BOZEMAN — The Montana State Bobcats have personified the motto "next man up" this season. Despite multiple veteran leaders and starters going down with injury, the team has continuously found ways to rise to the occasion.
The 2023 regular season will come to an end in Missoula this Saturday with the 122nd Brawl of the Wild, and this game is for more than bragging rights: The Bobcats are playing to win their second straight Big Sky championship and perhaps a top-two seed for the FCS playoffs.
Following is a Montana State season in review:
The Bobcats came into this season ranked No. 3 nationally and opened the year with their annual Gold Rush game vs. Utah Tech. They won 63-20 and instantly flexed their dominant run game with freshman running back Scottre Humphrey breaking out with 110 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Then, it was a game the team had been waiting eight months for: a rematch with no. 1-ranked South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits knockied MSU out of the playoffs in the semifinals in 2022. Quarterback Sean Chambers connected with Clevan Thomas Jr. for a game-winning touchdown but it was ultimately overturned upon video review. The Bobcats lost 20-16.
Quarterback Tommy Mellott suffered a lower-leg injury against SDSU and missed five weeks.
Montana State quickly bounced back with a dominant 57-20 win over Stetson at Bobcat Stadium in Week 4. The Cats then opened conference play at No. 10-ranked Weber State and stamped a 40-0 shutout over the Wildcats, a defensive highlight for the season. Offensively, Chambers connected with tight end Treyton Pickering for two touchdowns.
MSU carried that momentum into a 38-22 homecoming victory over Portland State.
After a bye in Week 6, the Bobcats returned to conference play ready for more action, and so was Mellott who officially returned from injury. They also moved up a spot in the polls to be ranked second nationally. They dominated Cal Poly 59-19.
Then the Bobcats had the bright lights of national television on them as they traveled to No. 3-ranked Sacramento State. Running back Julius Davis had 110 yards rushing and a touchdown, and had a highlight-reel hurdle of a Hornets defender in the Bobcats 42-30 win.
Ater that it was two top-ten road games in a row as the Cats headed to the Kibbie Dome to take on No. 9 Idaho. After being shut out in the first half, the Bobcats' offense exploded in the second. It led to a game-tying field goal attempt that was ultimately missed and MSU lost its first conference game in two years, 20-16.
Now, the Bobcats head into the 122nd Brawl of the Wild ranked No. 4 nationally, with the Griz one position ahead at No. 3. They'll be fighting for pride, the outright Big Sky Conference championship and the highest possible playoff seed on Saturday.