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Tommy Wilson MSU Northern

Senior Tommy Wilson was the starter in 2017 and has the edge for the job this fall.

Extra Point

You've got to walk before you can run, and that's the mantra first-year coach Andrew Rolin is taking at MSU-Northern, where he's trying to built a positive culture in a program that went 1-10 a year ago, gave up 161 points to Montana Tech in two games, and has long been the Frontier Conference doormat. "If we take care of the process, eventually, the score will take care of itself," Rolin said. "I don't know how long that is going to take, but that is definitely our philosophy in taking over this program."

Upset special

Cheer: Rolin has the pedigree and energy MSU-Northern needs. He was a winning quarterback under Jim Harbaugh at San Diego and has been an assistant at San Jose State, San Diego and Washington. 

Jeer: How tough are times in Havre? Third-year coach Aaron Christensen resigned with three games remaining in 2017 after the Lights were drubbed 93-19 by Montana Tech, which had outscored MSU-Northern 70-27 earlier in the season. Christensen was 2-27 at the time of his resignation.

Gotta See This One

Sept. 15, Carroll College, Blue Pony Stadium: MSU-Northern has won one Frontier game in the past three seasons, and that was a 28-14 shocker against the perennial power Saints in Havre in 2016. Can the Lights go marching over the rebuilding Saints again?

The Crystal Ball

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1-10: The Lights should get past Mayville State for the second straight year in their opener, but in a brutal conference with no weak links Rolin has a long way to go to make the program competitive again. MSU-Northern is a unanimous choice among the league's coaches to finish last.

Did you know?

Though Rolin has been in the college ranks since graduating from San Diego in 2009, he did spend last season as offensive coordinator for the Libby Loggers.

Four-Down Territory

1. Getting serious about football: MSU-Northern has been the Frontier Conference whipping post in football of late, but Chancellor Greg Kegel wants to see the Lights' fortunes turned around. To that end, in March he asked the Montana Board of Regents of Higher Education to OK a proposal for the school to have a $15 million football field on campus. Currently, the Lights play on Havre High School's field. The stadium, eventually approved by the regents, is part of a complex designed to help bolster enrollment. 

2. Guiding Lights: It all starts at quarterback, and MSU-Northern has two experienced candidates in senior Tommy Wilson and sophomore Bryce Missey. Wilson, a 6-foot-1, 205-pounder who came to Havre from the College of the Sequoias in California, won the starting job a year ago. But when Wilson struggled Missey, from Spanaway, Washington, saw time. The two have been sparring for the starting job through fall practice, and Wilson was thought to have a slight edge heading into the opener against Mayville State on Thursday. 

3. Rock solid: If there has been a shining Light, it's linebacker Alec Wagner from Laurel, who is projected to be a four-year starter. Wagner had nearly 50 tackles last season. "Everything starts with Alec Wagner," Rolin told the Havre Daily News. "He's a really good football player, and he is our leader in that group."

4. The next generation: Rolin made it clear that building his program must start with Montana kids and his first recruiting class reflected that. He signed 16 Montanans in his group of 38, including six all-staters. Another coup was the fastest high school runner in Montana: Damien Nelson of Great Falls CMR. Former Columbia Falls standout Dakota Bridwell was signed at quarterback, and the other signal-caller signee, Brenden Medina of Sebastapol, California, is No. 3 on the depth chart and already been pushing the two returnees for playing time.

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