Montana Made

MONTANA MADE – The 38 Treasure State natives for the Montana State Bobcats


The 120th rendition of the fiercest rivalry in college football will once again highlight some of the best football players who grew up in the Treasure State. Those Montana-made products will certainly have an influence on a game with serious playoff ramifications.

A total of 91 in-state products (including Montana junior safety Robby Hauck, who was born in Missoula but prepped in Las Vegas and San Diego) will play in Saturday’s rivalry showdown. A total of 53 players from the No. 7 Grizzlies hail from in-state, the most since 2005. And No. 3 Montana State’s roster features 38 in-state products entering the game on Saturday in Missoula.

The upcoming rivalry game has postseason ramifications for the second year in a row, marking the first time since 2014 that is the case. In 2019, Montana State routed Montana as the then-No. 8 Bobcats blasted the No. 3 Griz 48-14 in Bozeman. Both teams earned playoff seeds and first-round byes; UM advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2019 FCS Playoffs and MSU advanced to the semifinals that season, marking the first run to the Final Four for the Bobcats since 1984.

The Bobcats enter the game with a 9-1 record, including a 7-0 mark in Big Sky Conference play. MSU is certainly into the playoffs for the third straight year and the seventh time since 2010. A victory could give Montana State at least a share of its first league title since 2012. A loss and MSU could still get a Top 8 seed and a bye.

Montana enters the game on a four-game winning streak to get to 5-2 in league play and 8-2 overall. Montana is almost certainly into the playoffs for the second year in a row and the 23rd time since 1993, win or lose. A win would likely propel UM to a playoff seed and a first-round bye.

The Bobcats have won four straight games against the Griz for the first time since Sonny Holland roamed the sideline as head coach at his alma mater – MSU won six straight between 1972 and 1977 under Holland, who went 10-1 against UM between his time as a coach and a player.

During the Big Sky Conference era beginning in 1963, Montana State won the first six rivalry games against Montana and 12 of the first 15. Montana won in 1978 and again in 1981 and 1982 before MSU ripped off its most recent three-game winning streak until the current one between 1983 and 1985.

In 1986, Montana won 59-28 in Missoula, starting an era of domination that reached 16 consecutive victories during a stretch that became known as simply: “The Streak.”

Since Montana State won in Missoula 10-7 in Missoula in 2002, the rivalry is dead even with nine wins on each side. MSU has won four of its last five in Missoula while Montana had four straight wins in Bozeman between 2007 and 2015.

When Bobby Hauck first took over at Montana leading up to the 2018 season, the Griz roster boasted 29 in-state players. Now UM has more than 50 for the first time since Hauck’s third season of his first stint at UM.

Montana State had one of its highest number of in-state products in former head coach Jeff Choate’s four years in 2019 with 46. The 2016 Bobcats had 52 Montana kids while the 2017 team had 46 and the 2018 team featured 45.

This year’s Bobcat team has four offensive starters and four defensive starters from Montana. A total of 15 Montanans dot the Bobcats’ two-deep, a number that could increase by a couple depending on how much time sophomore running back Lane Sumner and freshman quarterback Tommy Mellott get on Saturday.

Depending on who starts at quarterback for Montana — redshirt freshman Kris Brown from Bozeman was the starter for an enitre month while senior Cam Humphrey came back from an injury — the Griz have as many as four starters on offense and four starters on defense (including Robby Hauck) who claim Montana roots. Six more in-state products, all on defense, appear on the two-deep. And Montana has an in-state product at punter.

Between the two rosters combined, a total of 57 players (31 for UM, 26 for MSU) played Class AA football in high school. A total of 17 players played in Class A, including nine for the ‘Cats. A total of 11 players cut their teeth in the Class B ranks, including eight who play for Montana. And a total of six players prepped in the Class C ranks, including four for the Griz.

Bozeman and Missoula are the two most represented Montana towns. A total of 15 players from Bozeman, all who went to Bozeman Senior High (Gallatin High opened two years ago), will be a part of Saturday’s rivalry, including 10 former Hawks who are now Bobcats.

A total of 14 Missoula natives will be a part of the game, including 11 who stayed home to play for the Grizzlies. Sentinel is the most well-represented with eight alums, including six Griz, as part of the action. Three former Big Sky players, all Grizzlies, will play and three from Loyola, two Bobcats and one Griz, are part of the tally.

