Game Recap

‘Cats shine in 1st home game in 600 days

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BOZEMAN – Montana State’s Matt McKay served notice that MSU is no longer a one-dimensional offense as he threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns in the Bobcats 45-7 trouncing of Drake during MSU’s “Gold Rush” home opener on Saturday night.

McKay, a former NC State transfer who came to MSU in January of 2020 only to wait for the much-anticipated home debut for 20 months, also rushed for 56 yards as he compiled 312 total yards.

The Raleigh, North Carolina native got help from wide receivers in senior Lance McCutcheon and junior Willie Patterson, each who took advantage of the Drake defense, which was crowding the line to slow down stud Bobcat junior running back Isaiah Ifanse, who surpassed 100 yards for the ninth time in his career last week in MSU’s 19-16 loss at Wyoming.

In his first two starts for the Bobcats, McKay is now 38-for-56 for 456 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. A sight MSU fans haven’t seen since 2015, when Dakota Prukop earned AP All-American honors before graduate transferring to Oregon after Rob Ash’s dismissal.

Montana State wide receiver Willie Patterson (11) catches a 31-yard touchdown vs. Drake/by Brooks Nuanez

Patterson, an electric player who has had trouble staying on track due to injuries and inconsistency, took a pass in the flat and jetted 23 yards for MSU’s first score. Shortly after that , the Tacoma native went down the right sideline and hauled in a long pass over a defender and the Bobcats were off and running with a 16-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

McCutcheon, a Bozeman product who has played plenty of snaps but received limited opportunities, was McKay’s top target on the night. The 6-foot-2 senior came down with seven passes for 121 yards, including a perfect pass down the sideline for a 45-yard touchdown on the first play of the drive that helped open up the game early in the second half, giving the Bobcats a 31-7 lead with 4:28 left in the third quarter.

Six different wide receivers caught passes for MSU, including Utah transfer Cam Gardener hauling in three passes for 48 yards and scoring his first Bobcat touchdown.

BOX SCORE

“When you have that many guys making plays and you’re not leaning on just one guy you got a chance to be that much harder to defend,” first-year MSU head coach Brent Vigen said of his receiver group.

Gardner scored MSU’s last TD when backup quarterback Tucker Roving, a team captain that started games during the 2018 and 2019 season, hooked up with the Pac 12 transfer for a 28-yard score with seven minutes left in the game.

It was MSU’s fourth touchdown pass of the game, matching the most MSU has thrown in a game since 1998. Roving threw for four TDs against Norfolk State in 2019.

Montana State wide receiver Cam Garnder (0) catches a 28-yard touchdown vs. Drake/by Brooks Nuanez

Defensively, MSU had solid performances from a pair of new starters in junior defensive back Ty Okada and senior defensive end Daniel Hardy. Okada led the team in tackles with eight and also had a tackle-for-loss. Hardy had a sack and two QB hurries. MSU had eight tackles-for-loss all told.

The Bobcadt defensive line was stellar all night allowing just 2.2 yards per carry and a total of just 79 yards rushing, while also pressuring Drake quarterback Ian Corwin all game. MSU captain defensive end Amandre Williams, a senior who previously played at Washington, rolled up 1.5 sacks as the Bobcats held Drake to 228 total yards, 14 total first downs and 3.8 yards per play.

“We’re playing a whole host of guys (along the defensive line),” Vigen said. “We’ve probably got 10-11 guys along the defensive line and that’s what it’s going to take is a deep root to do what we want to get done.”

One thing missing for the Bobcats might be the electric offensive play that star Troy Andersen is known to come up with on a weekly basis.  Although he seems quiet when not ripping off 60-yard touchdowns like his transcendent 2018 season at quarterback, Andersen is still second on this current Bobcat team in tackles and tackles for loss. In his first season playing inside linebacker, the All-American also had a near-miss on an interception that would’ve given MSU the ball in the Drake red zone.

The Bobcats allowed just one first down through the first 27 minutes, but Drake put together a solid touchdown drive at the end of the first half to cut the lead down to 24-7.

The Bulldogs of the Pioneer Football League also started the second half with a drive deep into Bobcat territory only to falter when MSU defensive tackle Chase Benson and Williams combined to sack Corwin for a 10-yard loss on third-and-10 to knock them out of field goal range.

Montana State defenders Ty Okada and Troy Andersen tackle a Drake ball carrier/by Brooks Nuanez

“They have a lot of what I call trickeration or eye candy motion, so the biggest thing we focused on this week was just discipline and reading our keys,” Hardy said. “Just need to try not to get caught up in that fancy stuff they throw at you.”

A sellout crowd of 19,797 was on hand to welcome college football back to Bozeman for the first time in 600 days. MSU’s last home game was a quarterfinal playoff win over Austin Peay in December of 2019. For many of the Bobcats, including the head coach, it was the first time performing in front of the Bobcat Stadium faithful.

“I heard a lot about it going all the way back to February and it lived up to expectations,” Vigen said of the fan support and crowd noise surrounding the Gold Rush game. “I hope we can match the electricity that we had tonight in the weeks to come.”

“It was fun to go out and win, and win the way we did,” McCutcheon said. “It was nice to kind of reward our fans for showing the way they did.”

“The energy is always there from our fans,” Okada said. “Being Gold Rush just heightens that. Just seeing that support fuels us, especially as a defense. You hear the noise and you can see the offense panicking a little bit.

Ifanse, who finished with a game-high 60 yards rushing and a score, had a tough night, especially early on.  His first eight carries netted just eight yards.  He would get 52 on his next 11 runs. But the former Washington Gatorade Football Player of the Year became the 13th Bobcat to surpass 2,000 yards rushing his career.

Montana State quarterback Matt McKay (1) celebrates a first down run vs. Drake/by Jason Bacaj

“They were very aggressive and they definitely played us much more aggressive against the run and I think they probably felt like they had to,” Vigen said following his first win as MSU’s head coach. “They were very disruptive with their pressure and we felt we had to throw the ball to soften them up and I think that’s what happened. Once we became efficient in the pass game that opened things up for the run.”

The Bobcats also scored on a 2-point conversion when holder Tommy Sullivan and freshman punter Bryce Leighton, hit redshirt freshman tight end Ryan Lonergan to put MSU up 24-0.

Rookie kicker Blake Glessner connected on a 29-yard field goal to start the scoring, but had an extra point blocked on MSU’s first touchdown. He would connect on his final five attempts.

Montana State now pivots to a second consecutive home game, this one against San Diego, also of the Pioneer Football League.

Photos by Brooks Nuanez or noted. All Rights Reserved.

Montana State running back Isaiah Ifanse (22) vs. Drake/by Brooks Nuanez
Montana State quarterback Matt McKay (1) evades Drake defenders/by Brooks Nuanez
Montana State defensive back Ty Okada (7) tackles Drake quarterback Ian Corwin (9)/by Brooks Nuanez
Montana State wide receiver Lance McCutcheon (86) catches a 45-yard touchdown vs. Drake/by Brooks Nuanez
Montana State running back Elijah Elliott (13) looks for space in the hole vs. Drake/by Brooks Nuanez
Montana State defensive end Daniel Hardy (44) hurries Drake quarterback Ian Corwin (9)/by Brooks Nuanez
Montana State head coach Brent Vigen coaching Bobcat players/by Brooks Nuanez

About Thomas Stuber

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