BOZEMAN – The Montana State football program released some bad news for Bobcat fans Wednesday as head coach Jeff Choate announced that starting quarterback Chris Murray will miss the entire 2018 season to focus on academics.
As much a this was a shock to the fan base, it was a scenario the Bobcat coaches and players knew and prepared for.
“This is not something that is a surprise. This is something we knew was a possibility and we didn’t get any closure on it until Monday, was when some final things kind of came down. And so we have prepared accordingly,” said Choate. “Chris was working out with the team, but he was not taking reps in player-run practices or seven-on-sevens. We had our other quarterbacks that were doing that, and we were moving forward as if this scenario were to play out. Chris was on board with that.”
But just preparing doesn’t make the pill easier to swallow.
“Let me be clear: Obviously he’s our starting quarterback. This is a big loss,” Choate said. “It’s not like we ignored him. We did everything we could to support him and make sure he was in a position to succeed academically.”
In his sophomore season, Murray threw for 1,597 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also led the Bobcats in rushing with 1,124 yards and 10 touchdowns, making him only the third quarterback in the Big Sky Conference to ever rush for more than 1,000 yards in a single season.
Choate said Murray understood that only he put himself in this situation and has accepted the consequences that come with it, and now it’s time for the junior to turn things around.
“I think that this is a great opportunity for him to grow as a man. I have a lot of confidence that this is going to be a defining moment in a positive way for him,” said Choate. “And it’s funny how things work out in life, sometimes you can turn a setback into a comeback. And if he handles it the right way he will be able to tell this story with pride.”
Now it’s time for a quarterback competition. The coaches are excited for the opportunity to see the signal-callers battle it out for the first time.
The Bobcats have been in what Choate referred to as a “quarterback by default” mode in his first two seasons. Dakota Prukop left to go to Oregon, and transfer Tyler Bruggman, a talent that bounced around from big schools like Washington State and Louisville, took over. Murray then took over for Bruggman midway through his freshman year.
“Now we’re going to have a situation where we can have a true quarterback competition, and I think that’s going to be healthy for our team,” Choate said.
The Bobcats prepared for the Murray news early by bringing in some big arms like freshman Casey Bauman. And they still have a talented young quarterback in redshirt freshman Tucker Rovig, who took a lot of reps during the spring. But many eyes this summer will be watching former Oregon transfer Travis Jonsen.
Jonsen is what Choate called a “wild card” because the coaching staff has yet to see him participate in any drills yet. Jonsen fractured his ankle a few weeks before spring camp after he slipped on the ice on campus. The Cats were cautious to bring him up to speed. Wednesday marked the first day that Jonsen was cleared to take full team reps in a player-run practice.
“I’ve heard snippets here and there from players about the (playe- run practices). He’s a tremendous athlete,” Choate said of Jonsen just from what he has seen on game tape. “He definitely looks the part and he’s a solid young man. I think it’s going to be a really good competition.
That competition will begin right as camp opens up on Aug. 3.