By Zach Walker
Let’s me start by saying my prediction was completely wrong, 52-17, pretty dumb in hindsight. I had no idea the type of team Montana State was nor what they could do. The key to the game for Montana State: use their running game to keep the pass happy Mustangs off the field and melt the clock away. Solid strategy, but could the Bobcats stick to the game plan throughout the entire game and win? Yes. Montana State’s running back Cody Kirk did serious damage against the Mustangs, scoring two redzone touchdowns off of 29 carries for 107 yards. His average might have been just 3.7 yards per carry, but he ran effectively, and with authority. DeNarius McGhee played smart, efficient football and hit whatever the defense gave him, and on third downs later in the game, he was looking for Tanner Bleskin, who is a 6’3” 218 pound receiver, who finished with five catches for 73 yards.
On defense, linebacker Alex Singleton was a serious force against SMU, he was flying all over the field racking up 11 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and getting to Garrett Gilbert for 2.5 sacks. The guy must be the Big Sky conference’s defensive player of the week. And sticking with the Big Sky and my admission at the beginning, Montana State is a division 1 school, just FCS 1-AA, and they were the number 3 team in FCS coming in. And the FCS teams love to knock an FBS school off track, just ask Kansas State…
SMU left a lot of points on the field, an untimely fumbles in the redzone, an unbelievably high 11 penalties, and only three out-of five in the redzone. But the Mustangs wouldn’t be without game breaking plays. Beau Barnes, Stephon Sanders, and Robert Seals would come up with big stops on consecutive plays force a punt with 14 seconds left in the half, and with the Mustangs needing a solid return to set up Chase Hover for a field goal to cut the lead to a touchdown, JaBryce Taylor was more ambitious, taking the punt 55 yards straight through the center of the field for a touchdown, it was the momentum needed to get SMU’s confidence up.
Montana State would score on the opening possession of the second half, but the ground game that carried the Bobcats to the 30-19 lead would be completely shut down in the fourth quarter, actually losing a yard on ten carries in the fourth. And the gut-check would continue on a spectacular 13 play, 81 yard that would effectively kill the rest of the clock. Garrett Gilbert would hit four different receivers and only miss one pass on the drive, but the biggest play of the drive, outside of the touchdown throw to Darius Joseph, was the 16 yard run by K.C. Nlemchi on a 3rd and 4, and for a third running back to step into a game, have success (6.8 average on 8 carries) and know to get the first and get out of bounds when the clock is breathing down the team’s collective neck, is massively impressive. Garrett Gilbert showed extreme poise in the pocket on the final play, going through his reads calmly and finding the best option which was the hot hand Darius Joseph, who had 12 catches and 113 yards and has 23 catches and 244 yards through two games.
Post Game Quotes
Coach Jones on Gilbert’s pocket confidence: “Watching him tonight, he stood in the there a little bit more than he has in previous games. Even the very long throw that he completed to Jeremy (Johnson, 66 yards), in games past I think he would have pulled it down and run because we didn’t block the edge. He just kind of slid and kept his vision, made a big play and then he took a hit”
QB Garrett Gilbert on if his first touchdown pass of the season was made anymore special because it was the game-winner: “Would have liked for it to have been earlier, like last week, but we’ll take it. However we would have scored on that last drive would have been great, regardless.”
Safety Jay Scott on Montana State’s ground game: “People just need to stay in their gaps. We were at the ball, it was just missing tackles. If people make that first tackle then we will be fine.”
This Week: SMU is off
Next Game: SMU at Texas A&M, after the Alabama game, which could either be a difficult game, if A&M wins, or an impossible game, if they lose…