MOSCOW — The football flew all over the field during an electric Border Battle for the ages Friday at Bear Field, as the Bears upset the Pullman Greyhounds 27-21, marking Moscow’s first win in the rivalry game since 2011.
After the postgame handshakes, Moscow students rushed the field, several waving school flags, to celebrate the win with a singing of the Bears’ fight song.
“It’s definitely a program changer,” said Moscow defensive lineman Kaden Kiblen, who recorded three sacks. “I’m just proud of everyone on our team.
“We’ve all been grinding during practice, during the offseason doing everything we needed to. Preparing for this was insane — the week of practice, the mental focus was crazy.”
In a game between two high-flying offenses and timely defenses, the two teams combined for more than 650 yards of offense, with about 550 coming through the air.
Moscow quarterback Chad Redinger returned from a Week 2 injury to lead the Bears with 218 passing yards and 48 rushing yards. The junior was in on all four Bear touchdowns — three passing and one rushing.
Redinger, seldom used on defense, also grabbed an interception at midfield with 2:44 to go, putting an end to Pullman’s final drive.
“He’s been wanting to play defense all year long,” Moscow coach Phil Helbilng said. “Just with what we do and how important he is to our team, I hesitate putting him on the defensive side of the ball, but we were in need for someone to step in.
“He just stepped up and made a big play.”
With Moscow’s defense stuffing Pullman (2-1) at the line, the Greyhounds took to the air, where sophomore quarterback Riley Pettitt went 24 of 36 for 324 yards. His biggest target was Isaiah Strong, who had 142 yards receiving on seven catches.
But the Greyhounds found themselves in a hole early after fumbling on their first two plays of the game, as the Bears (2-2) took an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
Both teams had long touchdown passes in the second quarter — Pettitt to Strong for 33 yards, and Redinger to Jonah Elliss into double coverage for 26 yards — as Moscow took a 21-7 lead into halftime.
Pullman wasn’t done.
A penalty negated a kickoff-return touchdown by Evan Strong to start the second half, but the Greyhounds found the end zone four plays later when Isaiah Strong took a wildcat snap up the middle for a 3-yard score.
On Pullman’s next drive, Pettitt and Isaiah Strong, the older of the Strong brothers, connected for a 66-yard touchdown — the longest play of the game.
Pettitt found Strong up the middle in traffic, and the speedy senior scampered up the right sideline for Pullman’s biggest play. A Sam Tingstad PAT tied the game at 21.
Moscow took the lead for good on a 12-play, five-minute drive capped by a Redinger keeper early in the fourth.
An 18-yard Strong catch on fourth-and-12 kept Pullman alive late, but the Greyhounds couldn’t get a drive going in the fourth.
“We fought really hard right to the end,” Pullman coach David Cofer said. “Isaiah made some incredible plays for us down the stretch. That’s what big-time player do.
“Ultimately we didn’t make enough of them and that’s unfortunate, but you can’t say enough about Moscow. They flat out beat us.”
Moscow finished plus-3 in turnover margin and also held Pullman without a touchdown on four consecutive plays inside the Moscow 10-yard line right before halftime — two major keys to the Bears’ victory.
“You can’t be more proud of our kids,” Helbling said. “I thought we had a great week of preparation. We just had a different mindset.
“These kids are hungry … we talked about this and I really think this is a program-changer as far as Moscow football. We’ve been wanting and needing a big win and these guys earned it.”
Pullman 0 7 14 0—21
Moscow 14 7 0 6—27
Moscow — Ben Postell 15 pass from Chad Redinger (Postell kick), 6:34.
Moscow — Brayden Decker 7 pass from Redinger (Postell kick), 1:55.
Pullman — Isaiah Strong 33 pass from Riley Pettitt (Sam Tingstad kick), 11:55.
MOSCOW — Jonah Elliss 26 pass from Redinger (Postell kick), 8:11.
Pullman — Isaiah Strong 3 run (Tingstad kick), 10:21.
Pullman — Isaiah Strong 66 pass from Pettitt (Tingstad kick), 4:06.
Moscow — Redinger 2 run (kick failed), 11:24
RUSHING — Pullman: Evan Strong 8-12, Isaiah Strong 2-4, team 2-2, Mason Emerson 1-0, Jason Tran 1-0, Pettitt 5-(-20). Moscow: Redinger 15-48, Logan Shears 7-32, Elliss 4-13, Brandon Suquet 2-10, Trevor Dismukes 1-5.
PASSING — Pullman: Pettitt 24-36-1—324. Moscow: Redinger 22-31-0—218.
RECEIVING — Pullman: Isaiah Strong 7-142, Ethan Kramer 7-75, Tingstad 4-54, Evan Strong 2-28, Emerson 4-25. Moscow: Decker 11-85, Postell 5-49, Elliss 2-43, Lane Hanson 2-36, Shears 1-6, Suquet 1-(-1).
Stephan Wiebe can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at @StephanSports.