BOZEMAN, Montana — In mid-October of Jeff Choate’s first season at the helm at Montana State, the Bobcats were off to an 0-3 start in Big Sky Conference play. MSU came to eventual playoff qualifier Weber State with a starting quarterback who had just turned 18 years old the week before.
Everything that could’ve gone wrong that afternoon in Ogden, Utah, did for the visitors. MSU punted five plays into the game, then gave up a commanding 11-play, 79-yard drive. On the ensuing possession, true freshman quarterback Chris Murray fumbled, giving the Wildcats the ball 24 yards from their end-zone. Four plays later, Weber scored.
On the ensuing kickoff, Logan Jones fumbled, Kawika Tupuola recovered and two plays later, Weber scored to go up 21-0. The Bobcats trailed by three scores less than 11 minutes into the game and the visitors had only run eight offensive plays.
Montana State stopped the bleeding for a brief moment when Murray hit Gunnar Brekke for a 39-yard touchdown on a sweet wheel route up the MSU sideline. MSU got on the board again when Murray hit Jayshawn Gates for a score to cut the lead to 28-14. But Weber State scored twice more before halftime, putting MSU in a 42-14 hole. Montana State only gave up three points after halftime and still lost 45-27, the next loss in what would become a six-game Big Sky losing streak to start the Choate era.
In a late September game during Choate’s fourth season at the helm, everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Bobcats. With All-American quarterback Case Cookus and the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks in town, Montana State committed a penalty on a fake punt, could not down a perfect punt on the one-yard line, instead giving Cookus the ball at the NAU 20, turned the ball over twice including a pick-six thrown by sophomore Tucker Rovig and trailed 21-0 less than 20 minutes into the game.
Montana State still has a complete lack of clarity at the quarterback position. The Bobcats remain largely lopsided in terms of offensive production. But these Bobcats are on a completely different level in terms of gumption, fortitude, maturity and confidence than Choate’s first squad at MSU.
Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.