Missed opportunities plague No. 2 Montana State in 24-21 loss at No. 9 Idaho

Jared White.jpg
Posted at 5:20 PM, Oct 28, 2023

MOSCOW, Idaho — A matchup between old Big Sky rivals — and two top-10 teams in the country — came down to the wire. In the end, Montana State saw its undefeated run in the conference come to an end.

No. 9 Idaho dominated time of possession, took a late lead on a precision touchdown pass by Gevani McCoy and held on in the final seconds as a tying field goal attempt by No. 2 MSU sailed wide right to hand the Bobcats their first conference loss of the season 24-21 on Saturday at a loud and raucous Kibbie Dome.

McCoy’s touchdown pass to Hayden Hatten with 2:47 left capped a 10-play, 71-yard drive and put the Vandals ahead by three points. MSU and quarterback Tommy Mellott marched into Idaho territory with time winding down, but a sack and an incomplete pass forced a tying 43-yard field goal try from Brendan Hall, and the kick missed.

Analysis: Ben Creighton, Ty Gregorak discuss Montana State's 24-21 loss at Idaho

Hall had a field goal blocked previously, and what looked like a sure touchdown pass from Mellott to Taco Dowler earlier in the game fell incomplete. It was a game in which the Bobcats had to take advantage of every opportunity — MSU ran only 47 plays and had the ball for just over 18 minutes throughout.

Idaho’s first scoring drive went for 20 plays and took 10:51 off the clock in the first quarter, resulting in a field goal. The Vandals took a 10-0 lead on a McCoy TD pass to Terez Traynor in the second quarter after a 11-play, 71-yard march that bled 6:53 off the clock.

The Bobcats rallied to take a 14-10 lead on touchdown passes from Mellott to Jared White and Clevan Thomas Jr. Anthony Woods, though, put Idaho in front again 17-14 with a 3-yard run that capped a 15-play, 75-yard march that ate up 9:05.

A 24-yard TD run by Julius Davis gave the Cats a 21-17 lead with 7:58 left, but that set the stage for McCoy’s throw to Hatten, capping the scoring.

Turning point: There were so many back-and-forth moments, but MSU’s inability to capitalize proved costly.

Mellott’s pass to Dowler would have been a touchdown but the ball somehow glanced off Dowler’s facemask and fell incomplete. Hall’s first field goal attempt two plays later was blocked, and the Cats came up empty.

Stat of the game: Time of possession was the obvious difference. Idaho possessed the ball for 41:27 compared to just 18:33 for the Bobcats. The Vandals ran 73 offensive plays to that of 47 for MSU. As a result, the Cats were limited to 128 rushing yards, nearly 200 fewer than their per-game season average.

Bobcat game balls: QB Tommy Mellott (Offense). Despite so few opportunities, Mellott threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns. He was especially sharp on the Bobcats’ final drive toward what they hoped would be the winning or tying points, completing 5 of 8 passes.

DE Brody Grebe (Defense). MSU’s defense spent the majority of the game on the field, and Grebe did his part from his defensive end position with 10 tackles, he assisted on two sacks, had a tackle for loss and one QB hurry.,

What’s next: The Bobcats (6-2, 4-1 Big Sky) return home next Saturday to face Northern Arizona at 1 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the Montana Television Network. NAU knocked off UC Davis 38-21 on Saturday as quarterback Angel Flores accounted for three second-half touchdowns.