BOZEMAN – The 121st Brawl of the Wild was a Bobcat blowout.
In the latest installment of the Montana State-Montana football rivalry, the 3rd-ranked Cats rushed for 439 yards in a convincing 55-21 win over the 13th-ranked Grizzlies in front of a record-breaking Bobcat Stadium crowd of 22,037.
With the win, the Bobcats (10-1, 8-0 Big Sky) went unbeaten in conference play for the first time since 1976 and secured at least part of the league title for the first time since 2012. They’ll be seeded for the FCS playoffs.
With the loss, Montana fell to 7-4 overall and 4-4 in Big Sky. The Grizzlies will find out whether or not they’re part of the playoff field on Sunday.
Leading on the ground for MSU were QB Tommy Mellott (141 yards), running back Elijah Elliott (126 yards), QB Sean Chambers (86 yards), and receiver/running back Marqui Johnson (74 yards). The Cats rushed for five touchdowns.
Defensively, the Bobcats pulled off three takeaways, including a third-quarter interception by defenseman Rylan Ortt, who sat out much of the season due to using a prohibited supplement.
turning points: After the Bobcats led 14-7 in the first quarter, Montana lined up to punt the ball, but the snap sailed over the head of punter Patrick Rohrbach, who was trying to capture the ball in the end zone. Instead, MSU’s Jory Choate recovered for an MSU touchdown to put the Bobcats ahead by two touchdowns at 3:13 in the quarter.
In the second quarter, with the Griz trailing 28-7 but short of a much-needed touchdown, Montana QB Lucas Johnson lost the ball on a fake handover. The pocket change was won back by MSU’s Callahan O’Reilly at the 3-yard line with 4:51 before halftime.
Statistics of the game: The stat that mattered the most in this game was the Bobcats’ fast totals. Behind MSU’s 439 total rushing yards was a 7.0 average per carry. The Cats finished the tournament with 561 offensive yards and 32 first downs.
cue balls: MSU QB Tommy Mellott (attack). Mellott was once again the catalyst for the Bobcats’ quick attack. The Butter native finished with 141 rushing yards and his two TD runs in the first quarter set the tone for a Bobcat blowout.
MSU DL Blake Schmidt (defense). Not only did Schmidt help the Bobcats limit the Griz to 96 rushing yards, Schmidt also had a role in pressuring Johnson, finishing with three tackles (one for loss), a sack and a QB rush.
MSU LB Jory Choate (Special Teams). Choate has been one of the most committed players in the Bobcats throughout his career, and he was rewarded with his recovery from a TD on Montana’s errant punt snap in the first quarter.
What’s next: Now we wait. The Bobcats are all but certain of finishing in the top three for the postseason and getting a first-round bye. The Grizzlies’ situation is a bit grim, although with seven wins in Division I they still have strong hopes for a playoff spot.
The 2022 FCS Playoff Bracket will be announced Sunday at 10:30 am Mountain Time on ESPNU.