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FCS National Championship: Bobcat game day notebook

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The Bobcats fire up in Frisco, Texas. PHOTO BY GARRETT BECKER


FRISCO, Texas – It’s been 13,535 days, six head coaches, six Athletic Directors, and five university presidents, but the Bobcats are back in the National Championship Game.
Montana State last won a national title in 1984, beating Louisiana Tech in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1976 the Cats won the Division II crown by beating Akron in Wichita Falls, Texas, and 20 years earlier won the NAIA championship by tying St. Joseph’s (Indiana) in Little Rock Arkansas.
The 1976 tea was led by first-year quarterback Paul Dennehy of Butte. The 2021 team is led by first-year quarterback Tommy Mellott of Butte.
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Today’s national championship game is the culmination of literally a lifetime of work in football for first-year Bobcat coach Brent Vigen.
“I was fortunate to grow up on a football field,” Vigen said of his time shadowing and then playing for his father, legendary North Dakota high school football coach Randy Vigen. “I was a ball boy and later a statistician and then a player. Him being a coach and me being around his teams was the biggest influence on me becoming a coach.”
Randy Vigen is close to the Bobcat program, making most games this fall, including today’s title tilt. “Advice has always been there, support has always been there. It’s been such a positive.”
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Most of Montana State’s injured players are expected to give it a go today. Isaiah Ifanse is expected to start at running back, TJ Session is expected to start at right tackle, Chase Benson is available at nose tackle, and Ty Okada starts at nickel.
Two players are unavailable for the Bobcats today. Safety Rylan Ortt and running back Jaharie Martin will not play.
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One Bison star expected to play today after a bout with injury is Christian Watson. In MSU’s semifinal loss to North Dakota State in 2019, Watson caught a 75-yard touchdown pass and scored on a 70-yard run , compiling 174 yards from scrimmage on five touches.
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In one of the great moments of Montana State football’s recent history, over 200 former players, coaches, and staff members joined the team at its Friday practice. Every captain from the 1984 National Champions came to Frisco, and Phil Schneider, who played in 1958, is thought to be the oldest Bobcat at the practice. Rocco Perciavalle of the 1956 squad is expected at today’s game.
“This is your program,” Brent Vigen told the remaining players. “These guys (motioning to the 2021 team) are playing on the foundation you built, and the success this program enjoys going forward will be built partially by the guys playing (Saturday).”

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