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Montana State knocks off top-ranked Sam Houston

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Tommy Mellott leads the Cats to victory


HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Tommy Mellott scored three touchdowns and Montana State’s defense limited Sam Houston to a season scoring low in a 42-19 quarterfinals victory in Huntsville, Texas, on Saturday night.

Mellott scored two rushing touchdowns and caught a scoring strike in addition to his two touchdown runs. He gained 76 yards on the ground and 165 through the air. The Cats rushed for 190 yards, holding Sam Houston to 79.

“We knew we needed to run the ball,” said Bobcat coach Brent Vigen, “and stop the run. We did both of those things, and I think had more explosive plays than them. That’s a good formula for us.”

Senior receiver Lance McCutcheon caught two passes for 98 yards, becoming the sixth Bobcat to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in a season. Isaiah Ifanse became MSU’s single-season rushing record-holder by gaining 105 yards.

Tre WebbSimeon Woodard and Jeffrey Manning Jr. each picked off passes for MSU. Troy Andersen led the Cats with 11 tackles, while Callahan O’Reilly registered 10. Daniel Hardy had two sacks, while Brody Grebe and Ben Seymour each logged one.

The Bobcats exploded out of the gates, marching 75 yards for a touchdown on the game-opening drive. After a 3-yard rush by Willie Patterson, Mellott found McCutcheon for a 31-yard gain. After a five-yard gain by Patterson and a defensive pass interference, Mellott rushed for two yards and then Willie Patterson threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Mellott on a play that resembled the Eagles’ Philly Special in the Super Bowl.

The game tilted in MSU’s favor on the ensuing possession. On third-and-5, Tre Webb intercepted a pass at the 24, and on the next play Mellott found Patterson for a touchdown.

The teams traded punts, then after the Bobcat defense stopped Sam Houston on fourth down, the Cats marched 55 yards for a touchdown. Mellott capped the first half trifecta, scoring from 1 yard out. That gave MSU a 21-0 lead with 14:24 to play in the first half. 

Five minutes later, the Bobcat defense set up another offensive score. Jeffrey Manning Jr. intercepted a pass at the Sam Houston 31 and returned it to the 3. Two plays later, Mellott scored from 2 yards out to push MSU’s lead to 28-0. The Bearkats used a 75-yard drive late in the second quarter to draw to within 28-6 at halftime.

Sam Houston’s rally continued on the other side of the intermission. The Bearkats scored on the third play of the second half, a 61 yard pass from Eric Schmid to Ifey Adeyl to draw the Bearkats within 28-12. But MSU restored order after an exchange of punts. Taking over at their own one, the Bobcats scored on the fifth play of the drive. First, Mellott converted a third down with a 22-yard run, then he threw a 68-yard touchdown pass to McCutcheon to extend the lead to 35-12.

The Bearkats used a trick play and scored on a 61-yard touchdown pass from Eric Schmid to Ife Adeyi to cut the MSU lead 35-19. The Bobcats would have to go on defense again but they halted Sam Houston as Daniel Hardy completed a fourth down sack. Ifanse ran for a 42-yard rushing touchdown late to seal the win. 

Montana State now returns home on Saturday, Dec. 18, to host South Dakota State at Bobcat Stadium. The semifinal game kicks off at 12 p.m. MT and airs on ESPN2.

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