BOZEMAN, Montana — The Bobcats wasted little time dispatching the Bengals.
Sean Chambers continued to do Sean Chambers things in Montana State’s comeback game in front of more than 21,000 people at Bobcat Stadium on Saturday, scoring three on the ground in the first half alone to give MSU a 34- 6 at halftime.
The hosts went from there in the second half en route to a 37-6 win over Idaho State to stay perfect in Big Sky Conference play.
Chambers has rushed for 4, 13 and 6 yards and now has 15 rushing touchdowns this season. The MSU record is 21 set by Troy Andersen in 2018. Chambers also completed 16 of 22 passes for 150 yards, almost all in the first half.
The Bobcats, now 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the Big Sky Conference, forced five turnovers and allowed none to hold ISU at bay.
“Any time you’re over five like that, you’re going to be tough to beat,” MSU head coach Brent Vigen said after going 17-4 for . “We had a great practice to respond (the ISU opening score) and then James (Campbell) got the pick next time and we kept taking the ball.”
Unlike every game they’ve played this season, the Bobcats haven’t had a play over 23 yards. A week after Chambers scored on rushes for 78 and 65 yards, MSU was much more methodical, but still dominant offensively. MSU’s opening drive went for 71 yards on 11 plays. The Bobcats had four more possessions of 12 or more games before the end of the day.
“You want to be able to handle any situation you find yourself in,” Vigen said. “If it’s going to be some kind of grind it out game then you get into third down situations and you have to be able to convert that. We have grown situationally today.
Likewise on defense, the Bobcats, after the first practice, never allowed a play over 22 yards. ISU connected on a 36-yard pass for a touchdown in the fourth playoff of the game. MSU has been dogged by huge plays on defense all season.
“Sometimes they will finish a few balls past us and we have to tackle that and I think we did a lot better with that today,” Vigen said.
Other than the first 1:36 of the game, everything went well for MSU. The Bobcats had 34 points scoring on six if their possessions in the first half. ISU kicked off and scored in just four games but missed the extra point in what was a harbinger of things to come for the Bengals.
MSU responded with a contrasting 11-play play and 71-yard drive that culminated in RJ Fitzgerald’s second career touchdown to give MSU a lead it would never relinquish. The Bengals (0-6, 0-3) had just 75 total yards the rest of the first half.
Blake Glessner kicked in two first-half field goals (40, 27) to explain the rest of the scoring. He added a 48-yard field goal in the third quarter.
The Bengals seemed content to run the clock in the second half as they headed the ball on nearly 80% of their plays.
Lane Sumner rushed for 100 yards on 15 carries in his first action since the Gold Rush season opener. Elijah Elliott had 16 carries for 68 yards. Replacement quarterback Sean Austin was impressive in the fourth quarter after replacing Chambers. He was eight-for-eight passing for 60 yards and led MSU into field goal position in the dying moments only to come away empty after Glessner partially blocked his 27-yard attempt.
ISU quarterback Sagan Gronauer was solid in the loss. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 173 yards, but was intercepted three times.
The Bobcats began to feature a triangular backfield called the “Delta” formation. MSU places 6-foot-3, 300-pound offensive lineman Omar Aigbedion and 6-foot-3, 285-pound defensive lineman Devin Slaughter, an Army veteran, on either side of Chambers, who is in the hunting rifle. MSU converted two first downs against the Bengals in this lineup.
In addition to Campbell’s interception, safety Jeffrey Manning and linebacker Callahan O’Reilly also captured picks. O’Reilly forced a fumble in the first half, which was recovered by Ty Okada. The final play of the game saw Nolan Askelson force a fumble and Level Price, Jr. recovered.
“It was great to finally get one,” Manning said of his first interception after hitting three near misses this season. “Hopefully they start coming in bunches. We knew they would put the ball in the air so we knew we had to attack it.
MSU finished the game averaging 4.9 per rush, which is its lowest of the season. Oregon State held MSU to 5.1 yards per carry. This game saw the Bobcats in a small field several times, which likely had an effect on their average.
“We have the greatest confidence in whoever runs the ball,” MSU center Justus Perkins said. “Whoever carries the rock, we will move him.”
MSU was able to use two running backs (Elliott and Sumner) as the core of their running game for the first time since the season opener due to a slew of injuries in that position. They combined for 168 yards on 31 carries. Freshman Garrett Coon was impressive in the fourth quarter where he rushed for 34 yards on just five carries and also caught four passes for 34 yards.
For the first time since the Gold Rush game, MSU got more rushing yards from its running backs than from its quarterbacks. Running backs had 202 yards on 39 carries, while quarterbacks had 46 yards on 13 carries.
The Bobcats finished with 465 total yards and allowed just 254, including just 178 after ISU’s first possession. MSU had the ball for over 40 minutes as the running game had 52 carries for 255 yards to hog the clock.
MSU is back in action next week when they travel to Greeley, Colorado to take on Northern Colorado. The game time is set at 1:00.