TIME, DAY, LOCATION: Saturday at 2 p.m., Roos Field, Cheney, Washington
TV: ABC and SWX channels (Billing), ESPN +
RADIO: Bobcat Radio Network, msubobcats.com
WEATHER: 48 degrees, light showers
Montana State: Brent Vigen
REGISTRATION: 7-1; YEAR: First
Vigen arrived at MSU after seven seasons as Wyoming’s offensive coordinator. He was an assistant in several roles, including that of offensive coordinator, before that in the state of North Dakota.
East Washington: Aaron Best
REGISTRATION: 33-13; YEAR: fourth
In 2018, Best was the Big Sky Co-Coach of the Year after guiding the Eagles to a league co-championship and an appearance in the FCS Championship. He led the Eagles to the FCS playoffs twice.
MONTANA STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH
1 – Matthew McKay – QB
McKay could have the most impact, not by the number of awesome plays he makes, but by the number of mistakes he makes. He’s got a 14 to 1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. If he can minimize turnovers, maintain practices and keep East Washington’s offense off the field, the Bobcats should be in a position to win.
3 – Amandre Williams – DE
Williams recorded one sack against Idaho State and has 6.5 tackles for a loss and four sacks in 2021. MSU will need to put pressure on Eastern Washington’s stellar offense. Williams, who switched to the defensive end ahead of the season, will be key to both rushing the passer and stopping the run.
5 – Jeffrey Manning Jr. – S
Manning has 16 tackles and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions. The transfer from Oregon State also interrupted three assists and made it difficult for opposing QBs. Considering the Eagles’ effectiveness in the passing game, more disruptive plays from Manning could be essential.
EAST WASHINGTON PLAYERS TO WATCH
3 – Eric Barrière – QB
Barriere leads the FCS with 3,297 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 430.1 total offensive yards per game. The Eagles lead the FCS in total offense with 602 yards and scoring with 51.5 points per game. How much the Bobcats can keep Barriere off pace will be crucial.
9 – Andrew Boston – WR
While five EWU players have at least 20 catches and 300 receiving yards, Boston is a statistical leader among them. He caught 35 passes for 629 yards and five touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound junior will be a tough test for MSU high school. However, he will only be one of many threats to the Eagles.
18 – Ty Graham – LB
Graham is the best tackle in the EWU. He had 74 tackles, seven for a loss, with three sacks. He also intercepted a pass. The Eagles are hoping they can win and maintain a lead with the help of their defense, and the 6-foot, 210-pound senior will be looking to play a big part in that effort.
–East Washington has a 32-10 advantage in its series against Montana State, including 15-4 at home, 13-2 at Cheney and 12-2 at Roos Field.
– MSU’s seven-game losing streak against EWU is their longest current streak against an FCS opponent. The Bobcats have lost three straight games to North Dakota State and South Dakota State.
– MSU’s seven-game winning streak is the longest since the 2011 Bobcats won nine in a row.
– The Bobcats have been at least equal in revenue margin in 19 straight games. At plus-12 this season, they lead the FCS.
-Montana State has rushed the ball 62.5% of the time in its last 23 games, including the playoffs (917 rushes in 1,465 games). Meanwhile, the Bobcats have lost just eight fumbles.
-The Bobcats rushed for at least one touchdown against their last 41 FCS enemies.
-In MSU’s previous game, Idaho State’s first 23 tries were the most important for a Bobcats opponent since Texas Tech’s 35 in Game 1 of the 2019 season.
– The Bobcats scored 69 of their 268 points on takeout while allowing just three points on their own lost turnovers.
THE LOWER LINE
Eastern Washington seemed almost unbeatable in their first games of the season. Then the Eagles lost to Weber State, in part because of the Wildcats’ strong defense. The Bobcats were not only better than Weber State on home turf, but MSU won because of their defensive performance.
There are a number of ways this competition could go, a resounding or narrow victory in favor of either team. But with the Bobcats regaining health and defense playing the way it did, they should have enough to slow EWU’s exceptional offense down. If MSU can score enough points to call, that should lead to their next win.
Pool choice: Montana State 38, Eastern Washington 35