BOZEMAN — 6-1 Montana State takes on 1-5 Idaho State at home this Saturday. Despite a huge upset win over 10th ranked UC Davis, the Bengals are a team still searching for their identity, says Idaho State Journal sports reporter Jordan Kaye.
“All these games that they’ve lost have been because they’ve been getting killed in the turnover margin and that UC Davis (game) was the first one where they were actually winning the turnover margin," Kaye said. "They had no interceptions coming into that game. They ended up getting three that game and didn’t throw a pick. That’s the story of the game.”
Freshman quarterback Hunter Hays has been thrust into a starting role after an injury to junior starter Tyler Vander Waal, who went down in late September against Sacramento State. Hays has thrown for 781 passing yards, five touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
“I think he’s just a young quarterback that wasn’t expected to play this year," Kaye said. "A lot of his struggles kind of stem from not being able to get the ball out quick enough. Some of that leads to bad sacks. Some that leads to throwing passes that he probably shouldn’t that ended up as interceptions.”
He does have a good target to throw to in first-team all-Big Sky senior wide receiver Tanner Conner. He has 19 receptions for 363 receiving yards and three touchdowns on the year.
“Tanner Conner does have really good route running ability, good job getting open," Kaye said. "I think some people are like any way you can get the ball into Tanner Conner’s hands --- he should be the safety blanket for Hunter Hays.”
It’s unknown if sophomore running back Malakai Rango will be able to play this week after missing their last game due to injury. Freshman Tyevin Ford took over the starting duty last week against Portland State. Ford is averaging 4.8 yards per carry this season.
“Ford has really come on in the last two weeks," said Kaye. "He’s kind of just a real hard-nosed runner. He’s a tough runner who seems to find holes and can break into the second level of a defense.”
The Bengals defense ranks 97th giving up 33 points per game. However, they do have some linebackers that can do some damage.
“Oshea Trujillo who’s kind of a playmaker. He seems to be around the ball a lot. Has the ability to force fumbles and get interceptions. Connor Wills is a really good linebacker who I think is top 10 in the Big Sky in tackles. Dude seems to just fly to the ball every play.”
Kaye is picking the Bobcats to win this one:
“I’m going to say 38-21, Montana State,” said the Idaho State Journal sports reporter.
Montana State looks to win their seventh-straight game starting at 1 p.m. this Saturday.