BOZEMAN – The Montana State Bobcats are in the FCS football playoffs for the first time since 2014 as they take on the University of Incarnate Word on Saturday. It’s win-or-go-home now, and the Bobcats are excited to get to play one more time in front of their fans.
“I think your objective should always be to win your last game, and, for right now, this is the last game we got, guaranteed. So we need to have the right mindset and understand that there’s going to be a different level of pressure,” said Montana State head coach Jeff Choate.
Incarnate Word (6-4) is only one of three teams to make it into the playoffs with six wins, but the Cardinals are nothing to scoff at. UIW boasts the eighth-most powerful offense in the FCS.
But the Cardinals will be without star quarterback Jon Copeland, who has thrown for 2,984 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. However, they have an experienced backup in Sean Brophy, who played in 11 games in 2017.
“The one thing we probably won’t do as much is move the pocket. Jon is so good out of the pocket throwing on the run, can kind of extend plays and do some stuff. And Sean is more of a prototypical, in-the-pocket guy,” said Incarnate Word head coach Eric Morris. “It’s going to be key that we can establish a run game to slow the pass rush down.”
Incarnate Word averages 34 points per game, and Choate has his finger on the pulse when it comes to a game plan to stop the Cardinals.
“Explosive plays are going to be one of the things you have to eliminate, because they’re going to get their yards. They’re going to catch a lot of footballs, they want to complete the ball at a high percentage. We have to try to make them one-dimensional. Against these guys, they are balanced, so you have to be good against the run first a foremost, that’s where it always starts,” said Choate.
So much has been said about a team from Texas, where it’s constantly sunny weather during the winter months, coming up to play in the cold Treasure State, but both sides know the weather won’t be a big factor.
“A lot of people say that when teams come up from the south and don’t play in snow, they get excited. It hypes them up that they get to play in weather like that, they get to play in snow. Kennesaw State came up here last year and it was a snowy cold game and it didn’t seem to faze them at all,” said MSU defensive lineman Tucker Yates.
“It’s whether we can go out there and not pay attention to it and play our game and if we are going to use it as a crush and an excuse,” said Morris. “We should be fired up and that fact that we’re still playing in postseason after a great year, if you can’t get fired up for that, then we don’t deserve to continue on.”
The Bobcats square off against Incarnate Word Saturday at 1 p.m., and the winner will move on to play top-ranked North Dakota State next Saturday.