Montana brings name, game to Wesleyan win over State
INSTITUTE -- He would have been a storybook fit, of course, as quarterback at Notre Dame, where his father will forever be an American sports icon, not to mention his distinction as perhaps the best ever to play the position.
Nate Montana walked on with the Irish, trying to win the quarterback job, but instead spent time at Pasadena City College and later the University of Montana.
When things didn't work out, Nate saw the offensive numbers being posted by West Virginia Wesleyan College in 2011 and gave the Bobcats' coach a call.
This season, he's Wesleyan's quarterback, leads the West Virginia Conference in passing yards and, after helping the Bobcats to a 42-14 victory at West Virginia State on Saturday afternoon, seemed happy with his decision.
"It's fun to just get out there and play,'' he said, standing on the field shortly after the game.
A few moments later, he turned and saw his father, Joe, who had worked his way down Lakin Field's wooden bleachers on the visitors side and greeted his son with a smile.
Young Montana completed 28 of 54 passes for 414 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions on a rainy, misty day in front of 300 fans.
All the while, Joe sat in the bleachers, wearing a poncho, amid 50 Wesleyan fans, who treated him like any other football dad. He flies into West Virginia every week to watch his son play, spends time at the Bicentennial Hotel down the street from campus and sometimes attends practice.
Nate entered the game leading the WVC in passing yards at 263.3 a game and in total offense at 264.5.
"I was told about the school through a friend I work out with down in Florida,'' said the quarterback, who's a native of Concord, Calif. "He knew about the school and heard about the numbers the previous quarterback put up. I saw that and was real attracted to it, as well. I got in contact with Coach [Jonas] Jackson.''
He was referring to Wesleyan's quarterback, Adam Neugebauer, who threw for 40 touchdowns and 4,111 yards to lead Division II last year.
"Any quarterback who sees those types of numbers and a pass-happy offense, the job is going to be attractive to him,'' said Jackson, Wesleyan's second-year coach and former lineman at Eastern Michigan. "Obviously we needed a quarterback.''
If Montana had not missed two games because of an injury this season, Jackson added, the Bobcats (3-6) might have won a few more games and the quarterback's numbers might even be better.
"It's unfortunate that he was down for a few weeks there,'' said the coach. "I thought he definitely could have made a difference in the middle of the season.''
On Wesleyan's opening drive Saturday, Montana moved the Bobcats 68 yards in nine plays, capped by a 20-yard touchdown pass to Lavaughn Hughes, for a 7-0 lead.
After State (2-7) tied it on Ricky Phillips' 5-yard pass to Joshua Johnson, Montana hit Nyquan McGirt on a 58-yarder scoring pass.
Shortly thereafter, Hughes returned punts 89 and 79 yards for touchdowns, giving the Bobcats a 28-7 lead in the third quarter.
"We had two huge special-teams plays,'' Montana noted. "The returner did a great job, and everyone in front of him blocked well for him.''
It was the second straight week that special-teams failures had hurt the Yellow Jackets.
"It's frustrating,'' said State coach Earl Monroe. "You battle, battle, battle, and they make a big play and the game just gets out of hand.''
State totaled 308 yards of offense but turned the ball over three times on interceptions and twice on fumbles.
"We get in the red zone seven or eight times and bog down,'' said Monroe. "Our kicker's hurt, so we almost have to go for it in those gray areas. We have to keep working and keep the guys up.''
Reach Mike Whiteford at firstname.lastname@example.org.