BOZEMAN — In 2018, the Montana State Bobcats sealed their rivalry game with a fumble recovery at the end of the contest. Saturday, MSU essentially won their rivalry game by forcing a fumble at the start.
Samori Toure fumbled the first offensive play of the game, and just like last year at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, Derek Marks recovered to give the Bobcats all the momentum. Montana State scored five plays later, a reverse to wide receiver Kevin Kassis, and the rout was on the rest of the day at Bobcat Stadium as MSU (9-3, 6-2) won 48-14.
That was only the beginning of the Bobcats’ attack, which saw MSU take a commanding 24-0 lead. After the fumble, Montana State’s defense forced consecutive three-and-outs against the Grizzlies, resulting in a Tristan Bailey 25-yard field goal and an 18-yard touchdown run by Logan Jones.
Tyrone Marshall’s 29-yard touchdown around the left side brought the score to 24-0 early in the second quarter. Montana State’s defense held the Grizzlies to only three first downs in the opening quarter, with UM only advancing past midfield once, though the drive ended with a failed fourth-down attempt two plays into the second quarter.
The Grizzlies (9-3, 6-2) did find the end zone on a pair of Marcus Knight touchdown runs, his 19th and 20th of the season, third-best in a single-season in UM history. But Isaiah Ifanse broke loose for a 38-yard score in-between Knight’s efforts, to keep MSU out front 31-14 at halftime. Bailey missed a 52-yard field goal to end the half.
Montana’s daunting run defense, which had allowed only an average of 112.6 rushing yards per game, gave up 207 yards on 28 carries, a Montana State average of 7.4 yards per carry.
Both defenses settled in during the third quarter, with Montana State’s defense recording a pair of sacks to stall Montana’s offense. Bailey added a 30-yard field goal for the only points in the period, giving MSU a 34-14 lead.
The Bobcats opened the fourth quarter with a six-play drive, all runs, with Ifanse taking a direct snap 3 yards into the south end zone for his second touchdown of the game. The heralded sophomore added a third score in the fourth quarter on a fourth-and-1 play from the 17, officially shaking the Bobcat Stadium stands.
Montana State, which was without all-everything Troy Andersen, finished with 488 offensive yards to the Grizzlies’ 241, while dominating the time of possession (37:08 to 22:52).
But it was again the ground game and a stifling defense that lifted Montana State to its fourth consecutive win in the rivalry. Ifanse rushed for 171 yards and three scores, Logan Jones added 121 yards and a touchdown, while Tyrone Marshall finished with 81 yard and a score.
MSU finished with six sacks, five tackles-for-loss, a Brayden Konkol interception and an astounding eight pass breakups in the win.
Senior Josh Hill finished with a team-high nine tackles to go with a half sack and half tackle-for-loss. Bryce Sterk had 2.5 sacks and five tackles in the win.
Montana was led by Dante Olson’s 16 tackles, while Dalton Sneed finished with 195 passing yards, 64 to Mitch Roberts.
Both the Bobcats and Grizzlies will tune in for Sunday’s FCS playoff selection show, which will be broadcast on ESPNU beginning at 10:30 a.m. (MST).