Billings has 12 players in the game, including four that went to West, three that went to Senior, three that went to Central and two that went to Skyview. Three former Golden Bears are now Bobcats and a fourth is a Griz while two of the three former Senior Broncs play for Montana. MSU has two Central products while both Skyview alums are Bobcats.

Montana State linebacker Troy Andersen (15) in 2019/by Brooks Nuanez

Helena has nine players in the game, including six who play at Montana. All three Bobcats are former Bengals while all four Capital products play for the Grizzlies.

All three Great Falls players – one from each C.M.Russell, Great Falls High and GF Central — play for Montana. There are six players from Kalispell, each Glacier High alums, including four that play for the Griz.

And Butte has six players in the rivalry, including four for Montana and three that are former Butte High Bulldogs. MSU has one each from Butte Central and Butte High.

Dillon (3) and Whitefish (2) are the only Class A schools with multiple representatives. Red Lodge and Huntley Project have one each on Cat and Griz rosters.

A total of 29 Montana towns are represented with players from Laurel, Lewistown, Polson, Havre, Colstrip, Hamilton, Anaconda, Townsend, Whitehall, Fairfield, Sunburst, Valier, Melstone and Phillipsburg all making up the fabric of this historic game.

Here’s a look the 38 Montana products on the MSU roster headed into the 120th rendition of the fierce rivalry in Missoula on Saturday afternoon.


Troy Andersen, middle linebacker, senior, Dillon — Call him Paul Bunyan. Or Bill Braskey. Or the Sultan of Swat. Or Mr. Do It All.

Whatever you refer to the lone ranger from Beaverhead County as, it’s undeniable his talent, ability and accomplishments over a star-studded career that has flown by.

From leading the Beavers to state championship games four years in a row in each football and basketball during his decorated high school career to sweeping the 100 and 200 meters at the Class A state track meet as a junior and a senior, Andersen has been building his legend from early on.

And from his Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year accolade in 2017 as a running back and linebacker to the wildest quarterback season since Tim Tebow’s peak with the Denver Broncos ending with Andersen being named first-team All-Big Sky quarterback; from his first-team All-Big Sky nod in his first year as a full-time (mostly) defensive player that ended abruptly in 2019 to now, a season filled with the loftiest of goals and the endurance needed to handle the external pressure to go out on top, Andersen has navigated it all like a storybook Montanan.

And Saturday, in his first season of his football career playing inside linebacker, Andersen will get a shot at the Grizzlies for the fourth and final time of his career.

He scored two touchdown in the 2017 Bobcat win over UM in Bozeman, Montana State’s first rivalry win at home since 2005. Andersen willed the Bobcats back from a 22-0 deficit in Missoula the following season, rolling up nearly 300 yards of total offense, including 107 rushing and three rushing scores to help MSU rally for a 29-25 win now dubbed the Miracle in Missoula.

But Andersen did not play in Montana State’s unforgettable 48-14 beatdown of the Grizzlies in Bozeman in 2019, the last time the two teams played. His season ended in injury the previous week in a win at UC Davis. Andersen was absent for the Bobcats’ deepest playoff run in a generation.

Andersen has not played quarterback, running back or outside linebacker since. Instead, he enters his final Cat-Griz game with a resume that puts him in contention for all-conference, league MVP and All-American honors. He is second in the Big Sky with 103 total tackles, including 9.5 for loss.

He has 10 pass break-ups, which ranks in the top 12 in the league. And he has really come on as of late, playing at an elite level the last month of the season despite rarely practicing.

Chase Benson, defensive tackle, senior, Helena — Benson was once a raw, unpolished physical specimen searching for direction. But after evolving and developing quickly, the soft-spoken giant has been one of the top interior defensive linemen in the West.

Montana State defensive tackle Chase Benson (41) in 2021/by Brooks Nuanez

His first unforgettable moment came on the goal line of the aforementioned Bobcat miracle at Washington-Griz in 2018. Benson blew the interior Griz offensive line off the ball, allowing fellow defensive tackle Tucker Yates and inside linebacker Grant Collins to destroy UM running back Adam Eastwood, causing a fumble Derek Marks would recover to seal the comeback.

