MSU Football v. Norfolk State

Montana State running back Logan Jones runs past Norfolk State's Kyron Speller on Sept. 21 at Bobcat Stadium.

After trailing by 21 in the first half, Montana State rallied for a 49-31 win over Northern Arizona on Saturday at Bobcat Stadium. The No. 7-ranked Bobcats (4-1, 1-0 Big Sky) opened conference play with on a positive note and remained undefeated at home this season.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Jonsen fixture of Bobcats run game

As Tucker Rovig struggled to complete passes, the Bobcats continuously put Travis Jonsen behind center.

The former Oregon quarterback and now senior MSU wide receiver made smart decisions and was perhaps the most effective facilitator of MSU’s offense on option plays.

When talking about the quarterback competition during fall camp, MSU head coach Jeff Choate said the Bobcats wouldn’t shy away from putting Jonsen behind center and letting him impact the team at the position he came to Bozeman to play. And the Bobcats weren’t shy of letting him carry and pass the ball against NAU.

The Bobcats didn’t score until late in the second quarter. But Jonsen was the one to change that.

A short NAU punt put the Bobcats at the Lumberjacks’ 14-yard line. Jonsen did the rest as he bolted in for a 14-yard touchdown on a direct snap to cut NAU’s 21-0 lead to two possessions.

Then he scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the Bobcats up four points with less than eight minutes remaining. That too was on a direct snap and run.

Jonsen finished the day with a career-high 105 rushing yards on 13 attempts and two touchdowns. He also caught a team-high five passes for 36 yards, was 1-for-2 passing and recorded a special teams tackle.

MSU offense stalls early, turns around late

The Bobcats fell behind early as a result of early turnovers and they struggled to find a rhythm. They conducted two one-play touchdown drives, a testament to their ability to score quickly. Rovig threw a 49-yard score to Coy Steel and Jonsen, after a 23-yard punt return by Jahque Alleyne, scored on a 14-yard rush.

Other than those two plays, MSU went three and out on seven possessions and stalled often. But that didn’t hold the Bobcats back.

In a game that seemed sloppy, played in wet weather and cold temperatures, it was the wildcat style that bailed out MSU.

MSU converted 8 of 17 third downs and mostly scored only when receiving optimal field position. But the Bobcats finally got going as their run game wore down the Lumberjacks, and MSU scored in the fourth quarter on a 16-play, 89-yard drive.

To take an 11-point lead in the fourth, the Bobcats scored two plays after NAU fumbled the kickoff return following that touchdown.

Turnovers costly, then helpful for Bobcats

After seizing the starting quarterback role a week ago against Norfolk State, Rovig threw an interception on just his fourth attempt of the game Saturday. He was hit as he attempted to deliver the ball to a receiver who was on an out route, but the pass was jumped by NAU’s Taylor Powell, who returned the ball 29 yards for a touchdown.

Early in the second quarter, running back Logan Jones fumbled near midfield. NAU’s Brian Barry recovered, and the Lumberjacks scored seven plays later to take a 21-point lead.

After forcing a punt at the start of the third quarter, the Bobcats were set to take over. But Alleyne couldn’t catch the ball and fumbled it. NAU took over at MSU’s 33 and capped the drive with a 46-yard field goal. That put the Lumberjacks up 31-14 but were the last points they'd score.

In the second half, when the game turned around, it was turnovers that hurt the Lumberjacks.

They fumbled on a kickoff return after the Bobcats took a 35-31 lead, and quarterback Case Cookus threw an interception to Amandre Williams as he was hit from behind by Brayden Konkol.

The Williams interception led to a Shane Perry touchdown that sealed the win. MSU outscored NAU 35-3 in the second half and the trend of turnovers flipped the direction of the contest.

Colton Pool can be reached at cpool@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.