Bobcats head west for showdown with Hornets

BOZEMAN — As Montana State’s important showdown looms at Hornet Stadium Saturday, it’s hard not to wonder how Sacramento State would be viewed nationally if it called the eastern time zone home.

The Hornets enter Saturday’s game with a 6-3 record, better than four nationally-ranked teams and the same as three others. Sac State owns a win over Colorado of the Big 12 and 16th-ranked (this week) Cal Poly, and a near-miss over then-no. one Eastern Washington. One of the Hornets’ losses is is to FBS entry New Mexico State.

Regardless of rankings, however, Montana State coach Rob Ash knows his third-ranked Bobcats will have plenty on their plate Saturday. “Sacramento State is a very good football team, and a difficult team to prepare for,” said MSU’s sixth-year head coach. “Coach (Marshall) Sperbeck has put together an offense that is very efficient in moving the ball and keeping it away from the other team, and a defense that brings pressure from a lot of different places.”

The Hornets are led offensively by sophomore quarterback Garrett Safron, whose passing accuracy and mobility has him fifth in the league in total offense at 256.7 yards per game. Safron has a strong ground game, with Ezekiel Graham gaining 77 yards a game, and an array of weapons on the perimeter led by receiver Morris Norrise, who catches five-and-a-half passes a game for nearly 67 yards a game.

Ash says his team’s formula for slowing down Sac State’s potent offense remains the same as last week, when the team held North Dakota’s high-flying attack to 180 yards and nine first downs. “It’s really a team effort on defense. Up front, the player that gets single coverage in pass situations has been able to win that one-on-one and make a play, and our linebackers have been a big part of that. But a lot of that is due to good coverage on the back end. It all ties in together.”

Montana State’s offense also bring firepower into Saturday’s matchup, which kicks off at 5:15 pm MT on ROOT Sports across Montana. Led by quarterback DeNarius McGhee and a balanced ground game, the Bobcats lead the Big Sky in scoring offense, and stand second in total offense. McGhee throws for over 270 yards a game, but his main characteristic as Montana State’s third-year quarterback is to lead his team into the winner’s circle. McGhee owns 26 wins as Montana State’s starting quarterback, tied with Paul Dennehy for the most in MSU history.

— MSU Sports Information