NOTE: Carroll College adjusted Ryan Arntson's rushing totals two days after the game after a video review. He fell 11 yards short of the record. Arntson's official totals are no 267 yards on 18 carries. The record was set by Tyler Gleason in 1980 when he gained 278 yards against Rocky Mountain College. Arntson holds the second highest total a Saints runner has ever compiled.
HELENA — Missing a starting running back? No problem.
Just call on Ryan Arntson.
The Carroll College football team was without featured ball carrier Major Ali, who was serving a one-game suspension due to violating team policy earlier in the week, so Arnston made the most of his opportunity.
The sophomore backup took the bulk of the carries on Saturday afternoon against Montana State-Northern and delivered the most productive rushing game in Saints history.
He led Carroll to a 56-7 Frontier Conference victory over the Lights at Nelson Stadium. That was the second win over Northern this season for the Saints, and snapped a four-game losing streak.
“I got nervous before the game, stepping up and becoming the starter with Major being gone,” Arntson said. “That’s a big role to take over. But when your team has your back and they make it that easy for you, it helps out.”
Arntson, from Helena, made his presence felt on the first play from scrimmage by the Saints (4-5, 3-5). He carried the ball 92 yards for a touchdown as a tackler fell down and he then outran the rest of the defense.
From there he continued to rip off big chunks of yards, including a 68-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. He ended the day with the Carroll single-game rushing record of 286 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
“I had not done that in a while,” Arntson said. “It definitely felt good. I have to give all my credit to the line and receivers blocking down field. They made my job pretty easy, especially on that first one. I went untouched for all those yards.”
His 286 yards broke the record held by Tyler Gleason, which he set in 1980 when he ran for 278 yards against Rocky Mountain College.
Arntson downplayed the record, saying he’s not someone who dwells on numbers. The team win was good enough for him.
“I didn’t know what the record was; I don’t know anything about records,” coach Mike Van Diest said. “I had to ask what people were cheering about. We don’t go out to set records. Things just fell into place and the offensive line felt good about it. A lot of people have to do a lot of things right.”
The Saints running game produced 409 yards and five touchdowns. Tight end Eric Dawson ran for 16 yards and two touchdowns when he lined up in the backfield. Wide receiver Troy Arntson also gained 25 rushing yards. Running back Griphen Le gained 79 yards and a touchdown late in the game.
“Ryan has speed, and with a two-back system your No. 2 guy doesn’t get that many touches,” Van Diest said. “You saw what Ryan did today, and we have to go forward with that. We got to have that speed on the field.”
Being successful running the ball led to the passing game opening up for 130 yards. Both quarterbacks played, with Kolby Killoy starting.
However, freshman Hunter Bledsoe stood out as he took the bulk of the snaps and went 8 of 12 passing for 97 yards and two touchdowns. He connected with Troy Arntson for 24 yards and Dawson for 21.
“I made the change with Hunter coming in,” Van Diest said. “We missed a couple of wide open touchdowns, and you can’t do that. You work hard to get those players open. The first pass and (Bledsoe) throws a touchdown.”
All aspects of the game came together for the Saints. The defense contained the misdirection running and aggressive passing game of the Lights (1-8, 0-8).
Northern gained 375 total yards, but were not allowed to sustain long drives or break off long plays. Carroll 's defense forced two second-half fumbles that the offense turned into touchdowns, and sacked quarterback Tommy Wilson four times.
Wilson completed 23 of 36 passes for 187 yards. He also scored on a 1-yard dive. The running game, with Jett Robertson, Samuel Braboy and Wilson the primary rushers, gained 188 yards.
“I like their quarterback,” Van Diest said. “He competes and I’m glad we don’t have to play him anymore with this his senior year. And I told him that.”
Carroll even excelled on special teams. The elusive big play happened with Shane Sipes returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a 100-yard touchdown.
The Lights are the last-place in the conference. This was their best opportunity to gain a conference win against the seventh-place team.
They started out strong with what appeared to be an 80-yard drive and a touchdown, but it was nullified by a penalty. That missed opportunity and Ryan Arntson’s big run turned the momentum Carroll’s way the rest of the game.
Northern’s biggest setback was the injury to freshman defensive back Damien Nelson. The Great Falls native didn’t get up after Troy Arntson’s touchdown reception with 2:26 left in the first quarter.
Nelson was taken to the hospital by ambulance for a left injury. He landed wrong after jumping up into the air to defend the pass. It was a noncontact injury.