It what has been a topsy turvy type of year in much of the West, the Montana State Bobcats right now appear to be a real threat this year in the BSC after last week’s win over previously Top 10 ranked Eastern Washington—a team MSU has not beat in their prior six meetings.
Now Montana State is the top ranked team in the ‘West’ currently with a 3-1 overall record.
How did Montana State beat Eastern Washington?
The Bobcats not only defeated Eastern Washington, they destroyed the Eagles—winning 30-7 in Bozeman. The Bobcat defense was the story. EWU running back Taiwan Jones entered this game leading the nation with 287.3 all-purpose yards a game. Jones returned the opening kickoff 26 yards and then ran for 11 more on his first rushing attempt.
After that, the Bobcat defense stopped him pretty much the rest of the game.
Jones finished with just 63 yards rushing, well below his average of 151.7 per game. He did, however, finish the game with an abdominal contusion in the third quarter but at that time MSU was well in command of the game. Overall, EWU totaled 382 total yards, but turned it over two times.
MSU never trailed in the game, scoring first on a pitchout to Everett Gilbert in the first quarter. On the Eagles’ ensuing possession, Bobcat defensive tackle Zach Minter intercepted a Eagle quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell pass and returned the pick 53 yards for a touchdown to make it 13-0. Minter had also scored in the Bobcats’ previous game against Drake (a 48-21 win) on a fumble recovery.
EWU trimmed the score to 13-7 when Mitchell hit Nicolas Edwards for a 9-yard passing touchdown, but the Bobcats closed out the first half scoring when holder Rick Haluszka scored from 4 yards out on a fake field goal run making it 20-7 at the half.
Bobcat quarterback Denarius McGhee, a redshirt freshman that got the starting node over returning starter Cody Kempt to begin the season, was a solid again—passing 15 of 24 for 283 yards. His forward 1-yard pitch to CJ Palmer in the fourth quarter was the clinching touchdown and came moments after Jason Cunningham’s 23-yard field goal.
"It's a huge day for this program," MSU head coach Rob Ash said.
Elvis Akpla was McGhee’s favorite receiving target—catching five passes for 117 yards. The Bobcats finished with 156 yards rushing with Orenzo Davis leading the team with 66 yards on 17 carries.
Aside from Minters interception, the Bobcats were led by safety Jordan Craney with nine tackles and also forced a fumble.
Couldn’t the Bobcats be undefeated at this point?
Yes, Montana State’s lone loss was to FBS Washington State in the second week of the season 23-22. MSU led this game 22-7 going into the fourth quarter. Washington State rallied, however, much from the help of the Bobcats three thrown interceptions that were deflected passes. The Cougars scored ten points off the first two picks and sealed the game on the third to escape with the one point victory.
For the game, MSU had 407 yards of total offense, while WSU ended with 316 yards. McGhee finished the game completing 24-of-37 attempts for 266 yards.
What is upcoming for the Bobcats?
Montana State travels to an improving Sacramento State team this week, which narrowly feel to MSU’s rival Montana 28-25 last week.
Aside from this trip to Sacramento, the Bobcats will also have trips to Northern Arizona and Montana as tough road contests. MSU also travels to Idaho State later as well.
The home contests remaining are against Portland State, Northern Colorado, and Weber State.
In Coach Ash’s fourth season, it appears this year might be the one to get MSU back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. That was the prior season to Ash coming to Bozeman. After this signature win over a team that has caused MSU fits for years, it appears that MSU is back in the Big Sky running.
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CSN WEST GAME OF THE WEEK
Southern Illinois (1-3, 0-1) @ Illinois State (3-1, 2-0)
In the preseason, this game looked like a matchup that would determine the Missouri Valley Football Conference champion. As of now, however, it looks like a game of survival for at least the Salukis.
SIU has just a single victory this year with that being over lower level Quincy and three straight losses have endured since that season opening win. The Salukis have lost to FBS Illinois, the OVC’s Southeast Missouri State, and lost their MVFC opener at Youngstown State last week. SIU’s FCS losses have been close—losing each by three to SEMO and YSU.
SIU's loss to Youngstown State last Saturday ended a 14-game conference winning streak for SIU in Valley play, which is the all-time league record. It also marked the first time since 2002 that SIU has lost three-straight games and the first time since 2001 that Salukis had lost a MVFC opener.
