Live coverage as the Montana State Bobcats take on the North Dakota State Bison for the FCS Championship on Saturday January 8, 2022 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX.
PRE-GAME: Montana State (12-2), eighth seed and No.7, made its first national championship appearance since 1984, which is also the last time MSU has won a national title. The 2021 Bobcats will look to join the ’84, ’76 and ’56 teams on the program’s national champions list.
To do so, MSU will need to beat the second-seeded, No.3, North Dakota State, (13-1) in the Football Championship Division title match at 10 a.m. MT. Saturday. The Bisons have won eight of the last 10 FCS titles, most recently in 2019. They have won three straight games against the Cats, all in the FCS playoffs: 42-17 in the 2010 second round, 52-10 in the 2018 second round. and 42-14 in the 2019 semifinals.
MSU last beat NDSU 20-17 in 2005 and holds a 21-15 record against the Bison.
MSU is “as healthy as we have been since the start of the season,” MSU head coach Brent Vigen said on Friday. The Cats will be without defensive back Rylan Ortt and running back / back Jaharie Martin, MSU reported. Ortt filled in well for All-Big Sky’s nickel Ty Okada in the last two games, while Martin has been a solid tackle and special teams player.
Okada will be available on Saturday, Vigen said, as will All-American backer Isaiah Ifanse, All-American nose tackle Chase Benson, linebacker Nolan Askelson and running back and kicker Lane Sumner. Back-up defensive back Tyrel Thomas is also dressed and he lined up during the MSU races.
Returning to the NDSU, the NDSU will be made up of All-American kick receiver / returner Christian Watson, starting center Jalen Sundell, starting left goalie Nash Jensen and running back Dominic Gonnella.
The Bison are 7 1/2 point favorites.
FIRST QUARTER: The opening kickoff went out of bounds, giving the ball to MSU at the NDSU 35-yard line. MSU’s first play was an 18-yard pass from Tommy Mellott to Lance McCutcheon on a false run in the middle of Mellott. Mellott converted a third down and 1 three games later on a run down the middle.
Four games later, in the fourth and second, Blake Glessner lined up for a 45-yard field goal. Rather than kick, starter Bryce Leighton threw the ball at Glessner, who rolled to the right looking to pass. But Glessner was under pressure and had no open receivers, so he kicked and the ball bounced into the end zone with 11:49 left in the quarter.
NDSU took a 7-0 lead with 6 minutes, 48 ââminutes left in the quarterback on an eight-yard rush from Hunter Luepke. That topped an 11-play, 80-yard drive.
Mellott was injured at the end of the first practice and missed MSU’s next practice. Tucker Rovig replaced Mellott, who was limping and seemed to favor his right ankle, which coaches taped. Butte’s freshman got in and out of the injury tent and jogged to test his mobility.
Rovig converted two first downs, one on a 15-yard pass to Nate Stewart and a 19-yard rush. But MSU’s practice stalled in NDSU territory and Glessner missed a 43-yard wide basket on the right.
GOAL: North Dakota State 7, Montana State 0
SECOND QUARTER: Luepke scored his second touchdown on the opening play of the second quarter, an 11-yard rush with 14:56 left to give the NDSU a 14-0 lead.
Rovig was back on MSU’s next ride, while Mellott stood on the sidelines with headphones signaling. The Bobcats converted a first down but kicked off the next series.
NDSU went 21-0 with 10:50 left in the halftime on a 76-yard run from Kobe Johnson. As in the previous two discs, the NDSU offensive line opened a big hole in the middle.
On the first play of the next drive, Rovig threw a pass to the center which was intercepted by Dawson Weber.
The Cats forced a three-and-out on the next player, the first that didn’t end in a touchdown for the Bison. MSU recovered the ball with 8:41 left in the half.
On the third down and 12, Rovig completed a 30-yard pass to Lance McCutcheon near the seven-minute mark. That gave the Bozeman native 53 yards for the game and 1,166 for the season, breaking the program record for receiving yards in a single season. The best precedent was 1,149 in 1984 by Joe Bignell.
Luepke scored his third touchdown on a six-yard run with 32 seconds left in the first half.
The NDSU edged MSU 344-149 in total yards during the half, including 268-70 on ground. The Bison averaged 9.6 yards per carry, while MSU finished that half at 4.4.
Mellott missed the rest of the half after the first practice.
GOAL: North Dakota State 28, Montana State 0
THIRD QUARTER: NDSU took a 35-0 lead on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Cam Miller to Josh Babich with 12:34 left in the quarter.
MSU entered the board in the next practice with a 26-yard field goal from Glessner at 7:43, bringing the deficit to 35-3.
Three games before the field goal, MSU linebacker Troy Andersen lined up on offense alongside the tight end in an H-back / wing position. He recovered the ball but was tackled for a loss of three meters and he came back on the sidelines.
The Cats recovered the ball after forcing a punt, but a deep pass from Rovig in the fourth and a short, incomplete fall.
The NDSU regained the 35-point lead when Jake Reinholz netted a 37-yard field goal with 38 seconds left in the quarter.
GOAL: North Dakota State 38, Montana State 3
FOURTH TRIMESTER: MSU entered NDSU territory to start the fourth, but the practice ended with another turnover on the downs.
McCutcheon scored MSU’s first touchdown, a 28-yard pass from Rovig with 5:08 left to make it 38-10.