POCATELLO, Idaho – The Montana State Bobcats trailed by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter against Idaho State and nearly pulled out a win in Holt Arena on Saturday.
Ultimately, though, the Bengals held off the Bobcats’ late rally for a 24-17 Big Sky Conference football win.
The Cats scored on the opening drive of the game but then didn’t see another point come their way until their defense came alive in the final 15 minutes.
MSU cornerback Damien Washington forced a fumble from Bengals receiver Michael Dean right in the beginning of the fourth quarter, which Brayden Konkol recovered. A few plays later, Montana State ended its scoring drought when quarterback Troy Andersen bolted for a 33-yard score, cutting the deficit to 24-14.
And that was the turning point.
“The defense gave us some life,” said MSU head coach Jeff Choate. “That takeaway was clearly a momentum swing for us to be able to go down and get points off of that, and that re-energized the sideline and the guys got a new level of focus and went out and competed hard.”
That determination to win from the defense showed up once again on the next possession when Jahque Alleyne, who has four interceptions this season, stripped the ball from Idaho quarterback Tanner Gueller.
Konkol once again dove on the ball. The Belgrade native finished with six tackles and two fumble recoveries. That led to an MSU field goal, making it a one-possession game.
“I think our guys were just going after the ball with reckless abandonment. I mean, they were digging on the ball,” said Choate. “Those guys have done a nice job the last couple of weeks at taking the ball away from the opponent, and they continued to do that (Saturday).”
With less than two minutes to play, MSU found itself on the ISU 16-yard line with a chance to tie the game. But the Bobcats came up 1 yard short of a first down, and Idaho State took the ball away and bled out the final 1:24 left in the game.
For Montana State, which now sits at 4-4, letting this game slip away was crucial for when thinking about the future of the season.
“It’s just one game at a time, but, you know, this one was huge for us. We had to win out to have a shot at the playoffs, I think. We just put everything we had into this one, and it really hurts to lose it,” said Andersen.
But there is some silver lining wrapped around this tough loss for Montana State.
“It’s been one of the first times where we have been down and finally fought back and rallied back, and I think that’s a positive we can take out of this,” said wide receiver Kevin Kassis. “It didn’t come out the way we wanted it to come out, but I applauded the O-Line, Troy and the defense for having two great takeaways at the end. It’s just a great effort. It’s unfortunate, but, you know, that’s football.”
Montana State will look to bounce back Saturday, Nov. 3 as it welcomes Cal Poly to Bobcat Stadium at 2 p.m.