CHENEY, Wash. – The winning formula against East Washington typically doesn’t include a negative revenue margin. This does not include wasted red zone opportunities, abandoned six picks, or costly penalties.
A team can overcome all of this when they have a defense as good as Montana State‘s.
The No.4 ranked Bobcats defeated the No.5 Eagles in a 23-20 victory Saturday at Roos Field. The balanced and balanced defense and offense led MSU (8-1, 6-0 Big Sky) past EWU (7-2, 4-2) in their biggest win yet this season.
“We have withstood such an explosive attack as you will probably see at this level,” MSU head coach Brent Vigen said.
The Bobcats ended their seven-game losing streak against EWU, a slippage dating back to 2011 when they won 36-21 at Roos Field. Their 30-7 win over EWU a year earlier was the last time they kept the Eagles under 21 points.
Some of those previous losses to EWU were close, but MSU struggled to slow the Eagles down. They averaged 42 points per game during the streak.
They are just as explosive, if not more, this season.
EWU entered Saturday’s game averaging 51.5 points per game, a FCS high. He also has the best total offense in the FCS, thanks mainly to All-American quarterback Eric Barriere, who came in on Saturday averaging 414 passing yards per game with 30 touchdowns (almost four per game), six interceptions. and a completion percentage of 66.8%.
Ball safety and Barriere’s effectiveness against MSU have reached their level. He completed 21 of 31 passes (67.7%) and had two touchdowns, and the Eagles did not commit any turnovers.
But BarriÃ¨re threw for 214 yards while rushing nine times for 17 yards. Almost all of these rushes were forced shoves by pressure and good MSU cover.
After leading 13-7 in the first quarter, MSU held EWU scoreless in the second and third, the first time the Eagles have gone in consecutive scoring quarterbacks all season.
âKeeping a quarterback as talented as him, and he still made a bunch of plays, but I think we won this battle,â Vigen said. “I’ll have a good defense against a good offense any day, and I think that’s how it went today.”
MSU did not start right keeper Taylor Tuiasosopo due to a team rule violation, Vigen said, and backup offensive lineman Cole Sain. But the Bobcats have recovered four key defensive players.
All-Big Sky nose tackle Chase Benson, starting linebacker Callahan O’Reilly and backup defensive back Tyrel Thomas all played after missing the previous game against Idaho State on October 23. Cornerback James Campbell, who was a starter before leaving the MSU game at Portland State on September 25, played on Saturday, his first appearance since the injury.
The Bobcats finished with 544 total yards. EWU had 314, of which 164 were in the first quarter.
âThere was no panic. Stick to the plan. Maybe tackle a little better, âVigen said. âWe didn’t have to reinvent ourselves to beat this team, we just needed to play well. Defensively, we really did it today.
MSU quarterback Matthew McKay, who completed 55% of his passes for 212 yards in the previous two games, finished with 253 yards and one touchdown with a 56.7 (17 out of 30) against EWU. He also ran for 65 yards on nine carries, with a 56-yard TD in MSU’s third game of the game to open the scoring. It’s McKay’s longest rush of the season.
MSU running back Isaiah Ifanse rushed for 217 yards and one touchdown on 32 carries, and wide receiver Lance McCutcheon caught five passes for 150 yards and a 67-yard touchdown that gave MSU a 14-yard lead. -13 with 8:14 to go in the first half. It was the longest passing game of the Bobcats season, made possible by a bouncy grab and several broken tackles from McCutcheon.
As good as MSU’s offense was, it made multiple mistakes that led to crushing losses for many teams, especially against an enemy as talented as the Eagles, who had won 20 straight games on “The Inferno. “at Roos Field before their 35-34 loss to Weber State on October 23.
McKay threw an interception and missed a second-half snap that EWU recovered. Blake Glessner missed a 27-yard field goal early in the second quarter. McKay missed McCutcheon on a fourth pass from the EWU 4-yard line late in the first half. MSU committed six penalties for 65 yards.
EWU took advantage of the breakaway, leading for a TD to reduce MSU’s lead to 23-20 with 7:39 to go. But the Bobcats were able to build that 23-13 lead because they didn’t allow EWU to capitalize on almost any of their other mistakes. Their defense was one of the main reasons, if not the main one.
The Eagles punted after Glessner’s failed field goal. They got out three after the interception. Two games after the failed fourth pass down from McKay, EWU lineman Matthew Hewa Baddege was called up for holding in the end zone, resulting in a safety and a lead of 16 -13 for MSU. It was the score at halftime, and the Eagles couldn’t get back within three points of the lead the rest of the day.
“They want to play basketball on a football field, and we’re going to make it a physical game,” MSU nickelback Ty Okada said of the pre-game post. “It was a great approach because it’s a benefit for us for sure.”
MSU linebacker Troy Andersen, who finished with a record 15 tackles, dropped an easy pick of six that could have given MSU a two point lead late in the third quarter. The Bobcats forced a punt on the next play, and they built that two-point lead in the next quarter on Ifanse’s 43-yard touchdown run.
âWe go against them in practice every day, and they just go out there and play,â McKay said, referring to the MSU defense. “They definitely give us momentum as an offense.”
After EWU scored on McKay’s fumble, the Bobcats were forced to kick with about four minutes left. EWU has had all of its downtime. A classic winning practice led by Barriere seemed to be on the horizon.
Instead, Bryce Leighton pinned EWU to his own 3-yard line with a punt, and the MSU defense forced a three and an out. MSU has run out of clock on its subsequent drive.
The possession time ended between 36:16 and 23:44 in favor of MSU.
âEven though we didn’t take advantage of the red zone offensively, they were a bit on the sidelines there,â said Vigen.
Heading to Saturday, EWU’s lowest point total in a game this season was 34 (in Weber State’s loss and a 34-28 home win over Montana). Okada said he was “not surprised” that his team kept the Eagles 14 points below that and more than 30 below their average per game.
âWe knew we could do it,â Okada said. “We have a great defense so that’s the wait.”