BOZEMAN — The 121st Brawl of the Wild was a Bobcat blowout.
In the latest edition of the football rivalry between Montana State and Montana, the No. 3-ranked Cats ran wild to the tune of 439 yards in a convincing 55-21 victory over the No. 13-ranked Grizzlies in front of record Bobcat Stadium crowd of 22,037.
With the win, the Bobcats (10-1, 8-0 Big Sky) finished conference play undefeated for the first time since 1976 and earned at least a share of the league title for the first time since 2012. They will be a high seed for the FCS playoffs.
With the loss, Montana fell to 7-4 overall and 4-4 in the Big Sky. The Grizzlies will find out Sunday if they are a part of the playoff field or not.
Leading the way on the ground for MSU were QB Tommy Mellott (141 yards), running back Elijah Elliott (126 yards), QB Sean Chambers (86 yards) and receiver/running back Marqui Johnson (74 yards). The Cats rushed for five touchdowns.
Defensively, the Bobcats came away with three takeaways, including a third-quarter interception by defensive back Rylan Ortt, who sat out much of the season due to using a banned supplement.
Turning points: With the Bobcats leading 14-7 in the first quarter, Montana lined up to punt the ball but the snap sailed over the head of punter Patrick Rohrbach, who attempted to recover the ball in the end zone. Instead, MSU’s Jory Choate recovered it for an MSU touchdown to put the Bobcats ahead by two touchdowns with 3:13 left in the quarter.
In the second quarter, with the Griz trailing 28-7 but on the doorstep of a much-needed touchdown, Montana QB Lucas Johnson lost the ball on a fake handoff. The loose change was recovered by MSU’s Callahan O’Reilly on the 3-yard line with 4:51 before halftime.
Stat of the game: The stat that mattered most in this game was the Bobcats’ rushing totals. Behind MSU’s 439 total rushing yards was an average of 7.0 per carry. The Cats finished with 561 offensive yards and 32 first downs.
Game balls: MSU QB Tommy Mellott (offense). Mellott was again the catalyst for the Bobcats’ rushing attack. The Butte native finished with 141 rushing yards, and his two first-quarter TD runs set the tone for a Bobcat blowout.
MSU DL Blake Schmidt (defense). Not only did Schmidt help the Bobcats limit the Griz to 96 rushing yards, Schmidt also had a roll in pressuring Johnson, finishing with three tackles (one for loss), one sack and one QB hurry.
MSU LB Jory Choate (special teams). Choate has been one of the Bobcats’ most dedicated players through his career, and his was rewarded with his recovery for a TD on Montana’s errant punt snap in the first quarter.
What’s next: Now, we wait. The Bobcats are all but assured a top-three seed for the postseason and will have a first-round bye. The Grizzlies’ situation is a bit cloudy, though with seven Division I wins they are still very much alive for a playoff berth.
The 2022 FCS playoff bracket will be revealed on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Mountain time on ESPNU.