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Bobcats take down Jackrabbits to advance to national championship

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Lance McCutcheon caught two touchdown passes on Saturday. Photo by Garrett Becker.


Montana State put together a complete game to defeat South Dakota State 31-17 on Saturday and punch its ticket to the FCS national championship on Jan. 8 in Frisco, Texas. The game, in front of a roaring crowd of 20,457 that seemed to never sit down or quiet down, was the first semifinal battle in Bozeman since the Bobcats were champions in 1984.
As he has done since taking over the quarterback duties three games ago, Tommy Mellott sparked the Bobcats (12-2), running for two scores and throwing for two more. Meanwhile, the Bobcat defense was able to shut down the Jackrabbits high-powered offense, getting a pair of sacks from senior All-America Daniel Hardy and an interception by Simeon Woodard, his fourth of the season. All-American senior linebacker Troy Andersen led all players with 10 tackles.
Mellott’s 17-yard scoring pass to senior Lance McCutcheon iced the game, giving MSU its 31-17 advantage in the fourth quarter. On the final play of the third quarter, Mellott squirted through for a 3-yard score, breaking the halftime score of 17-all as SDSU was unable to find the end zone in the second half.
The game, played under gray clouds with a temperature in the 20s but no wind, served as the final home game for MSU’s seniors, but with a trip to Frisco on the docket, it wasn’t their final game wearing the Bobcat Blue and Gold.
Mellott finished the game with 155 yards rushing and two scores and a career-best 233 yards passing and two other touchdowns. On the day, the freshman from Butte completed 10 of 15 passes. SDSU totaled 439 yards to 409 for MSU, but the Jackrabbits (11-4) had two turnovers: a fumble recovery by Hardy and Woodard’s interception. SDSU’s All-America runner Pierre Strong gained 71 yards in the first quarter, but finished with just 94.
At halftime, the statistics were as close as the 17-17 score indicated. The Jackrabbits totaled 256 yards to 262 by MSU. In the opening half, Mellott rushed for 100 yards on 16 carries and threw for 149 more, including a 64-yarder to Nate Stewart for the game’s first score. MSU’s Bryce Leighton was the only punter for either team to see action in the first half, and he only kicked once.
MSU’s second score came on a Mellott keeper from 4 yards out. The key play was Mellott’s 33-yard pass to tight end Treyton Pickering. His access to the end zone came on a block by Jaharie Martin who along with Elijah Elliott was filling in for the absence of MSU All-American Isaiah Ifanse who was injured in last week’s win at Sam Houston State.
McCutcheon was Mellott’s favorite receiver, hauling in four passes for 98 yards. The yardage gave the senior from Bozeman 1,113 on the season, the third best single season total in Bobcat history.

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