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Blocked extra point dooms Montana State in OT playoff loss to North Dakota State

Ty McCullouch
Posted at 4:29 PM, Dec 02, 2023

BOZEMAN — Montana State's playoff futility against North Dakota State continued Saturday.

Hunter Poncius' blocked extra point in overtime was the difference in MSU's 35-34 loss in the second round of the FCS postseason at Bobcat Stadium.

PHOTOS: MONTANA STATE LOSES HEARTBREAKER TO NORTH DAKOTA STATE

The Bison struck first in OT, scoring on a spinning 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback Cam Miller. Griffin Crosa's ensuing extra point put NDSU ahead 35-28.

North Dakota State at Montana State
Montana State running back Scottre Humphrey carries the ball during the Bobcats' game against North Dakota State in the second round of the FCS playoffs at Bobcat Stadium on Dec. 2, 2023.

No. 6-seeded Montana State answered immediately with a 25-yard scoring run by Scottre Humphrey, but Casey Kautzman's tying point-after kick was blocked by Poncius, a 6-foot-8 offensive tackle, which ended the game and MSU's 26-game home winning streak. NDSU's players stormed the field in celebration.

“We’re obviously very disappointed in the outcome,” said Bobcats coach Brent Vigen. “I thought the guys really fought hard and made a ton of plays, but it was not enough.”

The teams got to overtime after a hard-fought four quarters that saw plenty of momentum shifts. The Bobcats started the scoring late in the first quarter with a 34-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Mellott to Ty McCullouch, but the Bison quickly responded.

Cam Miller threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Zach Mathis, and TaMerik Williams scored on a 44-yard run to give NDSU a 14-7 lead. Mellott later tied the game with a 6-yard scoring run, and the teams entered halftime tied at 14.

The third quarter kicked off with fireworks. On the first play from scrimmage, Williams broke free for a 75-yard Bison touchdown. Two plays later, Mellott galloped to a 76-yard touchdown, and the game was tied at 21.

Mellott later gave the Bobcats the lead when he found Clevan Thomas Jr. for a 9-yard touchdown, but T.K. Marshall ran in a 29-yard touchdown for NDSU that tied the game and ultimately forced overtime.

Montana State racked up 509 yards of offense but had two drives end in missed field goal attempts. NDSU rolled up 296 rushing yards with Williams gaining 162 yards and two TDs on 11 carries.

The Bison improved to 10-3 overall while MSU's season ended with an 8-4 record. NDSU has now defeated the Bobcats in five consecutive playoff matchups dating back to 2010.

Turning point: The Bobcats took a 28-21 lead with 8:08 left in the third quarter when Mellott threw the TD to Thomas.

But Mellott later suffered a right leg injury when he was tackled by NDSU defensive tackle Eill Mostaert on a third-down play. Mellott did not return to the game and was limping on the sideline for the remainder of the contest.

North Dakota State at Montana State
Montana State quarterback Tommy Mellott awaits a snap during a second-round FCS playoff football game against North Dakota State at Bobcat Stadium on Dec. 2, 2023.

The Bison got the ball back and tied the game on Marshall's touchdown run and were able to seize momentum from there.

Stat of the game: The placekicking game plagued the Bobcats as the season went along, and it was no different on Saturday. Against the Bison, Kautzman and MSU's placekicking unit missed two field goal attempts in addition to the blocked extra point, which played a huge role in the defeat.

Bobcat game balls: QB Tommy Mellott (Offense). Prior to his injury, Mellott was putting together one of his best performances. He had rushed 18 times for 151 yards and two touchdowns and thrown for 204 yards on 13-of-17 passing and two more TDs to that point.

LB Nolan Askelson (Defense). Askelson, fighting through an injury he suffered earlier in the game, made eight total tackles (seven solo) with two sacks and three tackles for loss to spearhead MSU's defensive effort in his final game as a Bobcat.

PR Taco Dowler (Special teams). Dowler had a solid day in the punt return game with 49 yards on five returns, an average of 9.8 per attempt.

North Dakota State at Montana State
North Dakota State and Montana State play a second-round FCS playoff football game at Bobcat Stadium on Dec. 2, 2023.

What's next: With their season over, the Bobcats, who went 2-4 against teams with a winning record this season, will go back to the drawing board. The 2024 season opener is along way off, scheduled for Aug. 24 on the road at FBS New Mexico.

North Dakota State, nine times the FCS national champion, moves on to the quarterfinal round where it will take on Missouri Valley Football Conference foe South Dakota, the No. 3 seed.