BOZEMAN — On Saturday afternoon, 6-1 Montana State came into the game looking to remain undefeated in Big Sky conference play and win their seventh straight game as they faced 1-5 Idaho State.
After a slow first-half performance by the offense, they kicked it into gear in the second half to roll to a 27-9 victory.
"There was just no rhythm I felt like today," said head coach Brent Vigen about the offense. "Fortunately, we were able to make a couple of big plays in the passing game in the second-half to get two touchdowns, but — weird, ugly, I don't know you can throw about any adjective on that and that's kind of what it looked like today."
After Ty Okada forced a fumble on the Bengals first possession, Montana State quarterback Matthew McKay gave the ball right back with a fumble of his own. Idaho State would drive into Bobcat territory and convert a 44-yard David Allish field goal to take a 3-0 lead with minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Montana State would answer on the ensuing possession with a field goal of their own. Freshman kicker Blake Glessner was sent out to attempt a 55-yard field for the tie. He nailed it to tie the game up 3-3 just seconds into the second quarter.
"He keeps answering," said the Bobcats head coach. "I looked down there and he gave me thumbs up, he goes out there hits a 55 yarder. He continues to do things we're asking: putting points on the board. That was critical at that point to just gain some momentum.
Montana State would get the ball back on their own 14-yard-line after a Bengals punt. Montana State would cap off a 14 play drive with a 10-yard Isaiah Ifanse rushing touchdown. Montana State hung on to a 10-3 lead heading into halftime.
Idaho State received the ball to start the second half and they would drive deep into Montana State territory. On third and goal, Bengals quarterback Hunter Hays threw a pass into the end zone, it was tipped by MSU linebacker Troy Andersen and caught by wide receiver Jalen Henderson. Originally it was ruled a touchdown, but Henderson's feet were out of bounds after review by the officials. David Allish would make a 24-yard field goal to cut his teams deficit to four.
Montana State would answer back four minutes later. After a 59-yard run by Ifanse, the Bobcats drive would stall and they would settle for a 29-yard field goal by Glessner to take a 13-6 lead with three minutes left in the third quarter.
After yet another defensive stop, on the first play of the fourth quarter Montana State would score on a 27-yard receiving touchdown from McKay to Lance McCutcheon. Montana State with a 20-7 lead.
Less than two minutes later, on third down, McKay lined up in an empty formation and he threw a pass to a wide open Willie Patterson. The wide receiver took the pass to house for a 65-yard receiving touchdown to give the Bobcats a 27-6 lead after an extra point.
"That kind of broke things open, got us to that three score lead," said Vigen. "If we don't convert there, it's a little dicier certainly than it was.
Montana State hung on from there to win 27-9. They have now won seven-straight games (7-1).
"We were down a couple guys, but we had guys step up," said head coach Brent Vigen. "To open that lead up and get it to 27-9 and ultimately come out of it with a win heading into the bye week — proud of the guys for sure today."
Isaiah Ifanse lead the Montana State offense. He averaged 9.7 yards per carry, rushing for 165 yards on 19 attempts and one rushing touchdown.
"A guy that it takes more than one guy to bring him down, that's what you're looking for at that position," Vigen said about Ifanse. "The first guy rarely gets him down. He's going to keep his feet going. He's got an opportunity to get out in space, he's going to make the most of it. We would be in tough shape if we didn't have his 165 yards today, I know that."
Without looking at the box score, one would think Montana State won the time of possession. That was not so. Idaho State had the ball a whopping 25 minutes more (42:17 to 17:43) to control time of possession. The Bengals ran the ball 54 times for 237 yards (3.9 ypc).
"I can't imagine the number of rushes they had, but quite a few it seemed like and typically that's not what we've been able to see," Vigen said with a laugh. "We've been able to get teams behind the chains and get them in third down. That didn't happen today as much as it usually does."
Senior linebacker Troy Andersen lead Montana State in tackles with 16. He had one tackle for a loss.
An injury of note: Senior defensive tackle Chase Benson went down with a lower body injury before the game. He was seen on the sideline with crutches during the game.
"He'll be back as far as I know," Vigen said. "I don't know the depth of it, but I trust that we'll get him back."
Montana State now heads into their bye week before a huge game against second-ranked Eastern Washington at 2 p.m. on Nov. 6. EWU lost to Weber State 35-34 at home on Saturday.