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Milestones galore: Bobcats break records, roll into FCS Final Four

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Sophomore quarterback Tommy Mellot (4) leads the Montana State University Bobcats onto the field Friday night. PHOTO BY JASON BACAJ

By Tom Stuber SKYLINE SPORTS

BOZEMAN—It was a night of milestones for Montana State in its demolition of William & Mary in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs.

The most important of all of them: it was the first game the Bobcats have played that wasn’t under the watchful eye of Sonny Holland—aka The Greatest Bobcat—who passed away last Saturday after MSU defeated Weber State 33-25.

Fans left tributes to the late Sonny Holland at his statue in front of Bobcat Stadium. PHOTO BY JASON BACAJ

“It’s incredible,” MSU linebacker Callahan O’Reilly said of his team’s performance after the passing of Holland as the ‘Cats rolled to a 55-7 win over William & Mary on Friday night. “Never got to meet the man but from everything I’ve heard it just speaks to what a great man he was. To be able to do that for his family, just to honor him, is pretty special.”

The Elite 8 win extended MSU’s home winning streak to 20 games. The Bobcats haven’t lost at home since 2019 when fellow Big Sky Conference member Sacramento State knocked them off.

Isaiah Ifanse—making his second appearance of the season—set the MSU record for career rushing yardage at 3,714 and had the longest touchdown run (68 yards) in a playoff game, which broke his own record (60) he set in 2019 against Austin Peay State. He now has the top three rushing games in MSU playoff history after gaining 162 yards on Friday. The former Washington Gatorade Player of the Year had 196 against Austin Peay in 2019 and 129 in 2018 against University of the Incarnate Word. He scored two rushing touchdowns against William & Mary and now is sixth all-time at MSU in that category.

“The [career rushing] record, you know, he was bound to break it as soon as he got back on the field,” MSU head coach Brent Vigen said of Ifanse. “Good that he was able to get that done tonight. It speaks to how consistent he’s been over a long, long time. Speaks to his talent and speaks to the talent of the players around him, too.”

“You see out there again that he’s hard to deal with. He’s hard to bring down, obviously there’s good blocking out there in front of him to put him in those positions, getting out in the open, scoring from 68 yards. To be able to see him finish a long run like that was great.”

Ifanse beats a William & Mary defender to the end zone on a 68-yard score. PHOTO BY JASON BACAJ

Ifanse had 153 yards at halftime and finished with 162, on just 11 carries, after taking his lone carry in the second half, trucking two William & Mary defenders and scoring. He could’ve easily become the fourth MSU ball carrier to go over 200 yards in a single game.

Blake Glessner also got into the act by kicking a 50-yard field goal near the end of the first half to break Mark Carter’s 38-year-old playoff record of 48 yards, which he set in the 1984 national championship game against Louisiana Tech—a 19-6 win by the Bobcats.

Glessner also broke the single season scoring record and now has 137 points moving past Troy Anderson who had 128 in 2018. He tied the record for field goals in a season with 22, matching Jason Cunningham’s effort in 2011. He’s made 13 of his last 14 FG attempts.

“Blake’s been a weapon both from a field goal perspective but also his kickoffs,” Vigen said. “He’s really getting the job done. In this weather kicking it from 50 is a little more complicated. He had confidence going out there. He’s been rock solid.”

Vigen and quarterback Tommy Mellott extended their existing records for playoff wins with their fifth each.  

As a team the Bobcats have now scored the most rushing touchdowns in a season. They ran it in five times against William & Mary and now have 47 on the season, three more than the 2019 squad.

It was the eighth time that the Bobcats have rushed for over 300 yards in a game, which is also a record.

The game nearly ended up with one of largest margins of victory in FCS playoff history until the Tribe scored in the game’s waning moments. The record is held by the University of Montana, which beat Troy State 70-7 in 1996.

The Bobcats, who are in the national semifinals for the third straight season—another program record—will take on South Dakota State in Brookings, South Dakota on Saturday at 2 p.m. on ESPN2. The Bobcats beat the Jackrabbits 31-17 last year in Bozeman to advance to the FCS national championship game.

Cornerback Simeon Woodard (9) and linebacker Callahan O’Reilly (47) and the Bobcat defense stymied the William & Mary offense all game. PHOTO BY JASON BACAJ

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