BOZEMAN — A week after being taken completely out of rhythm in a loss at Idaho, Montana State rose to the occasion to get back in the win column.
The offense scored on six of its first seven possessions, the defense stood tall and the No. 6-ranked Bobcats rolled over Northern Arizona 45-21 at home on Saturday. The win improved MSU’s record to 7-2 overall and to 5-1 in the Big Sky.
The Cats bounced back from last week’s 24-21 defeat at Idaho, a game in which the offense possessed the ball for fewer than 19 minutes and ran just 47 plays. Quarterback Tommy Mellott accounted for two touchdowns and running back Julius Davis found the end zone twice to lead the way against NAU.
Defensively, MSU had three quarterback sacks, seven tackles for loss and benefited from a second-half interception by Blake Stillwell. NAU managed just 100 rushing yards and 245 total offensive yards. With the victory, the Bobcats ran their home winning streak to 25 games.
"I really appreciate the effort, the intensity, that our guys came out with today," MSU coach Brent Vigen said. "It’s the only way you can move forward, don’t look back, try to do better than the last time, I guess, but more just be concerned about what can we do on this particular Saturday to put our best foot forward and I think we did that from the start.
"They made plays here and there, but we by and large did the things we wanted to. Right from the start, to be able to set the tone on that first drive, set the tone up front, set the tone getting to the perimeter a bunch that first drive, and cash in. Obviously that was our intention, then the defense was able to follow it up with a three-and-out and we were able to score again, and we were off and running from that point."
Turning point: In what was the strangest moment of the game, an inadvertent whistle sounded on what would have been a long touchdown run by NAU’s Coleman Owen with less than 5:00 left in the second quarter. The touchdown would have pulled the Lumberjacks within one score.
Instead, NAU turned the ball over on downs and the Bobcats went down the field and scored on a pretty 20-yard pass from Tommy Mellott to Ryan Lonergan for a 28-7 lead with 40 seconds left before halftime.
Stat of the game: Stymied against Idaho, the Bobcats got their running game cranked up again against the Lumberjacks. MSU rushed for 343 yards and averaged 7.3 yards per carry.
QB Sean Chambers and running back Scottre Humphrey each had rushing touchdowns for the Bobcats, who ran for five TDs total.
Bobcat game balls: QB Tommy Mellott (Offense). Mellott began the game with a rushing TD then made a great throw to Lonergan for another in the second quarter. Mellott passed for 126 yards and rushed for 107 more, both team highs.
LB McCade O’Reilly (Defense). O’Reilly led the defense with nine total tackles and also contributed to one of MSU’s three sacks. O’Reilly also had a quarterback hurry.
PK Casey Kautzman (Special teams). Kautzman, a redshirt freshman from Butte, took over placekicking duties from Brendan Hall and made a 42-yard field goal and was perfect on six point-after tries, a welcome change of pace for the special teams.
What’s next: The Bobcats will be home again next week to welcome longtime Big Sky rival Eastern Washington to Bozeman for the second-to-last regular-season game of the season.
The Eagles are 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the league following a 48-13 romp over Cal Poly on Saturday. Montana State has won two in a row against EWU. Each of those wins were decided by just three points.