BOZEMAN — The Montana State Bobcats opened up their season at home with a 26-23 win over the Missouri Valley Conference’s Western Illinois on Thursday. There isn’t a better word to describe the game than “grit.”
“Big win for our program. We haven’t been in that situation and closed the door against a good team,” third-year Montana State coach Jeff Choate said after the game on Saturday. “We will enjoy this for 24 hours and get back to work.”
The story going into the night was who would start at quarterback. Announced before the game, it was Dillon native Troy Andersen who got the start. After shaking the first-game jitters, which amounted to just four passing yards in the first half, Andersen showed what he was made of in the second, finishing the game with 81 yards through the air and 145 on the ground.
“I kind of take it one play at a time, take a breath before each play,” Andersen said. “Trust our offensive line to do a good job. Our receivers did a good job of blocking and catching the ball. Trying to trust the teammates, trust the coaching, go out and make plays.”
The Bobcats were also dominant on the other side of the ball, thanks in part to the defensive duo of Bryce Sterk and Tyrone Fa’anono, who had 14 tackles and three sacks between them.
“I thought Bryce found out what he was capable of,” Choate said of Sterk’s performance. “I think he was easing into it a little, but when he turns it loose he’s something.”
“But I think the guy that held it together was Tyrone, just with his leadership and his ability to make plays in critical moments in the games,” Choate added.
But the player of the game might have been kicker Tristan Bailey, who kept the Bobcats close with four impressive field goals, including one from 50 yards and one from 47.
“It’s all mental, it’s not all about physical ability,” Bailey said of his kicking strategy. “I know I have the physical ability, but it comes down to the mental ability and have positive thoughts the entire time and know you can do it.”
The Bobcats have an extended week to rest up and will next be on the road at South Dakota State on Sept. 8.