Game Recap

Mellott finds end-zone three times to lift Bobcats on Saturday

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BOZEMAN – On what looked like a dark day, literally and figuratively, Montana State backup quarterback Tommy Mellott all but willed the Bobcats to a 20-13 win on a day where MSU’s top two running backs – the record setting Isaiah Ifanse and his backup Elijah Elliott – were injured and did not return to the game.

Mellott scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner with 2:16 to play from the three-yard line. He finished with 68 yards on 13 carries. The Bobcats appeared on the verge of losing their first Big Sky Conference game and in so doing possibly losing the league title and potentially a top two seed in the FCS playoffs.  

The skies were gray all afternoon and the wind was merciless. The Bobcats were also down right tackle TJ Session and starting quarterback Matt McKay left the game briefly after taking a big hit. Ifanse and Session were knocked out consecutively on the last two plays of the half. 

Mellott had two first half TDs came from nine and 23 yards out and spotted the Bobcats a 13-3 lead, but things started to go south when Idaho scored right before the end of the first half.

MSU didn’t get a first down the entire third quarter as Idaho tied the game.  The Vandals then pinned MSU down on its own 3 when Mellott perhaps made his biggest contribution of any one series.  

Mellott, of Butte, really made his mark when he earned two hard-fought first downs on consecutive third-and-four plays where had to slam into a tackler and squeeze out the last few inches. You couldn’t help but think about the fact that he’s from the Mining City on the two plays.

“He’s a stud. Butte, America right there,” MSU linebacker Troy Andersen said. “Tommy’s obviously a super tough guy. It was what? Third-and-four twice and he picked them up both times? It’s just a testament to his drive and his motor and how tough he is and how good of a player he is”. 

Montana State quarterback Tommy Mellott (16) blasts through Idaho defenders/by Brooks Nuanez

“He got just enough and in both cases I think it was the first guy that he had to run through or evade,” MSU head coach Brent Vigen said. “Can’t say enough about the spark he gave us throughout the game.  He had a major, major impact on the result of our game today.

“He’s got a lot of (toughness), I know that and I’m sure it has a lot to do where he comes from. He doesn’t say ‘boo,’ he does whatever he’s asked. He scored that first touchdown and then he ran down on the next kickoff. I think we got that fixed after that, so he didn’t run down on kicks after that.”

The plays helped get the Bobcats into a spot where their deadly punter Bryce Leighton could flip the field. He did just that by pinning the Vandals on their own 10 where they would need to go into a 20-25 miles per hour wind and deal with a frenzied MSU student section.

The Vandals would be forced to punt, and the ball hung up in the wind and took a MSU bounce back to the Idaho 37 as momentum began to shift back to MSU.

“We got a couple first downs and Bryce (Leighton) pinned them down on the 10 and that really shifted the game,” Mellott said deflecting credit. “Then we got the punt on the (37)-yard line and ultimately scored off that.”

Lane Sumner, filling in for Ifanse and Elliott, played a key role for the Bobcats in the second half gaining 46 yards on 14 carries. He took five straight carries and got the ball from the Idaho 37 to the 12.  Mellott then took three straight to get the ball into the end zone for the winning points on a third-and-one play from the 3.

“That guy’s just worked his butt off all year, got injured early in the year and his role has increased all year. That last drive. Six, seven, eight yards a carry. He left everything out there.”  

While Mellott has gotten a lot of reps in the Wildcat he hadn’t been called upon in crunch time like he was on Saturday.

“Oh, geez. It means the world that’s for sure,” Mellott said when asked about being trusted to have the ball in his hands in the most crucial moments. “Just a lot of guys that believe in me and I just tried to do my best, I suppose.”

Vigen was obviously grateful for the performance he got out of his freshman.

Montana State quarterback Tommy Mellott (16) drops back to pass vs. Idaho/by Brooks Nuanez

He’s going to find a way to make the first guy miss and find that end zone like he did three times today,” he said. 

“I just appreciate his willingness to do whatever this team needs and that’s toughness.  A lot of quarter backs aren’t running down on kicks, they’re not on all four special teams, they’re not playing receiver. Put the ball in his hands and he’s going to do something with it.”

Mellott, meanwhile, did all could to try to get the spotlight off himself.

“Everyone was just doing their 1/11th and at the end of the day I just try to do my 1/11th,” he said. “They all add up.”

As for coming through with the winning score in front of the students in the south end zone:

“Growing up I got to see a lot of guys do that,” he said. “It gives you chills.  Those guys ahead of me blocked their butt off and it was something else for sure.”

In Montana, it truly is ‘something else’ when you have a budding star from Butte save your season on Senior Day. 

Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.

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