senior freshman, caught a 74-yard touchdown pass from Cam Humphrey in the second play of the scrum and recorded several long punt returns in the Grizzlies’ 29-10 win. # 7 on SSM # 3. A reporter asked Vigen about the impact of Bergen. Vigen answered the question before it was finished.

“He had a big impact, yes,” Vigen said.

Bergen initially signed with MSU but pulled out in April, months after Vigen took over from Jeff Choate as head coach (Choate is now the defensive co-coordinator in Texas). A reporter asked Vigen what he had done to try to convince Bergen to stay at MSU. Vigen sighed.

“I’ll stay away from that one,” Vigen said, who quickly got up and left.

Montana State Football Coach Brent Vigen speaks to media about the Bobcats’ 29-10 loss to Montana in the 120th Brawl of the Wild on Saturday, November 20, 2021 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula .

Vigen believed the press conference was about three questions earlier, which likely contributed to his straightforward answers. But it made sense that Vigen didn’t want to answer questions about Bergen. Bergen’s leading role in UM’s victory taught MSU a hard lesson about the scale of recruiting.

On that 74-yard touchdown, Bergen waved into the lunge and sprinted past the MSU secondary. Humphrey hit him in stride, and the 5-foot-11, 175-pound rookie edged out Ty Okada and Troy Andersen for his first touchdown of the season.

“We were hoping they were going to jump into Cover 2, and they did,” Humphrey said. “When I saw that, all I knew was I had to put it there and let them go play on it. Junior did the rest.

Bergen came to UM as a wide receiver, but lined up as a running back all season until last week in Northern Arizona due to numerous injuries in Griz’s backfield. He ran for 410 yards and three touchdowns in 96 carries (4.3 ypc) before Saturday. Without this production, the UM season could have derailed.

Prior to Saturday, the longest play the MSU defense had allowed throughout the fall was a 47-yard pass from Idaho’s Zach Borisch to Elisha Cummings last week at Bobcat Stadium. Andersen led Cummings down to prevent a touchdown, and Idaho kicked three games later. MSU won 20-13.

Andersen was too far behind Bergen on the 74-yard play to catch him.

“It was just a blanket failure,” Andersen said. “They obviously organized us quite well and were able to support us and score.”

The Cats and Griz recognized that Bergen’s touchdown was important. The importance was debatable.

Junior Bergen of Montana catches a pass in stride in Saturday’s second game of Brawl of the Wild. Bergen scored on the play, which extended for 74 yards.

“I don’t think early scores really tip a game one way or another,” Griz coach Bobby Hauck said, “but it is certainly better than being down 7-0. . “

Vigen was also disappointed with his offense’s inability to score a touchdown on his second try. The Cats hit the MU’s 5-yard line, but a winless run by Isaiah Ifanse, two false starts and a sack forced MSU to settle for a field goal.

The Griz scored 22 straight points after that, and the Cats couldn’t find the end zone until McKay connected with Nate Stewart on a 20-yard pass with 48 seconds left.

“It was still just a game,” Vigen said of Bergen’s score. “There were certainly opportunities for us to take it back. We just never did.

Bergen did more than one play. He caught two more passes for eight yards and rushed once for six. He also returned four punts for 75 yards. A 21-yard return with 58 seconds left in the first half led to a 40-yard field goal from Kevin Macias, giving the Griz a 16-3 lead before half-time. Macias scored 19-3 early in the third quarter with a career-best 50 yard field goal five games after a 31-yard return from Bergen.

It was Bergen’s first game to return punters as the Grizzly.

“Having Junior out there we need someone who can catch it, hopefully someone who can do something with it,” Hauck said. “The punt return unit did a great job today. I don’t know what he was doing on average, but it was a lot. They struggled to get him to the ground.

Vigen agreed with Hauck that his punt cover unit missed a few achievable tackles on Bergen’s returns, adding: “The credit definitely goes to the returner.”

When Bergen switched from the Cats to the Griz in April, he told 406mtsports.com he “thought it would fit a little better.” It is unclear how much the change of MSU coach contributed to Bergen’s decision. He did not comment further after the April decision and has not been made available to the media since joining UM.

The Cats won a recruiting battle for another talented offensive player who is now a true freshman, quarterback Tommy Mellott. They also secured engagements from several players who considered the two rivals in the state.

The wild brawl

Montana State’s Tommy Mellott tries to tackle Montana’s Junior Bergen on Saturday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula.

But the Griz (9-2, 6-2 Big Sky) won the most recent battle, giving the rival Cats (9-2, 7-1) their first FCS loss of the season and their first Brawl loss since 2015. Perhaps the outcome would have been different if Bergen had been on the sidelines of MSU.

Hauck was asked what it was like to see a former Cat member perform some of Brawl’s greatest pieces in a Griz uniform. Hauck’s response, unsurprisingly, was quite different from Vigen’s.

“We don’t really think that way, but I guess now that you’ve asked the question I’m glad he got it,” Hauck said with a smile. “I liked having him by our side.”

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