BOZEMAN — One of the focuses of Montana State’s spring practice session was diversifying the team’s offense. Success toward achieving that goal was on full display during the Sonny Holland Spring Scrimmage Presented by the Rockin’ R Bar in sun-splashed Bobcat Stadium on Saturday.
Sophomore quarterback Chris Murray threw for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 10-for-13 passing, and senior Tyler Bruggman added 119 (5-for-8) to fuel a Bobcat passing game that scored three touchdowns. “I thought the no. one offense operated pretty well,” said Bobcat coach Jeff Choate. “I thought Chris was efficient in the passing game, made some good decisions.”
One came late in the scrimmage, when he found sophomore Kevin Kassis for the final score of the day, a 21-yard strike. “The last touchdown he threw to Kevin (Kassis) was a very ,very good pass,” Choate said. “They were playing cover two, the corner was sagging underneath it, if he doesn’t have the right velocity and trajectory on it it’s a dangerous throw, but you could see his maturity and growth I thought today. That was on full display.”
The same can be said of Kassis, whose four passes included two touchdowns, and covered 87 yards. He also rushed twice for 17 yards, and Choate praised his versatility. “He’s a guy we can count on to do a variety of things,” Choate said. “He’s smart, we can line him up in a variety of positions, he’s good with the ball in his hands in a lot of ways – as a returner, as a slot receiver, as an outside receiver, even in the backfield some. He’s a valuable weapon in our offense.”
While running backs carried the ball on just one-third of the scrimmage’s 80 or so plays, senior Nick LaSane provided a spark early, rumbling 28 yards on the day’s third play. LaSane, who has waited for three seasons behind veterans Chad Newell and Gunnar Brekke, said that is by design.
“We’re going in with the mentality that we’re going to pound the rock,” he said. “They’re going to give us some yards on the run and we’re going to make some plays throwing the ball, and that’s been really good for us this spring.” LaSane finished with 32 yards on three carries.
Choate saw planet to like from his defense on Saturday, as well. “A couple guys on defense I thought stood out,” he said. “I thought Jakob McCarthy at inside linebacker had a very productive day from my perspective being down on the field, he was very physical, very active. I thought Balue (Chapman) obviously had a couple of big plays, including a pick-six.”
That interception came from the was the day’s only turnover. Chapman, a redshirt freshman linebacker, returned it 55 yards for a touchdown.
As has been the case since early last fall, Murray’s presence and development was a conversation piece. “I think pre-snap he’s more comfortable knowing where he’s going to go with it,” Choate said. “I think that helps everything else. That confidence in his decision-making allows him to play a little faster, and the other thing is that his feet are so much better. He’s so much more calm in the pocket. I think he’s more decisive when he takes off and runs.”
Kassis, like Murray an impact player as a true freshman last fall, likes the freshman quarterback’s progress. “You can just see Chris getting better and better,” he said.
The Bobcats now focus on academics and final exams before taking time off in May. The team reconvenes in June and July for player-run practices. Fall camp begins in early August, and MSU opens the 2017 season at Washington State on September 2.
— MSU Sports Information
RUSHING: Nick LaSane 3-32-0, Anthony Pegues 12-30-0, Noah James 3-14-0, Jake Roper 6-17-0, Kevin Kassis 2-17-0, Chris Murray 8-33-0, Brady McChesney 4-4-0, Kamden Brown 1-1-0.
PASSING: Chris Murray 10-13-0, 107, 2 TD; Tyler Bruggman 5-8-0, 119, 1; Brady McChesney 4-7-0, 36, 0; Kamden Breown 0-2-1, 0, 0.
RECEIVING: Kevin Kassis 4-87-2, Mitchell Herbert 4-71-0, Keon Stephsn 4-37-0, Cameron Sutton 2-29-1, Justin Paige 2-9-0, Clark Judisch 1-15-0, Nick LaSane 1-11-0, Dylan Stenseth 1-4-0.
FIELD GOALS: Luke Daly 0-1, Gabe Peppenger 0-1
TURNOVERS: Balue Chapman 55 Int Ret for TD
Kevin Kassis 8 yard pass from Chris Murray (Luke Daly)
Cameron Sutton 7 yard pass from Tyler Bruggman (Gabe Peppenger)
Balue Chapman 55-yard interception return
Kevin Kassis 21 yard pass from Chris Murray (Devon Tandberg)
THIRD DOWNS: 5-for-13
FOURTH DOWNS: 1-for-3
TACKLES-FOR-LOSS: Jacob Hadley (2), Bryson McCabe, Bryce Alley, Josh Hill, Chris Harris
PASS BREAKUP: Adam Jordt