The view on Saturday from Pluto at Bobcat Stadium honed in on an observation that seemed to grow less and less unlikely as the score expanded to 24-0.
A player had become so influential pertaining to this game that his affect was equally devastating to the opposition by not being there as it could very well have been if he’d been able to play.
Naw, really? It came out 48-14, Bobcats over Grizzlies and Troy Andersen didn’t even suit up for the game. Montana State’s best player couldn’t play.
The Montana defense was left to try to tackle his reputation, the UM offense couldn’t sidestep last year’s memory. Andersen was out with a leg injury. It was serious enough to shackle him to the sidelines, keeping the 6-foot-4, 230-pound junior stalwart from Dillon at many positions, from seeing action in the college football game that every in-stater passionately wants to play.
So, it was as that lead the Bobcats began building, drawing first blood on a Kevin Kassis end-around touchdown after Belgrade product Derek Marks recovered a Griz fumble on the Montana 18-yard line, that the thought began to form.
The seat was courtesy of daughter and son-in-law, season ticket-holders and their group on the very top row of completely filled Bobcat Stadium in the southwest corner of the stands. Obviously, there can’t be a bad view in the place as this one sufficed quite nicely.
So choosing to watch this one as a fan, the pressbox chatter and postgame back-and-forths were unavailable. The reliance was on reaction and observation.
With each Montana miss, every miscue, series of failed attempts to stay in the game on either side of the ball, that the focus became clearer. Andersen scored three touchdowns as a quarterback and running back on offense versus Montana last year, when the Bobcats had won their third straight game in the intense rivalry. He was a wrecking crew himself playing linebacker on defense, too.
This year, even as words floated through the Big Sky Country air that Andersen was banged up and that thoughts of redshirting were hot preseason rumors to accommodate healing that was in process last season, the player was still good, really good. He’d gathered 9 ½ tackles for loss and 5 ½ sacks in Montana State’s last six games, He’d also run for seven touchdowns and rushed for more than 300 yards this year, despite being assigned mostly to the defensive side of the ball
The Grizzlies were sure they knew who they really needed to stop and who they really needed to block if they were to win a road game against a top 10-ranked opponent in one of the fiercest of all college football rivalries.
However, they couldn’t find him.
UM head coach Bobby Hauck was reported to have said in the post-game press conference that he and his coaches spent most of the week preparing the team for Andersen.
So, when he wasn’t a factor in presence, he became one in absence because a befuddled Grizzly contingent was unable to adjust.
The sidelining of Andersen wasn’t publicly announced by Montana State head coach Jeff Choate until Friday evening. The Bobcats had been preparing to play without him since Monday, according to a mention.
When former Belgrade quarterback Brayden Konkol — on a backward lunge — picked off a Dalton Sneed pass while starring at safety for MSU, the Cats were on their way to the 48-14 final and rebuffing the Grizzlies’ last chance at comeback, so slim as it was.
Tucker Rovig executed just fine at quarterback for the Bobcats and running backs Isaiah Ifanse and Logan Jones churned the turf for MSU’s stingy ball control. The Cats had the ball for almost 20 more plays than the Griz.
Butte Central alum Marcus Ferriter was credited with three tackles for MSU while playing defensive end, though it seemed like he was in the thick of the action much more than what showed up in the stats. His run contain was exceptionally good. He got to introduce himself to Sneed a couple of times, too, though he wasn’t awarded a sack.
Dylan Cook played left tackle as the starter on the UM offensive line. The 6-6, 285-pound sophomore from Butte High has made a quick switch after his quarterbacking days for both the Bulldogs and then at Montana State-Northern where he began his college career before transferring. The line, as a unit, had a tough time with six sacks allowed on Saturday. The fast progress Cook is making though reflects dedication, unselfishness and football IQ. Word is the Grizzly coaches would like to see him pack his muscle and weight to above the 300-pound level.
Football supplied the emotion in the potion, though, for the weekend in these parts, particularly factoring in what we experienced Friday night as one of the 10,000 in attendance at Naranche Stadium. We got to see, in the 49-28 Bozeman state Class AA championship win over Butte High, future Cat-Griz performers in Griz recruit Asher Croy of the Hawks and the Bulldogs’ own Tommy Mellott, an MSU commit, as prime performers. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see these huddles break out a few more members for the state’s bigger programs, either. Some really good players lined up this weekend. Recruits such as these ensure the continuation of a competitive rivalry.
Among those traversing the sidelines at Naranche were former UM head coach Mick Delaney, current Seattle Seahawk tight end and Bozeman native Will Dissly (currently pinned to the NFL’s injured reserve) and former NFL safety Colt Anderson of Butte, who volunteers with the Bulldogs. The 1991 Bulldog state champs were represented, too, with defensive end Jeremy Whitlock supporting from the Butte High side of the field.
Expect quite a bit of unity blossoming the next couple of week with fifth-seeded Montana State and sixth-seeded Montana both being chosen for the NCAA FCS Playoffs. They’re in opposite brackets, too, lending to the possibility of a Cat-Griz rematch — for the national championship in January in Frisco, Texas.
Ponder that a moment. It’s a good bet you could hear that crowd from Pluto.