(Editor’s Note: Montana State sports information release)
BOZEMAN — Jeff Choate’s first thought on his team’s 2018 Sonny Holland Classic spring scrimmage Saturday said it all.
“I’m glad it’s over,” Choate said, finishing that sentiment moments later. “We got out of it without any serious injuries. That was my number one objective. All the guys that are going to play for us in the fall are going to play for us in the fall still, and last year at this time that wasn’t the case.” The 2017 Bobcats lost two probable starters late in spring drills a year ago.
Montana State’s defense came to play on Saturday, forcing a turnover and limiting the offense to 259 yards on 75 plays. That began in the day’s first live period with drives beginning 12 yards from paydirt. “The defense came out with a little more focus and intensity than the offense did,” Choate said. “That showed up early in the red zone period.”
Quarterback Chris Murray threw for 87 yards and rushed for four, and he agreed with his head coach. “I thought the defense came out with really good energy and effort,” he said. Murray marched the Bobcat offense a couple of times, leading the team on a 49-yard drive the resulted in a Tristan Bailey 25-yard field goal, then finishing a 65-yard drive the next time the top offense was on the field with a seven-yard scoring pass to Kevin Kassis.
“I knew once they lined up in man straight across from trips, I was like, out-breaking route, it’s over,” said freshman receiver Willie Patterson, who called that scoring play from his position in the slot. “I scored on that in the scrimmage last week.”
The Bobcat defense registered three sacks – by Zach Wright, Bryce Sterk and Chad Kanow – and Tadan Gilman intercepted a Tucker Rovig pass. One of the day’s signature moments came when Patterson took a pitch on a quick sweep and linebacker Troy Andersen ran him down from behind for a three-yard loss. “I saw Chris pitch it and I know Willie’s pretty fast so I knew I’d have to get there fast to catch him,” Andersen said. “Luckily I did.”
Patterson caught four passes for 45 yards, carrying three times for 19 yards, and drew praise from his quarterback. “He’s definitely a good player,” Murray said of Patterson, “definitely a smart player. He’s one of our best receivers at understanding coverages.”
Logan Jones led all ball-carriers with 58 yards, while Tyler Natee added 19 and Karl Tucker II 15. Coy Steel also caught four passes, while Kassis added three. The quarterback run game, a staple of MSU’s offense, was mostly written out of Saturday’s game plan. Kicker Tristan Bailey, who arrived at MSU in January, was a bright spot. He nailed three of his four field goal tries, including one from 53 yards. “Tristan has a strong leg,” Choate said. “You can see that pretty easily.”
As the team closed spring drills for all intents and purposes – only one player-run practice next Thursday and a kids clinic in Great Falls on Saturday remain – Patterson summed up the spring perfectly.
“We have a lot to work on,” he said, “but we also walk away happy.”