The following season in his first as the primary anchor of the MSU defensive front, Benson rolled up almost 60 tackles and five sacks in earning third-team All-Big Sky honors.

This season, Benson’s numbers are a small reflection of his importance to the best defense in the Big Sky Conference. Earlier this week, Andersen called Benson the best defensive player in the conference. So far, despite missing a start and playing less snaps in two more, he still has 35 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Lance McCutcheon, wide receiver, senior, Bozeman — McCutcheon is having one of the breakout seasons of any player in college football.

The local product entered his senior season with 31 catches total. Part of the humble production came from McCutcheon’s role as a blocker in MSU’s dominant run game, part was was McCutcheon had not fully blossomed.

Now he has. The 6-foot-2, 202-pounder leads the league with 876 yards on 47 catches (fourth in the Big Sky), including six touchdowns, second-most in the league.

Tommy Mellott, quarterback, freshman, Butte — Mellott vaulted into the “Star” category with a memorable and important three-touchdown performance in MSU’s 20-13 win last week over Idaho in the team’s final regular-season home game.

Montana State quarterback Tommy Mellott (16)/by Brooks Nuanez

Mellott provided a spark the Bobcat offense otherwise lacked with junior quarterback Matthew McKay continuing to struggle, All-American running back Isaiah Ifanse plus his flashy backup Elijah Elliott and starting right tackle T.J. Session all on the sideline in street clothes, Mellott willed Montana State to win.

The former Montana Gatorade Player of the Year is 17th in the league in rushing yards per game and his 267 yards are in the top 20 totals overall. His four rushing touchdowns is 10th in the league and his 9.2 yards per rush is the best average of any ball carrier with at least 25 carries.

It remains to be seen what his role might be on offense on Saturday but Mellott will certainly be a key member of MSU’s kick teams. He’s emerged as a standout on MSU’s kickoff coverage team. He was on that unit after scoring his first touchdown before Vigen made sure he didn’t have to do that after the next two scores, the Bobcat coach confirmed with a laugh earlier this week.

Montana State tight end Ryan Davis (48) in 2019/by Brooks Nuanez

Ryan Davis, tight end, senior, Billings Skyview — Davis is a star not because of his statistics but because of his diligence, toughness, consistency and wonderful in-state legacy.

The proud Native American has roots that trace back to several Montana tribes and he is the latest of Debby and Doug Davis’ sons to participate in athletics at Montana State. Leo Davis was a standout offensive tackle for MSU during its Big Sky championship runs in the early 2010s. Stephen Davis played for the Bobcat men’s basketball team around that same time. Matt Davis was a linebacker for the Bobcats in the latter part of last decade.

And now Ryan is going on his fourth year getting playing time as MSU’s power tight end. He scored a rushing touchdown earlier this year.

Callahan O’Reilly, linebacker, junior, Bozeman  — O’Reilly once was throwing touchdown passes to McCutcheon when the duo was at Bozeman High. The local product came to MSU as a quarterback. Many wondered how he would fare when he flipped to one of the most physical defensive positions.

Montana State linebacker Callahan O’Reilly (47) in 2021/by Brooks Nuanez

As he’s grown, he has thrived. Last season, O’Reilly was the leading tackler on one of the deepest and most talented defenses in the country. This season, he has 61 tackles, third on the team despite missing the Idaho State game, and he’s also snared a pair of interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown.

Of all the former Hawks in the game, O’Reilly and McCutcheon are the two with the most prominent roles.


Byron Rollins, defensive line, senior, Missoula Sentinel — Rollins has the distinct, unique status of being able to say he was a part of the 2019 Bobcat class, at least when the group was in high school, as well as this 2021 group.

Rollins played in the Montana East-West Shrine game with Bobcat legends like offensive tackle Mitch Brott, four-time all-league safety Brayden Konkol, Cat-Griz menace inside linebacker Josh Hill, and the rest of the 2015 recruiting class.

An LDS mission and a global pandemic later, Rollins is playing in his fourth college football season and he’s getting solid snaps again. The future dentist has made the most of his last campaign. It remains to be seen if he uses his final year of eligibility next season but he was one of 19 Bobcats announced for Senior Day last weekend.

