Bobcats capitalize on Bryant mistakes for 27-24 win

Bobcats capitalize on Bryant mistakes for 27-24 win

BOZEMAN — Jeff Choate’s question to his offensive line coach was simple. The answer was emphatic.

“I asked Brian (Armstrong), what (play) do you want, and he says 27 Extra, let’s go,” Choate said after Montana State beat Bryant 27-24 in gold-splashed Bobcat Stadium on a sunny afternoon Saturday. “We’re running it right behind Dylan (Mahoney) and JP (Flynn) and giving it to Gunnar (Brekke), so I felt pretty good about that. If our offensive line coach has that much confidence, let’s roll with it.” Stats

Brekke plowed straight ahead for two yards on fourth-and-one with 72 seconds to play, boosting the Bobcats to their first win of the season and giving Choate his first victory as a head coach.

Brekke said the game-clinching run, and the 78 yards he rumbled for before it in his season debut, was fun. “That’s winning time,” the senior said the last carry. “If you don’t want the ball in that situation as a player and as a team there’s something wrong with you.”

There was not much wrong with Montana State’s offensive efficiency Saturday. The Bobcats gained only 265 yards, but did not turn the ball over and committed only two offensive penalties. Choate said that mistake-free play was crucial. “The one time we had to make a play on offense,” he said, referring to Brekke’s fourth-down conversion, “we did. On fourth down on the 48-yard line to win the game and get into the victory situation.”

Conversely, Bryant gained 452 yards of total offense. But the Bulldogs turned the ball over five times. “Really it would be six if you counted the bad snap on the punt” that gave MSU the ball at the Bryant nine-yard line, setting up a touchdown early in the third quarter.

Bryant’s offensive effectiveness didn’t surprise Choate. “This is exactly who we saw on film,” he said. “It’s nothing that blows you out of the water then all of a sudden they hit an over route on third-and-long and you’re going, what the heck is going on here?”

The first team from Rhode Island to visit Bobcat Stadium since 1984, when the Cats toppled the University of Rhode Island in thrilling fashion to advance to the Division I-AA Championship Game, Bryant started quickly. The Bulldogs’ Ricky Perez nailed a 51-yard field goal on the team’s first offensive possession, then carried that lead into the second quarter.

But MSU responded Johnny D’Agostino caught a 10-yard scoring strike from Tyler Bruggman. Then Bruggman connected with Mitch Herbert on a 27-yard pass to give MSU a 14-3 lead in the second quarter. Bryant scored in the last minute of the half on a 27-yard Dalton Easton pass to cut into MSU’s lead.

Brekke scored from four yards out after Bryant’s botched punt early in the third quarter, but Matt Sewall’s two-yard run drew Bryant back to within 21-17. A one-yard Nick LaSane run late in the third pushed MSU’s lead to 27-17, but Jean Constant caught a 40-yarder from Easton midway through the fourth quarter to close the scoring. Montana State ran for 84 yards on Saturday, riding Brekke on 17 of the team’s 35 rushes in the absence of senior Chad Newell, out with an injury.

Choate said two of the game’s key moments belonged to Bryant, but the manner in which his team responded gave the Cats the opportunity to win. “The fake field goal, the on-side kick, and the fourth-down call. They didn’t get any points out of the on-side kick, so that tells you how they responded. That tells our offense we don’t have to go out and score on every possession. Do we have to improve? Heck yeah we have to improve on that phase. We need to take some pressure off the defense, but we’re going to be a team regardless. We’ll rise as a team, we’ll fall as a team, that’s just the way it’s going to be around here.”

The formula, Choate said, is simple. “Our guys made the plays they had to make to win the game.”

Montana State is 1-1 on the season, and remains at home next week to face Western Oregon. Kickoff is 2 p.m.

— MSU Sports Information

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