In the biggest Big Sky conference game of the year so far, No. 4 Montana State traveled to Cheney, Washington to take on the No. 5 Eastern Washington Eagles. Both teams had a 7-1 record coming into the game.
After a defensive stop to start the game, the Bobcats offense wasted no time putting points on the board. Junior quarterback Matthew McKay house called a 56-yard run for a touchdown to put MSU up 7-0.
However, the Eagles answered right back. EWU marched right down the field and star quarterback Eric Barriere capped off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Freddie Roberson. The Eagles missed the extra point, 7-6 MSU.
Montana State had nothing going on their next possession and the Eagles would then take the ball 85 yards on eight plays for touchdown. Barriere threw his second touchdown of the day to redshirt senior wide receiver Talolo Limu-Johnson from 10 yards out. The extra point was good and EWU led 13-7 with a few minutes remaining in the first.
The Cats were driving deep into EWU territory, Matthew McKay found Willie Patterson for a 29-yard pass to put MSU at the 12-yard-line of the Eagles. After signaling he made the first down, making the first down gesture, Patterson was inexplicably called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Montana State would eventually settle for a 27-yard field goal attempt from Blake Glessner, but he would miss.
A few minutes into the second quarter, a connection that has been there all year connected once again. McKay heaved up a pass to his favorite target Lance McCutcheon, who made a great adjustment to make the grab with a defender right on him and he broke a couple tackles to make it into the end zone for a 67-yard touchdown grab. Extra point was good to give Montana State a 14-13 lead.
On Montana State’s next possession they would make it inside of the five-yard-line of EWU, but on fourth down Matt Mckay couldn’t connect with McCutcheon in the end zone. However, two plays later the Eagles would be called for a holding in their own end zone resulting in a safety and extending the Bobcats lead to 16-13 heading into halftime.
Bobcats received the ball to start the second half they would take a little over six minutes off the clock and reach Eagles territory. On third and long from the Eastern Washington 37-yard-line McKay would throw an errant pass while he was in the grasp of an Eagles defender and defensive back Calin Criner picked him off.
In the fourth quarter Montana State started at their own five-yard-line Junior running back Isaiah Ifanse busted a 43 yard rushing touchdown to cap off a 95-yard drive and give Montana State a 23-13 lead.
With 7:39 left in the fourth quarter Eagles running back Dennis Merritt ran in a one-yard touchdown to make it 23-20.
Eastern Washington would get the ball back with about four minutes left in the fourth quarter inside their own five-yard-line and went three and out.
Montana State then ran out the clock for a victory.
TURNING POINT: After a big stop by the Bobcats defense, the Bobcats offense made it a 10 point game in the fourth quarter, taking only 24 seconds off the clock as Isaiah Ifanse ran in a 43-yard touchdown and the Eagles wouldn’t be able to overcome that deficit.
STAT OF THE GAME: 214 passing yards. That is what Eagles quarterback Eric Barriere threw for in the game on Saturday. The Bobcats held him to about 200 yard less than his season average (412) .
GAME BALLS: Montana State’s defense, running back Isaiah Ifanse. As mentioned above, Montana State’s defense continues to shine under new defensive coordinator Freddie Banks. Barriere, arguably the best quarterback in the FCS, was shut down by the Bobcats. The Eagles came into the game averaging 602 yards per game and Montana State held them to an abysmal 314 total yards.
Junior running back Isaiah Ifanse continues to shine. On the day he had 32 rushes for 217 yards, which is good for 6.8 yards per carry and he had a touchdown that would give Montana State a 10 point lead in the fourth quarter.
WHAT'S NEXT: (8-1) Montana State returns to Bobcat Stadium next Saturday at 1 p.m. to face the Idaho Vandals.