BOZEMAN — Montana State fielded a perfectly balanced offensive attack on Saturday.
The Bobcats piled up a season-high 552 yards -- with both the passing and rushing game accounting for an even 276 yards -- as No. 11 MSU rolled to a 40-7 victory over Northern Colorado at Bobcat Stadium to improve to 4-1 overall, 2-0 in the Big Sky Conference and extended its win streak to four games. Photo Gallery can be found here.
“That's a team that’s got talent that’s getting better and better," said Bobcats head coach Brent Vigen about UNC. "We really came out of the gates, held them in check and fortunately we were able to open it up a little more in the second half.”
Quarterback Matt McKay threw for two touchdowns -- a 16-yard score to Lance McCutcheon on MSU's opening drive and a 44-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Patterson in the fourth quarter for the game's final score -- had no turnovers and wasn't sacked.
"What occurs is Lance is hard to cover," Vigen said about getting the ball in McCutcheon's hands. "When you have a receiver that's hard to cover it makes those throws much more desirable. Some are really easy some are really challenging. It'll be a matchup we continue to go after, especially when people want to play single-coverage on Lance.
Isaiah Ifanse led the Bobcats' rushing attack, piling up a game-high 114 yards and scoring on a 17-yard touchdown run at the end of the second quarter. Freshman running back Elijah Elliott also crossed the century mark, totaling 107 yards on the ground on 11 attempts including a 56-yard run in the third quarter.
After McKay and McCutcheon connected for the first score of the game, MSU junior linebacker Callahan O'Reilly intercepted UNC quarterback Dylan McCaffrey on the Bears fourth play of the game.
"It felt awesome. It was just nice making a play to start the game," said O'Reilly. (Linebackers coach Bobby Daly) kind of put some pressure on me and (Troy Andersen) to start the game fast and I think we did that."
The Bobcats quickly capitalized, scoring just over two minutes later on another touchdown from McCutcheon, this one a 10-yard run to give MSU a 14-point lead midway through the first quarter.
Bobcats' kicker Blake Glessner then tacked on a pair of field goals from 25 and 30 yards to give MSU a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter.
UNC's lone score of the game came on a 7-yard touchdown pass from McCaffrey to Kassidy Woods with 2:06 remaining in the half. The Bobcats responded before the half with a quick three-play, 47-yard drive that ended with Ifanse's touchdown and again gave MSU a 20-point lead the Bobcats headed into the half up 27-7.
Glessner, who finished the game with four field goals and four extra points, added two more field goals in the third quarter (41 and 21 yards) and McKay hit Patterson for the final score with 1:37 remaining in the third.
Ty Okada paced the MSU defense with 10 total tackles, two tackles for loss and an interception. Defensive back Eric Zambrano also picked off a pass to give MSU three turnovers. The Bobcats defense limited UNC to 233 total yards and allowed McCaffrey to complete only 15 of his 30 pass attempts.
“Defense keeping them at seven -- that’s got to be our foundation,” Vigen said. “Being able to stop the run and getting after the quarterback and I thought we did that pretty well today.”
Montana State will host Cal Poly next week for the Bobcats homecoming game while the Bears will welcome in No. 6 Eastern Washington.