Big Sky Conference

Familiar faces shine in first Spring football scrimmage


Skyline Sports is attending the Montana Football Hall of Fame 2018 induction ceremony in Billings, Montana on March 24. After attending a spirited scrimmage, Skyline Sports produced a press conference video and podcast of the scrimmage found here (video) & (podcast). A long form written recap will be published on Sunday morning.

If familiarity can breed contempt, it can also bring comfort. That was the case in Montana State’s first scrimmage of spring on Saturday in blustery Bobcat Stadium.

Junior quarterback Chris Murray ran for 28 yards and threw for 115, including 66 yards to classmate Kevin Kassis. That duo, going into its third season next fall, connected for two touchdowns.

Montana State quarterback Chris Murray (8) breaks free during the spring scrimmage Saturday/by Brooks Nuanez

“Those two guys have played a lot of football together,” said Bobcat coach Jeff Choate. “Both those guys played as true freshmen and I think they’ve grown and developed some chemistry together. I’ve said this, when the game is on the line think player not play, go to the guys you’re most comfortable with, and Chris and Kevin have a really good chemistry together.”

Choate was impressed with the continued development of Murray, who enters his third season entrenched as the team’s starting quarterback. “Chris is a pretty good player, he’s able to make some things happen with the ball in his hands, but I also thought he pushed the ball down the field vertically. He had a couple drops, but I thought the ball was in good spots. I’m very pleased with what he did.”

The Bobcat offense showed off a pair of new weapons in the run game on Saturday. Transfer running back Tyler Natee gained 36 yards, while converted receiver Karl Tucker II, a junior, gained 24. “Our run game stuff is kind of what we do, it’s our DNA,” he said. “I’m really impressed with Coy Steel, I thought he made some plays with the twos that showed up a little bit. Willie  Patterson’s been having a really good spring so far and he showed up a little bit on offense as well, so I was pleased with that.”

Montana State running back Tyler Natee (2)/by Brooks Nuanez

Montana State’s offense accounted for six touchdowns and a field goal in Saturday’s scrimmage, which mixed live segments with red zone and two-minute situations. “Usually the defense is going to be a little bit ahead of the offense at this time of the spring,” Choate said. “I saw a little of that, but I thought the offense made some plays at time, so I was pleased with that.”

Choate was also pleased with the work of his team’s defense. “We got a lot of good work in defensively,” he said. “I thought (transfer defensive end) Bryce Sterk did a nice job showing up on defense, and Troy (Andersen, a sophomore linebacker) on the edge (presents the offense) a problem. I like those two young corners, Jalen (Cole) and Tyrel (Thomas), I think those two are very competitive guys. Even when the offense made some plays I think those two were very competitive.”

One of the defense’s stated goals in the off-season was to apply more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and Choate likes the steps made toward that end. “We’ve got a really veteran group on the defensive line when you throw Tyrone (Fa’anono) and Zach (Wright) and Tucker (Yates) in there, Bryce is a new guy on the edge and obviously the speed and quickness and agility and athleticism Troy brings. That was a point of emphasis for us, improving the pass rush, and I think we’ve got some guys that can do that.”

Defensive coordinator saw much to like, along with areas to improve, on Saturday. “I thought it was a good exchange with the offense making some plays and (the defense) making a few as well,” he said. “I didn’t think we finished as well in the red zone as we should have, but we were good in two-minute situations and I thought we pressured the quarterback well. There were lots of positives but a ton to clean up and improve on.”

Montana State defensive tackle Zach Wright (96) and offensive lineman Zach Red (67) compete in a cross over drill/by Brooks Nuanez

At the end of the day, Choate said his team got out of its first live session of the spring what he hoped for. “I thought our guys had really good energy, kind of what you’d expect for a first scrimmage. That’s what you look for – good verbal combat, good competition, and we got out of here healthy today.”

The Cats practice again Tuesday and Thursday at 7:30 am.

Press release courtesy of Bill Lamberty – Montana State Sports Information. Photos by Brooks Nuanez.

All Rights Reserved.

Scoring Summary

Kevin Kassis 15- yard reception from Chris Murray

Kevin Kassis 24-yard reception from Chris Murray

Willie Patterson 11-yard run

Coy Steel 25-yard run

Coy Steel 25-yard reception from Tucker Rovig

Tristan Bailey 37-yard field goal

Chris Murray 6 yard run

Rushing: Tucker Rovig 10- -25-0, Tyler Natee 7-36-0, Chris Murray 10-28-1, Karl Tucker II 3-24-0, Logan Jones 3-7-0, Willie Patterson 2-15-1, Coy Steel 1-25-1.

Passing: Chris Murray 11-20-0, 115 yards, 2 TD; Tucker Rovig 3-8-0, 33, 1 TD

Receiving: Connor Sullivan 1-1Wilson Brott 1-5Kevin Kassis 6-66-2Willie Patterson 2-10; Karl Tucker 1-33Kapili Livingston-Lopez 1-3Lance McCutcheon 1-5Coy Steel 1-25-1.

Sacks: Chad KanowBryce Barker (2)Tyrone Fa’anono (2), Zach Wright, Bryce SterkTroy AndersenKyle Finch.

Tackles for loss: Elu LeotaNo. 45Tucker Yates.

Pass breakups: Bryce BarkerTyrel Thomas

About Brooks Nuanez

Brooks Nuanez, Director of Operations — Brooks is the co-founder, senior photographer and Director of Operations for Skyline Sports. He is a life-long athlete who enjoys the fierce nature of sports as much as he enjoys the sweet harmony of music. Brooks first gained an interest for photography at a young age, and grew that passion into a craft. Brooks has spent most of his life in Montana, instilling a love for the mountains and the wildlife. The University of Montana alum spent parts of three seasons as a safety for the Grizzly football team while earning a degree in business management, honing his passion for craft beer, people and his entrepreneurial spirit. In July of 2015, Brooks married his lifelong love, Kaila. The couple lives happily in Bozeman with their son Ellis.Brooks can be reached at and followed on Twitter @Brooksnuanez and @SkylineSportsMT.

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