BOZEMAN — Lane Sumner rushed for a career-high 176 yards, quarterbacks Tommy Mellott and Sean Chambers accounted for five touchdowns and Montana State won its Gold Rush season opener Saturday night 40-17 over McNeese State at Bobcat Stadium.
Mellott, who quarterbacked MSU during its run to the FCS championship game last year, threw two touchdowns and ran for another. Chambers, a transfer from Wyoming, rushed for two scores.
After a scoreless first quarter, Chambers got the game’s first touchdown on a 3-yard run. McNeese State answered quickly on the following possession, as D’Angelo Durham scampered 75 yards to the end zone to tie it. But the Cowboys didn’t score another TD until the fourth quarter when Josh Matthews had a 66-yard catch and run on a pass from QB Knox Kadum.
PHOTOS: NO. 4 MONTANA STATE OVERPOWERS MCNEESE STATE IN OPENER
Penalties wiped out two would-be touchdowns by the Bobcats – a 52-yard run Sumner in the first quarter and an interception return by linebacker Callahan O’Reilly in the third.
O’Reilly had another interception in the fourth quarter when he picked off Knox near midfield. Mellott then scored on a broken play to put MSU ahead 40-17.
Turning point: With the game tied 10-10 late in the second quarter, Lane Sumner muscled forward to move the chains on third down, which led to a 17-yard touchdown pass between quarterback Tommy Mellott and wideout Willie Patterson.
Mellott lofted the ball toward the back corner of the end zone, where Patterson out-leaped a defender and hauled it in to give the Bobcats a 17-10 lead just before halftime.
The Bobcats then got the ball first in the third quarter and got a 42-yard field goal from Blake Glessner to take a two-possession advantage, 20-10. The lead eventually grew to 33-10.
Stat of the game: The Bobcats’ passing game scuffled a bit early but there was no stopping the ground game. MSU was closing in on 300 rushing yards late in the fourth quarter and finished with 541 yards of total offense.
Mellott did finish 8-of-16 passing for 152 yards and did not throw an interception.
Game balls: Lane Sumner (offense). Subbing for injured star running back Isaiah Ifanse, Sumner, a 192-pound junior out of Huntley Project, led the charge on offense. He had 176 yards on 24 attempts, an average of 7.3 yards a pop. Sumner’s previous career high was 113 yards in a game against Norfolk State way back in 2019. Last season, Sumner carried the ball just 40 times last season for 141 yards.
Sebastian Valdez (defense). MSU gave up a handful of chunk plays, but Valdez was a force on the defensive line, finishing with 1½ of the team’s five sacks and also forced a fumble. Valdez made one of the biggest defensive plays when he sacked Knox Kadum on a fourth-down play to give the ball back to the offense with the Bobcats leading 33-17.
Blake Glessner (special teams). Though he missed an extra point try in the third quarter and a 54-yard field goal try in the fourth, Glessner connected on two previous field goal attempts, the first from 36 yards and the second from 42. Glessner is coming off a stellar freshman season in 2021, when he made 20 field goals and 48 of 51 PATs.
What’s next: Next week, MSU will welcome Morehead State of the Pioneer Football League to Bobcat Stadium. Game time is set for 1:30 p.m.
Morehead State is coached by Rob Tenyer. The Eagles lost their season opener 63-13 at Mercer on Aug. 27.