BOZEMAN — Less than 48 hours after Montana lost to North Dakota State in the second round of the 2015 FCS playoffs, Jeff Choate sent shockwaves through the Treasure State with one of the most surprising hires in the history of the Cat-Griz rivalry. One of Choate’s first hires when he became Montana State’s head coach came when he named longtime Montana assistant Ty Gregorak as MSU’s defensive coordinator
Less than 48 hours after North Dakota State claimed its seventh FCS national title in eight years with a run that included a second-round win over Montana State in the second round of this year’s FCS playoffs, news concerning Gregorak again sent shockwaves.
Monday afternoon, Choate confirmed Gregorak and cornerbacks coach Mark Orphey have resigned from Montana State to pursue other professional opportunities.
Gregorak sent the following statement to Skyline Sports in a text message on Tuesday night.
“I want to thank Jeff Choate and Montana State University for bringing me and my family to Bozeman three years ago. My family truly loves living in this community and it has been a privilege to work with the administration and Bobcat student-athletes to achieve our goals, whether they be on the football field, in the classroom, or in the community. I have tremendous respect for Coach Choate, his staff, the young men in the Bobcat football program, and Montana State University. I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked the last 15 years at two amazing universities in the great state of Montana. Thank you to everyone who has made our time here so special.”
Sources confirmed to Skyline Sports that Orphey will take a job as an assistant at Utah State, pending the approval of his hiring. Orphey has spent the last two seasons at Montana State. He came to MSU following serving as a graduate assistant at South Carolina from 2013 to 2016 under head coach Will Muschamp. Choate worked for Muschamp at Florida.
During Montana State’s 8-5 season last fall, MSU allowed 28.5 and 409.2 yards per game. The Bobcats gave up 195.8 rushing yards and 213.5 passing yards per game. Montana State ranked fourth in the Big Sky Conference in points, yards, rushing yards and passing yards per game allowed.
In 2016, Montana State finished 4-7 despite ranking second in the league in scoring defense (25.2 points per game allowed), third in total defense (388.6 ypg) and third in rush defense (145.9 ypg). MSU also ranked second in the Big Sky in scoring and total defense in 2017, although the Big Sky’s composite stats for that season are incomplete.
This season, Montana State saw a significant uptick in takeaways. A year after only snaring five interceptions, MSU notched 12, fifth in the Big Sky. MSU also forced 11 fumbles, giving them 12 total takeaways and a +10 turnover margin, second to only UC Davis in the Big Sky.
The Bobcats ranked fifth in the Big Sky in passer efficiency rating allowed (123.8) and sacks (23). Montana State ranked third in first downs allowed per game allowed (20.3) but 10th in opponent third down percent (41.8 percent).
Montana State gave up scores to opponents on 48 of 52 trips to the red-zone. The percentage of 92.3 percent ranked 12th in the 13-team Big Sky. MSU gave up 38 touchdowns, including 28 on the ground. Opponents also converted 10-of-11 field goals.
The 2018 Big Sky all-conference teams included senior nose tackle Tucker Yates, senior defensive end Tyrone Fa’anono and junior edge Bryce Sterk earning second-team honors. Senior inside linebacker Grant Collins, junior safeties Brayden Konkol and Jahque Alleyne and junior cornerback Greg “Munchie” Filer III each earned honorable mention recognition.
Sterk, a transfer from the University of Washington last January, tied for the league lead with 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. MSU senior captain defensive tackle Zach Wright had four sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss to rank in the Big Sky’s Top 20. Yates also had 8.5 tackles for loss.
Alleyne, a transfer from Virginia Tech, led the Big Sky with five interceptions that he returned for a total of 102 yards. Konkol recovered three fumbles, the second-best total in the league.
Gregorak has coached MSU’s linebackers the last two seasons after spending2016 coaching MSU’s Buck end position. He helped coach Mac Bignell to first-team All-Big Sky honors in 2017.
During his first tenure at Montana as the linebackers coach on Bobby Hauck’s staff from 2003 until 2009, Gregorak’s players totaled 19 All-Big Sky nods, including first-team selections for Brent Meyers (2003), Shane McIntyre (2004), Loren Utterback (2007) and Shawn Lebsock (2009).
Gregorak followed Hauck to UNLV following the 2009 season, a campaign that saw the Griz advance to their third FCS national title game under the staff. But Gregorak never coached a game in Las Vegas. He was dismissed following a bizarre incident that resulted in Gregorak turning himself into law enforcement when he found a gun and wallet in his hotel room in Boulder, Colorado. All charges were eventually dropped.
Gregorak spent the 2010 season coaching tight ends at Division II Central Washington before becoming the linebackers coach at Montana under head coach Robin Pflugrad in 2011. He helped Caleb McSurdy earn Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year honors as UM ripped to the semifinals of the FCS playoffs.
The following spring, Pflugrad was controversially fired as Montana found itself awash in controversy. Mick Delaney took over as head coach and hired Gregorak as his defensive coordinator.
In 2012, Gregorak, still coaching linebackers as well, helped Jordan Tripp earn first-team All-Big Sky honors for the first of two straight seasons. The following year, Tripp and John Kanangata’a earned first-team All-Big Sky honors while Tripp was drafted into the NFL and Brock Coyle signed a free agent deal with the Seattle Seahawks.
In 2014, defensive end Zack Wagenmann was the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year. Herbert Gamboa was Gregorak’s last firs-team All-Big Sky linebacker at UM in 2015. That same season, defensive end Tyrone Holmes won FCS Defensive Player of the Year honors (the one year the award was not called the Buck Buchanan Award) after leading all of college football with 18 sacks.
Coyle is still under contract by the San Francisco 49ers while Tripp and McSurdy each recently retired from the NFL. Holmes recently signed to join the practice squad for the Los Angeles Chargers. At UM, Gregorak also coached Jeremiah Kose, who helped the Ottawa Redblacks to the 2016 Grey Cup as champions of the Canadian Football League.
Gregorak, 40, has a BA in communications from Colorado, where he played linebacker from 1997 until 2000. He is a native of Spokane, Washington.
Orphey, 29, is a native of Houston. He has a master’s degree in health information technology from Texas Southern, where he began his coaching career in 2011 after finishing an All-SWAC career as a cornerback there.