First Look

FIRST LOOK: Bobcats, Bengals square off in crucial matchup in Pocatello


BOZEMAN — Montana State has tangled with three of the seven best teams in the country according to the latest FCS STATS Top 25 poll. Fresh off playing the team that MSU head coach Jeff Choate argues has the best defense in the country, now the Bobcats must find a way to slow down one of the best offensive attacks in America.

Montana State hits I-15 South for the second straight week for a pivotal matchup against Idaho State. The Bengals, like the Bobcats, are 4-3 overall, although ISU is a game ahead of MSU’s 2-2 Big Sky Conference mark at 3-1. Idaho State has lost two straight, including an overtime heartbreaker at league-leading No. 6 UC Davis two weeks ago and a 48-41 defeat at FBS Liberty last week.

But the Bengals have been explosive and prolific no matter who they have played. Under the direction of first-year offensive coordinator Mike Ferriter — a Helena native who was an All-Big Sky receiver at Montana and spent the last three seasons as UM’s wide receivers coach — ISU leads the league in total offense at 543.6 yards per game. The Benagals are third in the league in rushing at 239.3 yards per outing on the ground and rank second in passing at 304.3 yards per contest. ISU is averaging 41.3 points per game, second only to Davis in scoring offense.

In conference play, the numbers are even better. Idaho State is averaging 45 points, 594 total yards, 267 rushing yards and 327.2 passing yards per game. The Bengals are tops in the league in scoring offense, total offense and passing offense while ranking second to Cal Poly in rushing offense against Big Sky competition.

Idaho State quarterback Tanner Gueller (4) in 2017/ by Brooks Nuanez

“It’s one of the best offenses in the country and we have to go down to their place,” Choate said during his Monday news conference. “The offense is just clicking at a really, really high rate.”

Montana State has been occasionally explosive but mostly non-existent offensively over the last three games. Choate called MSU’s 43-23 win at Portland State “the high water mark offensively” for the Bobcats thus far this season. Montana State rushed for 323 yards in that game.

Troy Andersen has been good for at least one and sometimes as many as three large gains per game over the last three weeks. He hit a 50-yard shot on the first play of the game against Eastern Washignton, then ripped off a 25-yard touchdown run on the second play of the afternoon. He scored on runs of 35 and 60 yards against Idaho while adding a 71-yard touchdown last week against Weber.

Take away those big plays and a short touchdown conversion following a Jahque Alleyne interception in the first quarter by Weber State, Greg “Munchie” Filer III’s interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter in Ogden and a field goal set up by Alleyne’s pick against Idaho and the MSU offense has manufactured 20 points in three games combined. Andersen’s four touchdown runs of 25 yards or more have accounted for 191 of MSU’s 568 rushing yards during that time, while the quarterback has thrown for just 302 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions during that same span.

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Photos by Idaho State Athletics or Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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