BOZEMAN – It’s survive and advance for the Montana State Bobcats, who are facing their toughest test of the season as they travel to Fargo to face the top team in the nation, North Dakota State.
“It’s about an opportunity to play one more football game. It’s playoff football, it’s win or go home,” said Montana State head coach Jeff Choate.
And this Bison team is stacked. 15 of their players were named to the Missouri Valley all-conference team. And to get the offense going, the Bobcats need to stop the defensive player of the year in the MVC, Jabril Cox.
“He can play anywhere, anywhere. He’d be starting at Notre Dame. I mean, this guy is a football playing jessie,” said Choate. “He is (6-foot-2) and 230 plus, can run, will hit you. I think he’s second on the team in interceptions with four, two pick-sixes. You better know where he’s at.”
For NDSU, they know Montana State has been deadly this season forcing turnovers. And to light up the scoreboard, it needs to keep the ball.
“We have to do a great job of taking care of the football and being productive when we have it, and that’s going to be tough on a defense that’s really opportunistic, they create a lot of turnovers,” NDSU head coach Chris Klieman said. “When you get into the playoffs, you have be able to run the football, stop the run and not turn it over.”
Running the ball is exactly the Bobcats’ formula, but MSU has so many that can take a carry — Troy Andersen, Isaiah Ifanse, Travis Jonsen, the list goes on. And that could cause problems for the Bison.
“They’ll line up in three-back sets. They’re going to shift into an unbalanced set and they have a lot of different ways to try and be creative to run the football. But that’s how they’ve had success,” said Klieman. “It’s not always conventional, sometimes it’s unconventional. And I think these guys do a really good job of finding a weakness and then attacking it.”
Now the Cats are headed to Fargo with one mindset: to be the best you have to play the best. And that happens Saturday against North Dakota State.
“When you combine exceptional personnel with tremendous commitment and great coaching, you win championships,” said Choate. “And that’s what North Dakota State has done over and over and over again.”