Illinois State on the other hand has just a single loss—that coming to FBS Northwestern. Their wins have come against DII Central Missouri State and two MVFC teams—at South Dakota State and at home a week ago against Missouri State. None of the Redbirds wins, however, have been easy. ISU defeated CMSU by a single point and held on at SDSU by 10, and went to overtime against MSU.
Illinois State has put up big numbers, as they average 31.5 points and 418.5 yards of total offense. However, Redbird opponents average 36.5 points and 457.8 yards of total offense. Illinois State quarterback Matt Brown has thrown for 999 yards and six touchdowns through four games. He completes 65.6 percent of his passes and Marvon Sanders has been his favorite target. Sanders’ 32 receptions are 15 more than any other Redbird.
Running back Lucien Walker will be the key on offense for the Salukis. The fifth-year senior leads the team with 254 yards rushing (63.5 ypg) and has scored three touchdowns on the season. He will split time with junior transfer Shariff Harris, who has 155 yards on the ground and three touchdowns as well. On defense, the strength for the Salukis is in the secondary in the form of All-American cornerback Korey Lindsey and safety Mike McElroy. Lindsey ranks fifth on the team with 17 tackles and has added 2.5 tackles-for-loss so far in 2010.
I feel this game will be a high scoring, closely fought contest but think the returning MVFC champions of SIU will not go down easily. I think the Salukis will come to Normal and get the victory. I like SIU by a field goal—the margin of their two losses at the FCS ranks this year. Southern Illinois 37 Illinois State 34.
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CSN WEST NEWS & NOTES
-Montana quarterback Andrew Selle suffered a career-ending injury to his throwing arm during Saturday's 28-25 win over Sacramento State. He will finish his senior season with 599 passing yards and five touchdowns, with five interceptions in completing 41-of-77 passes.
-Sacramento State fell just short of handing Montana its third straight loss and beating the Grizzlies for the first time in school history. With starter Selle out of the game with an injury, senior Justin Roper came in at quarterback on to complete 16-of-19 passes for 189 yards with two touchdowns and one interception to lead UM to the win. Roper hit Bryce Carver on a 29-yard touchdown with 9:34 to play to give UM a 28-25 lead. Sac State led 13-7 in the second quarter, and 16-14 at halftime. The Hornets took a 25-21 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter when Matt Carter caught his second TD pass of the day.
-Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins threw for 248 yards and a touchdown in Weber State’s 20-9 win over UC Davis on Saturday. Higgins jumped from 10th to fifth on the Big Sky’s all-time passing yardage list. Higgins enters Saturday’s game against Eastern Washington with 10,837 passing yards. He needs 244 more yards to move past UM’s Dave Dickenson into fourth place on the all-time list.
-Illinois State running back Ashton Leggett rushed for four touchdowns in the Redbirds’ win against Missouri State - a season-best in the MVFC. Only five players in league history (WIU’s Travis Glasford did it twice) have rushed for more than 4 touchdowns in a game previously.
-North Dakota State running back D.J. McNorton had a career-high 250 yards and three touchdowns in the 38-16 win against No. 20 South Dakota. He scored on runs of 1, 53 and 27 yards, while rushing 13 times for 202 yards in the second half.
-Western Illinois running back Bryce Flowers rushed for a game-high 192 yards and matched a personal-high by scoring two touchdowns as Western Illinois improved to 3-1 with a 40-7 win against visiting Indiana State.
-North Dakota’s QB/WR combination of Jake Landry to Greg Hardin led the Sioux to the 49-24 victory over Northwestern State. Landry completed 13 of 21 passes for a career-high 300 yards and four TDs. Hardon finished with a league-high 177 yards on five catches and three touchdowns.
-The San Diego defense shutout Butler, 24-0 which was the Toreros first shutout since a 37-0 victory at Drake in 2006. Running back Phil Morelli returned from a foot injury to lead San Diego with 100 yards on 21 carries, including a pair of touchdowns. Defensive end Mario Kurn had seven tackles but recorded five in the backfield, including three sacks and leads all FCS tacklers in tackles for loss (3.0 pg) and sacks (2.38 pg).
-Jacksonville’s Josh McGregor threw for all six touchdowns in Jacksonville’s 42-15 PFL victory at Davidson, Saturday. He was 26-of- 41 passing (no interceptions) for a career-high 405 yards.