The Bobcats got back to their basic identity in Greeley even without a few of the usual subjects playing huge roles.
Even without the services of sophomore starting running back Isaiah Ifanse, one of the most strong-willed players in the Big Sky Conference, Montana State still ran the ball at will at Northern Colorado on Saturday afternoon. Senior Logan Jones looked back to full health. Redshirt freshman Lane Sumner continued to prove himself. An array of new playmakers contributed.
And even the starting middle linebacker scored on a long touchdown run.
No. 12 Montana State rushed for 451 yards, the third-most in the history of MSU football, and averaged nearly 10 yards per carry on the way to a 45-14 victory over UNC at Nottingham Field on Saturday afternoon.
“We talked all week about softening the edges,” Sumner, a Huntley Project product who rushed for 72 yards. “That helped get downhill and crease them.”
Crease them MSU did. The Bobcats started in unorthodox fashion, scoring its first touchdown as starting outside linebacker Troy Andersen threw a touchdown to starting defensive tackle Jason Scrempos. That touchdown was set up by rushes by seldom-used or previously injured wide receiver Tyrone Marshall (a 39-yard rush) and Willie Patterson (10 yards), setting a tone for the rest of the afternoon.
After a haphazard few minutes that included multiple special teams miscues and multiple penalties, Northern Colorado’s Brooks Talkington intercepted a Tucker Rovig pass and returned it for a touchdown to tie the game.
Logan Jones responded by gashing the UNC defense for a 13-yard gain that set up a 33-yard burst from Sumner. The Bobcat rushing attack was off and running after that. Using gap scheme principles, counter action and a variety of ball carriers, Montana State enforced its will to move to 4-2 in Big Sky Conference play, 7-3 overall.
“Really, going in, this is a team that plays really stingy run defense from tackle to tackle,” MSU head coach Jeff Choate said. “It doesn’t really matter who they play, whoever has tried to run right at them, we knew coming in, that’s what we do and we knew we had to manufacture a way to get some good yardage. Coming in, that was the plan: soften the edges and counter punch as the game went on.”
Following those two bursts from MSUs’ explosive, Montana-native running backs, Rovig threw an eight-yard touchdown to Derryk Snell, the second touchdown in as many weeks for the Alaskan tight end to put MSU up 14-7. The Bobcats never looked back.
Marshall, a seldom-used junior college transfer until last week, had two carries for 18 yards and an additional reception to set up Tristan Bailey’s 44-yard field goal for MSU’s third score. Marshall’s 20-yard spurt on his final carry of a 64-yard afternoon sparked a quick touchdown drive capped by the 32nd rushing touchwon of Troy Andersen’s career. That score by MSU’s starting outside linebacker (he also finished with seven tackles and a sack) gave the Bobcats a 24-7 lead heading into halftime.
“I think we do a good job of using our entire roster to benefit us,” Choate said. “Certianly, Troy is a big piece of that.”
On the first play of the second half, Jones gashed the Bears for a 57-yard gain. Three plays later, Jones scored a one-yard touchdown to basically seal the game even though more than 28 minutes remained.
“Even on that play, that was an inside zone play that worked as a result of us getting some yardage on the perimeter,” Choate said.
MSU’s second possession of the second half ended in what looked like a punt. Instead, the Bobcats snapped the ball to personal protector Callahan O’Reilly, who also happens to be Montana State’s starting middle linebacker.
The former Bozeman High quarterback showed he still has real-deal wheels, racing 73 yards for a touchdown that put Montana State up 38-7.
“That was designed to get a first down, not a touchdown,” Choate said. “I did call him out on his speed earlier in the week. He wanted to show he had a little more than I think he did. Great job of executing it.”
Montana State pushed the lead to 45-7 on Sumner’s 16-yard touchdown run.
Jones, a fifth-year senior from Kalispell, led the charge with 122 yards rushing. O’Reilly’s long jaunt gave him the second-highest single-game total. Sumner had 72 yards, Marshall 64 yards, and receiver Davine Tullis finished with a career-high 63 yards.
The Bobcat assault happened even with Ifanse not playing, Andersen notching three carries and senior captain multi-threat weapon Travis Jonsen not playing either.
Montana State is now on the brink of clinching a second straight playoff berth. The Bobcats hit the road for the second straight week. The Aggies, the preseason Big Sky favorites after winning the league a year ago, posted a 45-28 win at Portland State to barely stay alive. A Davis team that has played four Top 10 FCS teams and FBS call is 5-5 overall.
“We know that every Saturday, we have to come out and do the little things right to win these games and if we don’t, we aren’t going to play well, and you never know what happens,” MSU senior linebacker Josh Hill.
“We are trying to get into the playoffs and we are trying to take it one game at a time. We are focusing on the little things and hoping everything falls into place.”
Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.