Montana State running back Lane Sumner (24) vs. Southern Utah in 2019/by Brooks Nuanez

Lane Sumner, running back, sophomore, Huntley Project — Ifanse has been so good, so dominant, so durable that only Elliott has gotten significant carries this season.

But with Ifanse wearing a hoody and Elliott leaning on crutches on the sideline early in the second half last week in MSU’s slugfest against Idaho, Sumner reemerged and reminded followers why he was one of the breakout freshman of the 2019 season.

Sumner, a 5-foot-8, 193-pounder, first caught Choate’s eye at individual camp heading into his senior year of high school. During a camp-wide conditioning competition that has the goal of finding the fastest player at gathering. Sumner, who won back-to-back Class B state titles in the 100 meters, won the competition.

That led to a 2019 season in which he rushed for 424 yards and five touchdowns, averaging seven yards per carry along the way.

Sumner’s first 100-yard game came against Norfolk State in a game Ifanse missed with an injury. With Ifanse questionable again this week and Elliott doubtful at best, Sumner will almost certainly be a factor in the Bobcat run game on Saturday.

R.J. Fitzgerald, fullback, junior, Dillon — Fitzgerald is the enforcer, the boom boom banger who is used as the battering ram for the Bobcats’ bruising run game.

The former standout catcher was on Dillon’s two state championship teams with Andersen before joining the Bobcats despite deep ties to the Griz.

He is the son of Greg Fitzgerald and the nephew of John Fitzgerald, a pair of small-town standouts who played at Montana during the Don Read heyday in the mid-1990s. But former Montana head coach Bob Stitt barely gave R.J. a sniff, leading to him following in his sister, Brynley’s footsteps to Montana State. Brynley now plays at Montana Western but R.J. and his younger brother, Jace, are part of the Bobcat football team.

Montana State center Justice Perkins (65) in 2021/by Brooks Nuanez

Justus Perkins, center, freshman, Bozeman — Perkins is perhaps the most unlikely starter on the Bobcats and in the rivalry game.

The son of former Montana State cornerback Josh Perkins (1995-1999) was an all-state performer his senior year at Bozeman High. But he is 6-feet tall and came to MSU at about 250 pounds. He has bulked up to 285 pounds and when Cole Sain went down with an injury in fall camp, Perkins seized the starting center spot. He has not given it up.

As Choate said last off-season, every time you look up, Perkins seems to have a defensive player on his back. That sneaky power has helped Montana State lead the league in rushing for the third year in a row.

Joe McElroy, offensive lineman, sophomore, Missoula Loyola — McElroy, a former tight end, has bounced back from a bad knee injury suffered more than a year ago to fit into MSU’s offensive line rotation. He found his way to the starting lineup when Session first went out earlier this season.

The 6-foot-4, 295-pounder can slide in at guard when All-Big Sky senior Taylor Tuiasosopo bumps out to right tackle or McElroy has also taken reps at tackle this season as well.

Treyton Pickering, tight end, sophomore, Sunburst — Pickering is the quintessential Montana story, a former 6-man football player who came to MSU as a lean, raw prospect with plenty of room to grow physically and as a football player.

After overcoming a blown ACL, Pickering is up to 245 pounds and looks like one of the most physically formidable tight ends in the Big Sky.

He caught his first career touchdown in MSU’s narrow loss to Wyoming to open the season. He has 10 catches for 107 yards and three scores overall this season.


Brody Grebe, defensive end, freshman, Melstone — Grebe scored more than 3,000 points as one of the most prolific high school basketball players in Treasure State history. But he grew up in a town with around 100 people in isolated Musselshell County.

Grebe took a risk and bet on himself. Instead of going to a Frontier Conference program, he instead went to Choate Prep (ironic, isn’t it?) on the East Coast for a year. There, he grew into a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder with serious physical upside.

The last few weeks, he is emerging as a legitimate pass-rushing threat. He’s up to 3.5 sacks this season and had a key one last week in a win over Idaho. He also had a pair of sacks in MSU’s 23-20 win at No. 5 Eastern Washington earlier this month.

Nolan Askelson, linebacker, sophomore, Billings Senior — Askleson would certainly be one if not two rungs up this ladder if not for suffering a bad knee injury that likely cost him his season.

