BOZEMAN — It seems that Montana State’s schedule will never let up.
For the fourth time in as many games, the Bobcats are preparing for a ranked opponent, this time No. 20 Weber State, a team head coach Jeff Choate has the utmost respect for.
“I think they’re the best team in the Big Sky Conference right now,” he said at his weekly press conference on Monday morning. “If we’re handing out trophies today, I think that Weber State would get that trophy.”
The Wildcats make a great case, as their schedule backs Choate’s sentiments. The team is 3-1 heading into its third Big Sky Conference matchup, with its only loss coming to the Pac-12’s University of California. Weber tested Cal the entire game before the Golden Bears pulled away to a 33-20 victory in Berkeley. The three wins come against Montana Western (76-0), at Sacramento State (31-24) and UC-Davis (41-3).
The common denominator? Montana State’s opponent knows how to put points on the board against anybody.
“(They have a) really balanced offense,” Choate explained. “(Their) quarterback is a run threat (and) pass threat, they’ve got tight ends, they’ve got receivers, they’ve got running backs, and they’ve got a big, physical offensive line.”
The Bobcats’ head man says Weber pass catchers Andrew Vollert and Rashid Shaheed will be the two most important players to keep an eye on on Saturday.
“(Vollert) is kind of a receiver downfield,” Choate said of the Wildcats’ tight end. “If the quarterback puts the ball anywhere in his catch radius — even if he’s not open, he’s open.”
Weber’s top receiver in terms of yardage is Shaheed, who has compiled an astounding 326 yards on just nine catches (36.2 yards per catch). Choate says Shaheed is a prime example of what makes Weber stand out from the rest of the conference.
“They have the best team speed that I’ve seen on film,” he said, “whether it’s in the kicking game, on offense with their ability to stretch (the field), or how they fly to the ball.”
But Montana State has shown that it’s certainly no slouch, either. The Bobcats are coming off of a huge 49-21 win against last season’s Big Sky co-champions in the University of North Dakota.
“It was an excellent team win,” Choate said. “I think that our guys played extremely well, really, in all three phases. I didn’t feel like there was an area where we were really exposed.”
A pleasant surprise against the Fighting Hawks was a strong rushing attack, bolstered by a much-improved offensive line. The Bobcats ran for 341 yards, after totaling just more than half of that in the game against South Dakota State.
Along with proposing a dual-threat to the Wildcat defense, MSU has the luxury of the 12th man on its side.
“(It) seems like it’s been a long time since we’ve had a home game,” Choate said. “I’m looking forward to having them at our house. I do think that’s an advantage for us and I think our guys will come out with the appropriate amount of energy.”
It is Homecoming Weekend in Bozeman, and the Bobcats and Wildcats will kick off at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.