SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Montana State’s vaunted ground game — and a highlight-reel play by running back Julius Davis — helped the Bobcats close out Sacramento State in a back-and-forth Big Sky Conference affair between top-five teams Saturday night at Hornet Stadium.
Davis rushed for 110 yards and quarterback Tommy Mellott was supremely effective as the No. 2-ranked Bobcats knocked off No. 3 Sac State to win their 12th straight Big Sky game.
The Bobcats had four consecutive touchdown drives in the second half to distance themselves. The drives were capped by an 11-yard run by Mellott, a 9-yard run by Mellott, a 1-yard run by Davis and a 12-yard run by Jared White.
Those scores helped MSU keep the Hornets at bay despite two touchdown runs by Elijah Tau-Tolliver after halftime, the second of which pulled Sac State within 28-24 with 10:02 remaining. After Davis’ 1-yard scoring run, MSU’s defense stopped the Hornets on fourth down, which set up the Bobcats’ fourth straight score on White’s 12-yard run.
Sacramento State got a late touchdown on a 7-yard pass from Kaiden Bennett to Devin Gandy. Bobcats linebacker McCade O’Reilly intercepted the two-point conversion try and the Cats were then able to run out the clock.
With the win, MSU improved to 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the Big Sky and remains the only undefeated team in the conference. Sac State is now 5-2 and 2-2 in the league.
Turning point: MSU’s Davis had the highlight-reel moment of the game to help MSU take command in the fourth quarter.
After Tau-Tolliver scored his second rushing TD of the day to pull Sac State within four points, Davis hurdled Hornets safety Cameron Broussard on a 49-yard run, and two plays later Davis was in the end zone to put the Cats back up 35-24 with 8:26 left.
Stat of the game: The Bobcats had 117 rushing yards in the first half but really churned things out on the ground in the second half, finishing the game with 328 rushing yards. QB Sean Chambers added 60 yards on 10 attempts.
Montana State eclipsed its season average of 325.2 rushing yards per game and hit the magic 300-yard mark for the sixth time in seven games this season.
Bobcat game balls: QB Tommy Mellott (Offense). Looking like his old self for the first time since an injury in Week 2 against South Dakota State sidelined him for three games, Mellott took more snaps than Chambers at QB and had 209 total yards — 99 rushing and 105 passing — with two rushing touchdowns.
LB Nolan Askelson (Defense). Montana State’s first TD was scored on a 16-yard interception return by cornerback Jon Johnson, tying the game 7-7, but Askelson was the defensive ringleader with 11 tackles, including a game-high eight solo.
What’s next: The Bobcats will continue their two-game road stretch with another ranked matchup next week when they travel to face Idaho. The Vandals had a bye this week and are hungry coming off a 23-21 home loss to Montana on Oct. 14.
Idaho entered this week ranked No. 10 in the FCS top 25 poll. MSU hasn’t played a Big Sky Conference game at Idaho since 1994. The game will kick off at 2 p.m. Mountain time at the Kibbie Dome.