Montana State linebacker Alex Johnson (40) in 2021/by Brooks Nuanez

The former Class AA Defensive MVP has lived up to that, contributing as a part-time starter and steady tackler both defensively and on special teams during his career so far. Askelson, who started six games in 2019, had 11 tackles before going down against Drake in MSU’s second game this season.

Alex Johnson, linebacker, redshirt freshman, Helena — Johnson made his first career start when O’Reilly missed the Idaho State game after suffering a minor head injury in a minor car accident earlier this fall.

He has played in every game and has 14 tackles, including five against Cal Poly and four against ISU.

Tadan Gilman, linebacker/nickel back, senior, Kalispell — Many wondered if Gilman would be the second coming of Josh Hill, an undersized yet aggressive linebacker who piled up tackles like Hill did as the “stud” in Bennett’s defense at Glacier.

Instead, Gilman has had a hard time finding a position, yet has still found ways to contribute. The former three-sport athlete is the son of former Nebraska standout Mark Gilman. He played every game on special teams in 2018 and 2019. This season, after bumping to nickel back and serving as one of MSU’s “big nickels”, Gilman has four total tackles.

Rylan Ortt, safety, redshirt freshman, Missoula Sentinel — Ortt, a former Spartan quarterback, has received rave reviews from MSU coaches since his first fall camp on campus.

Montana State safety Rylan Ortt (26) in 2021/by Brooks Nuanez

His ability to grasp the scheme helped him work his way to the third string as a freshman. But an arm injury for the former state champion javelin thrower caused him to redshirt. This season, his first in the fold, Ortt is the back up at both safety positions and is also a standout on special teams. He has 15 tackles and two tackles for loss this season so far. He will compete against eight of his former high school teammates this weekend.

Jory Choate, linebacker, sophomore, Bozeman — The son of the former Bobcat head coach has seen some snaps on special teams this season. The former Class AA all-state defensive end is still finding his footing playing linebacker. He has three tackles this season.

His most memorable moment thus far came during the rivalry game in 2019 when he had a resounding hit on the opening kickoff that helped set the tone for the rest of the beatdown in Bozeman.

Ryan Lonergan, tight end, redshirt freshman, Bozeman — When Lonergan first signed with MSU, Choate said he had the most pure talent of any recruit in Montana and that he was a borderline Mountain West Conference level prospect.

Because he’s been in a group that also includes Davis, Pickering and starter Derryk Snell, Lonergan has been fighting for reps in other areas. He does not yet have a catch but he contributes on special teams as a blocker.

HometownNumber of BobcatsNumber of Grizzlies
Class AA towns
Missoula (14, including 3 at Class B Loyola)3 11
Bozeman (15)105
Billings (12, including three at Class A central)85
Kalispell (6)24
Helena (9)36
Great Falls (3 including one at Class C GF Central)03
Butte (6, including two at Class A Central)24
Class A towns
Dillon 30
Class B towns
Red Lodge11
Huntley Project11
Loyola (Missoula) 12
Whitehall 01
Fairfield 01
Class C towns
Great Falls Central01
Phillipsburg 01


Jarrett Kessler, tight end, senior, Kalispell Glacier

Marcus Wehr, defensive line, redshirt freshman, Billings Senior

Eli Aby, safety, freshman, Laurel

Holden Sampson, offensive line, redshirt freshman, Helena

Kenneth Eiden IV, defensive end, freshman, Bozeman

Tanner Trafton, wide receiver, freshman, Lewistown

Neil Daily, outside linebacker, freshman, Billings West

Connor Ryan, defensive back, freshman, Billings West

Jake D’Agostino, safety, freshman, Bozeman

Jace Fitzgerald, linebacker, freshman, Dillon

McCade O’Reilly, linebacker, freshman, Bozeman

Luke Fedyk ,linebacker, freshman, Bozeman

Conor Reitler, offensive line, freshman, Billings Skyview

Elijah Reynolds, tight end, freshman, Red Lodge

Aaron Richards, offensive line, freshman, Butte Central

Logan Kleinhans, wide receiver, sophomore, Bozeman

Peyton Hanser, wide receiver, senior, Billings Central

Paul Brott, defensive line, freshman, Billings West

Trey Yates, defensive line, freshman, Colstrip

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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